Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Summer Crop of Downloadable Games

In gaming circles, August is typically known for only one release, John Madden Football two-thuosand-and-whatever. Naturally the great gridiron simulator returns both new and improved, but this is usually the only big release we see in August, as the summer months come to an inevitable close and the rush of quality holiday titles begin to storm into the release calendar year.

Last year was more of the same, Madden was on the way. But one thing was different. 2K Boston (or Marin, whatever) and Take Two released Bioshock, a game that rocked the emotional storytelling boat like no other in the genre (or about as well as System Shock II did years prior). Wave of enthusiasm and praise swept across our industry, as more and more people the unprecedented depth of BioShock.

Both Madden and BioShock were the prelude of the incredible lineup that was released in the fall of 2007. That year will stand out as a remarkable year that included a list of marquee games including: The Orange Box, Halo 3, Super Mario Galaxy, Uncharted, and more.

But fast forward to August of 2008, and there is a much different picture in place. The release calendar for August might be missing a game as rich as BioShock, but there are a plethora of quality downladble games - a much different picture indeed from 2008's usual fare.

This month the downloadable games just keep coming, each presenting another unique take on the concept of smaller focused games with lighter financial risk. "Braid", "Bionic Commando: Rearmed", "Castle Crashers", "PixelJunk Eden", and "Geometry Wars 2" (along with Siren: Blood Curse) represent a new growing market in the game publishing buisness - the self-published downloadable games sector of the video game business. These are the projects that might not survive as a retail disc, or would become dismissed or bloated and unoriginal by the traditional standard of retail packaged games. They are lighter on content, but more focused entertainment experiences. They deserve your attention and your dollars because of their unique nature.

This year, you won't find a smarter platformer than "Braid", or a more soothing graphcal aesthetic than "PixelJunk Eden".

Ladies and Gentlemen, digitally distributed games are here, and their quality stock is only getting better.

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