Digital downloads have been pegged as the future of gaming. According to most analysts, physical media is dead/dying and digital is on its way to becoming the default medium for games. Sony has made heavy investments into cloud storage, dedicated servers, and bet large on streaming technology with their purchase of Gaikai. Sony appears to be making moves for the (supposedly) permanent shift to digital media. Judging by my recent experience in trying to download Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA V) with Sony’s Day 1 Digital program, they still have a long way to go.
A Simple Idea…
The first time GTA V was available on the Playstation Store (PSN) in Europe, customers were allowed to pre-load the game. “Pre-loading” means a customer will be able download the game in its entirety before the game is officially released. Once officially released, an unlock code would be available to give the customer full access to the game. The advantages here are obvious. A consumer would be allowed to download the game and have it available to play at the same time (and possibly earlier) as those who had a physical copy.
…With Poor Execution
When Sony offered this option, GTAV assets were leaked onto the internet a month before the game released. Sony issued an apology to Rockstar and removed the pre-load option. Later, Rockstar announced the pre-load option would return to European (EU) users on September 13th. That date was later changed to September 15th at 3pm while adding the option for North American users (NA) to do the same at 3am on Monday.
Rockstar tweeted on Friday morning there would be a pre-load option. Sony tweeted Friday afternoon that NA users would not be able to download the game until 12am, Tuesday. The mixed message sent the internet into an uproar. I scoured the internet to find many EU users saying the pre-load option had been available to them at the time it was promised and it was simply the NA users who had been shafted.
To add further confusion to the matter, there were conflicting reports on whether the game would be released at 12am PST/EST. The download on PSN said PST but reports on the internet said EST. It looked like Sony didn’t know what the hell they were doing.
Midnight Launch…Kind Of
After reading countless articles about the exact time the game was going to be released, I signed onto PSN at 12am Tuesday morning to download the game. Only, the option to download the game wasn’t there. What was especially alarming was, I was logged onto the Playstation forums and saw people posting pictures of them downloading the game on PSN while others were complaining they could not access it. Finally, one user stated that if you typed “Grand Theft Auto 5” into the search option, the digital file would show up and THEN give you access to the game.
And that’s how I was able to finally download the game.
By trolling for information on the internet.
Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough.
After that rough start, it was smooth sailing. I started the download at 12am, went to sleep at 4am, and woke up at 10am. In that time, the game had been downloaded and installed onto the hard drive. I was able to wake up yesterday morning and start the game immediately.
There was a smug satisfaction in knowing people were on Twitter complaining about not having access to the game or waiting for it to be delivered. That feeling of having the game available to play the minute it’s activated, is what I believe Sony had in mind when they started this program. I’ll give them credit, when it finally worked the way it was supposed to I couldn’t have been happier with the process. But there’s clearly some kinks that need to be worked out and I hope Sony realizes the power of this program and finds a way to improve it.