If you are an avid Call of Duty fan you’ll have noticed that World at War and the original Modern Warfare’s downloadable content packages were all absolutely free for all PC users but Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 users had to pay around $10 for each of the DLC’s.
This sparked much controversy amongst the various communities since the console gamers felt cheated out of money since they were paying for content that PC users would get for free. The problem was that there was no effective way to distribute the DLC’s to PC users in a way in which they had to pay. Call of Duty had to decide whether to either release the DLC’s to PC for free or not at all, as you can imagine it was a tough decision. If they didn’t release the content packs to PC users then it would upset the PC community since they didn’t get access to additional content. If they did release the content packs to PC users then they would have to make it free which would upset console gamers since they had to pay! The latter was chosen though which some will say probably wasn’t the best decision but what choice did they have? Other than to not release any content packs at all but it would have been silly not to expand a game that has room for expansion.
It wasn’t until Modern Warfare 2 when everything changed. Infinity Ward had integrated their game with the digital distribution software Steam. (Known as Steamworks) If you talk about PC gaming then Steam will come straight to mind since it has become the heart of PC gaming. It gives all users access to a massive library of thousands of games. It eliminates the DVD or any kind of disk completely; if you purchase a game through Steam then you download the game over the internet and can play it instantly after it’s complete. Download times vary from user to user but leave it downloading a game overnight and chances are it’ll be done by the next day! It really made buying PC games so much easier. Steam also has an integrated social feature where you can add your friends and find new ones in Steam enabled games just like the way you can add you friends on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network
The good part about Steam is the games you have purchased are linked to your account for life, exactly the same way any games you buy over the Xbox live or PlayStation marketplace are linked to your account. This opened the doors entirely for PC downloadable content. Infinity Ward saw the potential of Steam on the PC and decided to integrate Modern Warfare 2 with Steam. This allowed you to easily play with your friends in the game, eliminates the need to create any new in game accounts and opens the possibilities of downloadable content. So when the fir map pack DLC dubbed Stimulus was released for Modern Warfare 2 it was a huge success since it was available for the same price across all three platforms! It’s clear that through the use of Steam it has changed the way PC games will be distributed forever, especially additional content.
Monopoly issues have arisen over Steam though since for games such as Modern Warfare 2 on the PC it is useless unless you have access to Steam and this can be a definite issue for other digital distribution platforms such as Direct2Drive, which still offer Modern Warfare 2 but require you to install Steam to use it (Their main competitor) so it is clearly a tough market. In the same way though there is only one place to get games and additional content on the Xbox and on the PlayStation 3, of course the PC is more open and monopolies can be dangerous but Steam really does handle everything really well and their regular sales are a nice treat. EA also offers their own distribution software now called “Orbit” (Previously “EA Downloader” and previously “EA Download Manager”) which sells EA games and content exclusively. There are many places you can choose from to access additional content for your games or just games in general and it really has changed the face of PC gaming.
Not all games are going as far as integrating Steam directly but you’ll find all the latest games (Some not even released on disk) in one of the three pieces of software i’ve mentioned here today.The days of going down the shop and buying physical games are dying since some digital distribution software can offer cheaper prices and the ability to save and store game and DLC information so losing or scratching you disc no longer means you’ve lost your game. Either way its best to hunt around before you buy any type of software these days as there are some cases where physical disks are the cheapest option.