Impulse / GameStop continued
What we have is a platform that went from the hands of an offbeat indie developer of strategy games to the hands of a monolithic brick-and-mortar juggernaut. I'll give GameStop credit for seeing the writing on the wall with regards to retail. I'm also grateful they didn't go off on their own and try to build something themselves.
I booted up Impulse (now re-branded "GameStop") after a long hiatus and found it just as I'd left it. It's as good as it ever was, but now with a bigger name working to fill the shelves. Probably the biggest challenge it has to overcome is the GameStop brand itself. They made a lot of money on used games over the last five or six years, but angered a lot of gamers and developers in the process. Right or wrong, they were viewed as a parasite, and that's not something you want associated with your brand name.
Can you believe that GFWL is almost five years old? In all that time, Microsoft has never managed to elevate this platform above "atrocious". Do I need to bring this up again? Or this? Or how about this?
If you want something more recent, I could point out the insane system the service still uses for games like Arkham City, which encrypts your save files. If you change computers or rename your gamer tag then your old saves will not work - thus putting DRM on your save files and effectively sabotaging cloud saves.
I could dedicate an entire column to cataloging the comprehensive failures of GFWL. Every single aspect of the system is horrible and infuriating. GFWL is a plague on PC gaming. It doesn't need to improve, it needs to die. And then Microsoft needs to apologize to everyone inconvenienced by it.
I said pretty much everything there is to say about Origin last week, but I do need to issue a small correction / clarification:
As other users pointed out to me, you can activate your Steam copies of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 on Origin. I tried it myself, and it worked.
This is exactly the kind of thing Origin should be advertising to people. Figure out what games and serial numbers work, and then let gamers know that they probably already have the makings of a halfway decent Origin library, without needing to buy anything first. Yesterday they didn't care about Origin, but tomorrow they could feel invested in it because they have a little collection going.
Digital distribution is a billion-dollar business, and it's going to get bigger. The retail market will never die completely, but as more of the business moves online it becomes increasingly important for us to have a good selection of places to shop.