Dive in History
Before internet connections in most countries, the physical medium for video game distribution was dominant. One of the earliest digital distributions was operating in the 1980s, allowing Atari 2,600 owners to rent a video game for days using a specialized cartridge to connect to a phone line. GameLine lost relevance during the video game crash of 1983. Disk Writer Kiosks from the 1980s to early 2000s let users copy games to their floppy discs and play them on Famicom Disk.
In the 1990s, consoles' digital services reigned, with Sega providing access to games on-demand and other services. Nintendo released her services mostly in Japan. Software developers upload demos and shareware to Bulletin Board Systems during this period. The demos or shareware usually contain advertisements for the full games and instructions to get the physical copy of the full game. Other times, instructions to the full versions come by purchasing a key – the first true digital distribution for PC software.
The rise of the internet revolutionized distribution, with Cavedog distributing additional content for their video game. Users also use the internet to distribute their content. The proliferation of internet-enabled consoles allowed downloadable content (DLC). Stardock was an early innovator for digital distribution on PC to sell its PC titles and Drengin.net as a yearly subscription pay model. Amazon Digital Services, GameTap, GOG.com, Origin, and others began to rise in 2004; they offered different properties and policies around game distribution. The steam platform for computers rises to distribute Valve-developed games and promotes customers' right to use games rather than buy.
From the 2010s onward, digital distribution became the choice for mobile platforms such as iOS and Android devices. Additionally, the lower barrier to entry has let more developers develop and distribute games on mobile platforms, growing the mobile gaming industry. Games move from physical discs on PC and cartridges on consoles to downloadable games on computers, consoles, and smartphones. The mobile gaming market is 51% of the total game market share, while console and PC games stand at 25 and 24%, respectively.
Recent games have cross-platform capabilities, with games downloadable through different devices. This results in growth for the gaming industry and allows developers to offer their games across platforms, providing easy accessibility. In addition, we are witnessing gaming as a service, where gamers subscribe to games and stream them rather than buy them, creating varying industry opportunities. Access to the game would be sold through a subscription model to streaming games on devices, starkly contrasting to one-time purchases .