Digital games might mean "short", but does it mean "small"? Not necessarily.
"For right now, there is a culture of downloadable titles being smaller and generally 'shorter', but I think this is destined to change," explains ThatGameCompany programmer Rick Nelson.
"Companies will always compete with each other by offering more and higher fidelity content, on any platform, and it seems that there will always be an audience for that," he adds. "Download size budgets kind of keep things small, but there have always been an enormous array of compression and data baking technologies available to large game studios to overcome some of those obstacles. What this means is that "downloadable" does not have to mean 'small.'"
For example, compare the teams that made Shadow Complex and Bionic Commando: ReArmed to the miniscule teams that made games like Everyday Shooter or Braid.
Digital console titles do have obvious flexibility. "We can experiment more, because it won't be too long until we get our games in the hands of players and hear their reactions," says ThatGameCompany president Kellee Santiago. "If we fail, well, there's not too much damage done, and we'll do much better on the next one!" Words echoed by PixelJunk boss Dylan Cuthbert.
Downloadable titles — as a retail model — continue to find their footing. Like ThatGameCompany, Kyoto's Q-Games has produced a handful of top quality PSN titles like PixelJunk Monsters and PixelJunk Eden, and PixelJunk's Dylan Cuthbert thinks retail still does have its advantages: "There is a lot of implicit advertising that you gain from getting your game out into the shops — the shops put up banners and displays and they all try to sell your game for you," Cuthbert explains.
"This gives sales a tremendous boost and I can't think of what the equivalent would be in the online distribution world." Though, he adds, developers like Q-Games or ThatGameCompany do not have to physically print up game discs and can tweak the game right up until it goes live — a costly, time consuming expense.
Customers, Cuthbert believes, are still a little too judgmental when looking at the price-tag of digital games. "I can understand why but it would be nice if at some point people wouldn't complain about the price of something that costs about the same as a cheap lunch," he explains, "yet gives you many more hours of enjoyment." And doesn't give you indigestion.