Come Tuesday, Microsoft will begin selling major Xbox 360 games for download through its Xbox Live service, but from the prices we’ve seen so far, it’s not a sound investment.
Endsights got a hold of the pricing for nine of the 24 games that will be available initially. Using the online retailer Newegg as a comparison (because of its consistent pricing and free shipping), it’s clear that in some cases you’ll pay $10 or even $15 more to download the game than you would to order a boxed copy over the Internet.
A chart, and some more thoughts on Microsoft’s bold venture away from retail, after the jump.
As you can see from the chart below, you stand to save $49 total by getting all these games new, in-box, from Newegg:
Microsoft has said Games On Demand will cost either $20 or $30, so even without the complete price list, we know two more games, Kameo: Elements of Power ($10 on Newegg) and Perfect Dark Zero ($15 on Newegg) will be more expensive to download. Additionally, as Endsights points out, you can buy Bioshock and Oblivion in one package at retail for $30 — the same price Microsoft is asking for each game separately.
The problem is, you’re not really getting anything in return for buying Games On Demand except instant gratification. Meanwhile, your digital copy can’t be brought to a friend’s house, has no resale value, requires a lot of hard drive space and is far less likely than a boxed copy to be backwards-compatible with Microsoft’s next console (whenever that may emerge).
It’s easy to criticize Microsoft here, but the company does face a dilemma: Games On Demand looks like a push away from retail, but Gamestop and its ilk remain in control of the market. By selling used games for less, these retailers drive prices down on all games. As frustrating as the sale of used games is for publishers, it’s just as bad that buyers intentionally wait for a game to devalue before making the purchase.
But that’s the reality. If Microsoft wants Games On Demand to take off, it’ll have to get competitive.