May 182011
 
money

Today marks another day of all video game deals on Amazon.  The deal of the day is [amazon_link id=”B004S73HS8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Crysis 2[/amazon_link] for PC, 360 and PS3 for $35 and the PC download version for $30.  Don’t be afraid of Amazon’s game download service, it’s easy and you can re-download at any time, as we previously detailed.  Other games to look for in today’s gold box could be Dead Space 2, Madden, NCAA Football, a couple PSP games and what ever you can guess for the others.  While not part of this gold box event, definitely take a look at [amazon_link id=”B002I0J5UQ” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]L.A. Noire on Amazon[/amazon_link].  They are now offering a $20 credit with purchase.

Also worth mentioning is now Steam is doing a daily deal of the day, on top of their other reoccurring deals like “mid-week madness” and their weekend deals.  Just another way for money to leave your wallet.  With gaming deals running rampant across all major retailers, no one should be paying full MSRP for games anymore.  It definitely seems to be a relatively new phenomenon, and I can distinctly remember a time when video games cost the same exact (full) price in every store you went to.

 

May 042011
 
consolidatedconsoles

A bunch of recent news tidbits from console-land worth mentioning. First a few price drops. The Wii will be dropping to $150 and include Mario Kart with a wheel starting May 15th. Not all that surprising since it seems that the Wii has finally hit its ceiling after running away with the console sales race and all the news swirling around about the Wii 2. Not sure who was holding out on the Wii because of the price, but hey, cheaper stuff is good, right?

Secondly, you’d have to assume an Xbox 360 price drop is imminent, probably around E3 time, as many retailers, including Amazon are selling all flavors (including Kinect bundles) of the 360 with a [amazon_link id=”B003O6JLZ2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]$50 gift card as well as a $20 Microsoft point card[/amazon_link].

Not to leave Sony and the PS3 out, but PSN is still down, Sony Online Entertainment (MMO games division) was also hacked, with mostly non-US info and credit cards stolen. Don’t worry though, DC Universe Online players will get free Batman masks for their trouble. Most everything else in wait-and-see mode when PSN comes back online this week sometime. Don’t forget to change your password when it does come back.

Next up, I wanted to briefly mention the Red Faction: Armageddon demo up on XBL and eventually PSN at some point. After enjoying Red Faction: Guerrilla a bunch, I was eager to check out the direction Armageddon was going in. I hadn’t really followed much press coverage on it to this point, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The demo offers about 30 minutes of game play and retains a lot of the destructive abilities of the previous game. While Armageddon still is played from the third person, it takes a more over-the-shoulder perspective, like Gears of War, than Guerrilla’s Grand Theft Auto pulled-back style. Still, it seems to work pretty well. In the demo you get to use some unique weapons like the magnet gun and something that shoots mini-black holes. Also, there is a new gameplay mechanic in that you can actually repair some of your destruction, that kind of reminded me of the TMD from Singularity. It was really hard to get an overall feel for the game in the demo, but it seems like it will end up a bit less open-ended than Guerrilla. If nothing else, the demo left me interested enough to look and see what sales are available for the game’s preorders. [amazon_link id=”B003P9C6QY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon is doing a $10 credit for a future THQ game[/amazon_link] (an unusual restriction for Amazon preorders) along with a free download of Red Faction: Battlegrounds; a top down car combat game that gets mediocre reviews. Amazon’s deal applies to the console versions only.

Our own Suibhne points me to this great video, related to Armageddon:

Last up, a deal for Portal 2 that can’t be passed up. [amazon_link id=”B002I0JIQW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon is offering Portal 2[/amazon_link] for $30 on the PC and $35 on the consoles. A great price for one of the better games to come out this year so far.

