Titanfall, the Xbox One’s biggest high-profile exclusive title to debut yet only launched yesterday. As such, it’s still too early to know if the game will boost sales of the console or inspire a new generation of games willing to build games around multiplayer only scenarios. What we do know is the Microsoft has yet to truly understand digital games or at least translate what they know into a decent day one digital games experience.
I’ll level with your with you right now. I’m not one of the people who liked the idea of digital console games. I positively loved the idea. It’s silly that in 2013 I was still required to buy a game on a disc and load it onto my console. I understand why most people still do, but in a world where I could add features to my iPhone by just visiting the iTunes App Store or download a game for close to instant gratification on the PC, the process of buying a disc seemed backwards.
Then Microsoft announced its plans for the Xbox One and the whole thing changed. At long last I could download games on the day that they’re available and comeback a bit later to play them. It was a revelation, a true defining moment for the Xbox One and even Sony’s PS4. That I could begin playing these games before they finished downloading made the innovation even more useful.
Then Monday night I sat in my office waiting for Titanfall to launch. As I now know it’s customary for Microsoft to release games digitally at midnight time Seattle time in the United States. That stinks for not one but two reasons. The first is that this isn’t posted anywhere. That meant that anyone who stayed up to buy and play the game at midnight Eastern Standard Time wasted their time. The second issue was that there was no pre-order process. As such, you couldn’t buy the game and have my console download my copy overnight when it became available as I slept.
Microsoft may have made it possible for people to download games digitally. However, they’ve failed to translate the retail gaming experience into something palpable on the console itself. I get that making games available at midnight for everyone to download in the United States would enable those on the West Coast to get it earlier. That’s a valid concern. On the other hand, why not at least create a pre-order system that immediately charges user’s cards and downloads the game when it’s available. Better yet, why not let someone pre-order, automatically lock their time zone so they can’t get it earlier than planned and unlock the game locally.
Gaming isn’t like music or video. Getting the content is only half the experience, gamers still flock to stores because they want to play with their friends at midnight. They also want the option to fire up that title they purchased last night and jump in immediately.
Making games available digitally was just the first step. Microsoft will need to prove that it gets gamers and day one buyers if it hopes for digital game sales to actually go anywhere.