Sony Debuts Day 1 Digital Program for AAA Releases

Sony has begun their Day 1 Digital program, which allows gamers to download AAA releases on their day of release.

Starting on October 2, in addition to games such as Borderlands 2 which was released on Tuesday, the Day 1 Digital program will allow customers to preorder, purchase, and download new titles on the same day they’re released, with Sony also promising midnight releases. In addition, some games will be granted 10% discounts for PlayStation Plus members.

The list of games is as follows:

* Resident Evil 6 – Oct. 2, $59.99
* NBA 2K13 – Oct. 2, $59.99/$53.99 for PS+ w/ pre-order
* Dishonored – Oct. 9, $59.99/$53.99 for PS+ w/ pre-order
* DOOM 3: BFG Edition – Oct. 16, $39.99/$35.99 for PS+ w/ pre-order
* 007: Legends: Oct. 16, $59.99, $53.99 for PS+ members in first week
* Medal of Honor: Warfighter – Oct. 23, $59.99
* Need for Speed: Most Wanted – Oct. 30, $59.99/$53.99 for PS+ w/ pre-order
* Assassin’s Creed III – $59.99

Sony has not put out any comment other than to note that PlayStation Plus members enjoy a discount. There are currently no further details on which games, if any, will be available at midnight. There are also no plans as of now for preloading games, a system that Valve’s Steam employs.

Sony’s PlayStation Network has been getting more involved in getting big name releases out to consumers on the day of their release. Electronic Arts, whose Medal of Honor: Warfighter game is featured in this promotion and who have stated that 100% digital distribution is inevitable, have in the past month plus released their top-tier sports games Madden 13, NHL 13, and this week’s release of FIFA 13 on the same day as their retail counterparts.

Analysis: In practice, all of this is a marketing tool for something that Sony’s been doing already: releasing more big-name games digitally, and adding more value to PlayStation Plus. Also in practice, this doesn’t negatively affect non-PS+ subscribers, either; they get the same games they want at retail without losing anything, unlike the systems that Microsoft employs to bully their customers into going Gold. To see the true effect of this, one has to look well ahead into the future. Things start to extrapolate from here, but that’s what an analysis is: an extrapolation.

What Sony’s doing is pimp-slapping big retail, especially GameStop, and saying, “Come at me.” GameStop knows that boxed software is a dying breed, which is why they’re trying to add in more incentives to purchase day-one DLC to go along with retail purchases. The big names in the industry have been playing along, but that’s only going to go so far. At this point, GameStop’s just a middleman, and a largely unnecessary one for those who don’t care about disc ownership. The quicker companies knock them completely out of the loop, the better it will be for them over all.

GameStop is not above retaliation, of course. Remember when they were taking out preorder bonuses from copies of games customers legally bought just as a fuck you? It will be interesting to see where GameStop goes from here if the “all digital” future does come to reality. If that happens, the only product they’ll still be able to sell outside of voucher cards is systems and accessories, which are, as Ben Kuchera explains, low-margin. That’s going to leave GameStop in no man’s land. WalMart and other department stores can go the British route and take the hit, using systems as the means to get people to buy other things in the store. GameStop, on the other hand, won’t have anything else to sell that can’t be bought more efficiently elsewhere. Where do they go from there? If anyone thinks the answer is to “double down on gaming-enabled Android tablets and iDevice repair,” I have a bridge to sell.

As for the logistics of this program, I already have experience with it as I’ve bought the digital version of NHL ’13. Electronic Arts promised a midnight release, or at least a midnight unlock of the game. First off, there was debate as to just what “midnight” meant since I’m East Coast but Sony isn’t. Secondly, that turned out to be bollocks because, by the time I left for my job at 9AM, the game still wasn’t available. My friend who bought it that day, however, was able to download and play it two hours later. I was able to download it when I got home that night, a download that lasted six and a half hours, exactly the kind of thing I’d intended to avoid. I would have been able to do better by going somewhere, picking the game up, and playing the disc copy, with the benefit that I’d be able to trade it in for a few bucks next year.

One last point: the margins are significantly higher for publishers on these games than they are on customers, who are paying the brunt of the cost of transport (last-mile bandwidth). How about dropping the initial price, guys? $60 for a digital copy is simply not acceptable, especially when the consumer’s end cost is rising.

Christopher Bowen

About Christopher Bowen

Christopher Bowen is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus. Before opening Gaming Bus in May of 2011, he was the News Editor at Diehard GameFAN, a lead reporter for DailyGamesNews, and a reviewer at Not A True Ending, also contributing to VIMM, SNESZone and Scotsmanality. Outside of the industry, he is a network engineer in Norwalk, CT and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.