Apr 192011
 
amazon_logo

Amazon is up to their dealing ways again today, with another all video game gold box event today.  These gold box events are usually a mixed bag, and many times are just a way for Amazon to try and offload less desirable games.  A few hints point to possibly Bulletstorm and Dragon Age showing up today.  Also note that Star Craft II is the deal of the day at $20 off of MSRP, a good price for a game I enjoyed a lot even though I’m not an RTS player.  Also, if you forgot to get [amazon_link id=”B003O6E3C8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Portal 2[/amazon_link], their deals on that game will run out very soon.  Hit the link below for the deal goodness:

Amazon Video Game Gold Box Event

 

 

Mar 312011
 

So with this week’s slightly unexpected launch of Amazon’s cloud storage and cloud music player, you’ve started to think about the possibilities and conveniences of a cloud stored music library.  It definitely has some worthwhile advantages:

  • Online/offsite backup of your music library
  • Easy access to your music anywhere
  • Save space on your phone by not storing a copy on device

It was probably less surprising that Amazon’s Cloud Player doesn’t really work with iOS devices.  There’s a workaround, described here, but it’s clunky at best.

Apple’s iTunes Locker / MobileMe revamp has been rumored to be coming for quite some time, but it’s yet to materialize.  Signs seem to point to it being caught in limbo as negotiations with the big music labels are holding it back, a step it seems Amazon chose to skip, much to the labels chagrin.  So while we wait for an Apple solution that may or may not come, what can an iPhone user turn to in the mean time?

It may surprise you that Apple already has rudimentary support for this type of cloud music storage.  Of course, this option requires a MobileMe subscription, which currently goes for $99 a year — there’s a 60 day free trial if you want to give it a test drive.  You get 20GB of storage, along with other features like email, calendar, contacts and a photo gallery.  The “iDisk” cloud storage works like many others and has the advantage of a universal iOS app.  An undocumented feature of the iDisk app is that it will stream music files from your iDisk, and even continues streaming music when in the background.  While it doesn’t load any meta data or album artwork and doesn’t seem to support playlists, it does actually work in a very basic way, today.  You can even share files using iDisk…but don’t tell the music labels that.

Dropbox works in a similar fashion to iDisk in the way it handles music, and offers 2GB for free, with a universal iOS app.

Of course, those are services that aren’t really optimized for streaming music.  That’s where long-time players mSpot and MP3Tunes come into play.  mSpot, in direct response to Amazon, recently announced they would be increasing their free account storage limit to 5GB.  This was a smart move by mSpot, since it has the advantage of being iOS compatible (through a universal app) right away.  With new found interest in cloud music storage being spurred on by Amazon, potential customers may look for more compatible options since being locked out by Amazon.  Also available is MP3tunes, which offers 2GB of storage for free and also has an iPhone app.  Each of these services has an application that you load on your PC or Mac, which monitors your music library and automatically uploads new tracks to your music locker, keeping your local and cloud libraries in sync.

All the services mentioned here have some sort of free or trial subscription so that you can test drive them to figure what best suits your needs. Who knows, they may even end up being better than an official Apple solution, whenever it arrives.

Mar 282011
 
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With PC gaming moving more and more towards digital distribution, the days of going into a store, browsing the PC game shelves for a title worth purchasing and walking out with a box in hand are dwindling fast. Of course, unless you’ve lived under the world’s biggest rock, you know all about Steam, and probably have invested a fair amount of money at their store. You may have even dabbled with Direct2Drive or tried Stardock’s Impulse. However, you may not have tried the relative new comer to the digital download space in Amazon.

Amazon is all about competing with pretty much any company that sells anything. Music, books, movies and now apps, Amazon targets large competitors like Apple and Netflix. They regularly price match Sunday ad deals posted by big box retailers in Target, Walmart and Best Buy. Now, to get their digital download service off the ground, they’ve even resorted to price matching Steam’s weekend and mid-week sales when possible. Since Amazon is really good at selling stuff, there’s no reason to think that Amazon won’t become a significant player in the digital games space, after pretty much winning the crown for the best place to buy retail copies of console games with their generous deals and pre-order credits.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at Amazon’s PC game download service to see if it’s a worthy competitor to the big players already entrenched in the market. The key things that I usually look for in a digital store are pricing, availability, ease of downloads and how flexible the service is in case I ever need to re-download the software and/or retrieve any serial keys.

The pricing aspect we already know won’t be much a problem for Amazon. They have a history of some of the best pricing around. To help with their launch of “core” downloads, they’re offering $15 and $10 credits on many new high-profile titles like Crysis 2, Dragon Age 2, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Homefront at prices that range from a few dollars to up to $10 off of retail price. There’s also no reason to doubt that Amazon will keep fresh deals coming on various titles throughout the year.  They are still working on building their library of games available, so while it’s a modest list, it contains many new releases.

