Earlier this week I fired up my Xbox 360 for the first time in a long while, and noticed that I still hadn’t updated my system with all the new elements of the NXE Dashboard Update. My wife and I wanted to download some TV episodes from the marketplace, and after downloading the new Zune video marketplace I realized something that clicked with me. All the videos I’d ever purchased under my Windows Live ID were there, and I could stream them from the dashboard. No more having to mull over what game demos to delete, no more frantically trying to free up space or ponder upgrading my HDD. It just made perfect sense and I immediately wondered why all of my digital content couldn’t work this way.

Some people resist the shift of game distribution from physical to digital media, and some hate the idea of cloud computing. I say they can’t come soon enough. I recently had a bad experience with a retailer I won’t name (national chain store, not a gaming store) that left me fed up with brick and mortar. I preordered Final Fantasy XIII, thinking I’d get it a day after launch at the latest. What followed was the most infuriating ordeal as my shipment got delayed five times, finally shipping out a month after the game launched. In the meantime, I bought it at a more reliable store to ensure that I’d get it then and there. The entire time I was dealing with customer service for the original store, I kept thinking to myself about how this would never happen if I was just given the option to download the entire game straight to my console.

Another part of digital content I can’t live without is downloadable content (DLC). One of the best games I’ve played in the past 10 years, Fallout 3, had brilliant DLC. And the best part about it was that it was there to download whenever I felt ready for it. And when I finished the main game, I snagged up each installment of the DLC to create a seamless reentry back into The Capitol Wasteland I’d grown to love so much. Lately I’ve grown so spoiled by digital content that I even loathe having to get up and swap discs to play a different game! I’d much rather have all my games on my HDD, ready to switch around on a whim. As a multitasker by nature, if I find a way that allows me to juggle more things in an afternoon more efficiently, I’m all over it.

Brick and mortar stores do have their charm; and some things they provide can’t be replaced. But as I get older, those irreplaceable intangibles mean less to me than the time I save by having things at my fingertips ready to download. I used to love getting preorder bonus swag from the game stores, now I’d prefer them to take it in a digital direction. Yes, I’ll still preorder a game from a traditional retailer if they offered it as a digital voucher. But you can give me my preorder bonus in the form of a digital in-game item or unique mode and I’d be way more receptive. Digital doesn’t have to mean the end of business as we know it; more like a new venue to engage and interact with your customers.

So for someone who’s getting more conscious of his free time, I say streamline my content and make it all digital! No more trips to the store is fine with me. I’ll download a game and that means one less disc to worry about getting lost or damaged. I’ll gladly keep my saved game files and movies on a cloud storage solution; I’m smart enough to backup the data that is important to me if I need to have it on hand. I definitely consider myself to be a gaming purist at heart, but I’m not going to cling onto the old ways, afraid of stepping out into a bold new digital world.

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