Steam and Valve are probably one of the few videogame service and company, respectively, that receive almost universal praising from games. The good relationship Valve and its digital distribution service created with gamers, allied to a service considered of high quality, made Steam the example to be followed when we talk about digital distribution.
That is, until yesterday.
Yesterday Steam severs got shut down. Gamers everywhere almost shit themselves with fear that, similar to the PSN hack, the service could have being compromised. And worst, that access to Steam could be impossible for a significant amount of time, like the PSN again.
Then a collective sigh of relieve was done when Valve explained that the service was experiencing a blackout and that the service was being restored just a few hours later. There is probably a lot of people who may not even noticed it occurred at all.
|DAMN YOU VAL... Oh, wait, not, it is fine...|
Occurrences like that it is why digital distribution doesn't grow faster. The companies responsible for them knows that any problem could harm millions of customers. And costumers fear to be left out of their games if that services happens to be off line.
That is why I doubt services like On Live will be the future. If On Live goes down, it is not that you just will not have access to multiplayer or to the stores, but to the games themselves. The fact that servers and/or internet connections will never be reliable enough o be always on will keep people demanding an off-line way to at least play games.
Digital Distribution, on other hand, will be hardly affected by this occurrences. That is because when you decide to buy something, several factors can interfere in the process, even in real life. You can go to your local game store to buy a physical copy and discover that the store is closed because a drunk driver entered in the store with its car. Troubles happens, and as long as they are punctual, it is OK.
What the Steam blackout really show us is that going full digital still have its ways to go. And that demanding an always connected system is neither possible nor acceptable. But I still believe that in ten to 20 years, digital distribution will be the way most people acquire games, movies, music and books. it is already happening. But there still need for improvements.