When Microsoft launched Xbox 360 Games on Demand in August 2009, it had the air of a clothing store with nothing but last year’s inventory. All the game downloads were at least a year older than their retail counterparts, and some dated back to the console’s launch.
But slowly, the digital download service has crept up on retail, and the announcement of Red Dead Redemption for Games on Demand seems like a major milestone. The game is only seven months old, it’s on a lot of lists for game of the year, and it’s priced at $60 — same as retail.
Rockstar Games isn’t the only publisher to have a game become downloadable within seven months of launch. Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands and THQ’s UFC Undisputed 2010 all launched at retail in May of this year, and became Xbox 360 Games on Demand within the last few weeks. EA’s Battlefield: Bad Company 2 hit retail in March and Games on Demand in early December. Digital downloads are definitely getting fresher.
Like Joystiq’s Alexander Sliwinski, I wouldn’t advise downloading these games unless you don’t mind throwing money away for instant gratification. A new copy of the game can be had for $40 from NewEgg, and GameStop has used copies for the same price. Discrepancies like these have been a pock mark on Microsoft’s download service since launch.
Still, if Xbox 360 Games on Demand keeps narrowing the gap between itself and retail, there will eventually come a point at which full price is reasonable, and Red Dead Redemption is the closest I’ve seen to that point.