To test my experience with the service, I recently purchased Crysis 2, as it was the cheapest on Amazon’s store than anywhere else at the time, with other distribution channels still selling it at full retail price less than a week after release. The first thing Amazon asks after you complete your purchase is to install the “Amazon Games and Software Downloader” which is a small 3MB download. It downloaded and installed in under a minute. I’m not normally a fan of external “downloader” programs, but found the Amazon downloader minimally invasive. It didn’t try to side-load any crapware and has a minimal footprint. I found it similar to Direct2Drive’s downloader, but less ugly. Of course, it’s nothing like Steam’s behemoth client, the Amazon downloader is just a downloader, which you could argue is an actual benefit — we don’t need anymore bloated clients. With that installed, my purchase automatically started downloading. It downloads one archive file and once the download is complete, it automatically extracts itself and gives you a folder structure of what you’d expect to be an image of the contents of the retail DVD. You then install the game as you would off a disc, and you’ll be asked to enter any type of serial key expected by the game. This can be retrieved from your Amazon digital library under your account on Amazon.com.

It’s worth noting that no additional DRM is added by Amazon. So in that particular sense, it has a leg up on Steam, which in non-Steamworks games (like Crysis 2) has the publisher’s DRM on top of the omni-present Steam DRM. This is not the case with Amazon. The DRM comes solely from the publisher. Amazon lets you download your game as many times as you need, although any limitations on “activations” on the install is controlled by the publisher and will vary from game to game. One comforting thing listed in Amazon’s help section for game downloads is this bit:

Each game manufacturer has a different policy on how many installations are allowed with each product key. If you run out of installations for the product key you originally purchased from Amazon, please contact Customer Service and we will happily provide you with another key at no additional charge. You can install an unlimited number of times for personal use, however additional copies of the game for friends or family must be purchased separately.

So it seems that Amazon is being very sensible dealing with DRM and as usual with my experience them, does a good job at taking care of their customers, not just throwing them to the wolves with some of the crazy DRM schemes publishers dream up.

After the install and key retrieval, Amazon’s job is done. Their downloader won’t keep your game auto-updated or anything like that. You’ll essentially have a retail copy of the game, so any updates will come directly from the publisher either through a built-in auto-updater in game or manual patches on the publisher’s website. If you’re a Steam junkie and enjoy the in-game chat overlay, you can always manually add a shortcut to the game in your Steam library to give you an unified launching spot of your games and to enable the Steam overlay in non-Steam games, as outlined in our new PC gaming wiki, here.

Overall, I found the Amazon download service to be a simple process with no unusual hoops to jump through. The Amazon downloader is a required prerequisite to downloaded your games from your library, but I found the program to be harmless and lightweight. With unlimited re-downloads and their flexible policy on serial keys, I see no reason not to give their service a shot and take advantage of their usual great pricing.

You can find their “core” downloads at their store front for it here.  Also, any games that have a digital download version will show up on the product page as a separate option listed as “PC Download.”

Mar 222011
 
money

Gaming deals come and go everyday, so it’s hard to keep track of them as the phase in and out of existence.  Today a few notables from Amazon come our way. Amazon’s Game Deal of the Day (all day) is Dragon Age II for $39.99 on PC (both digital and disc versions), PS3 and Xbox 360.  Also be sure to keep checking out Amazon’s Lightning Deals today, as they are all game-related.

Also up on Amazon is pre-order Portal 2 for PS3 and 360 for $54.99 and get a $20 credit for a future game purchase.  No love for the PC version, although the pre-order price for that is $44.99.  However, PC users don’t despair!  You may actually want to consider getting the PS3 version, as that will also include access to the PC version on your Steam account.  This will be the first game to include Steam on the PS3, and through their “Steam Play” service, you will automatically be able to play the game on both PC and Mac as well.  So even though the game is $10 more, the extra $20 credit on the back end results in a $10 win, assuming you ever plan to purchase games from Amazon again.  Consider it.

Lastly from Amazon, today they launch their Android AppStore, complete with a free-for-today-only version of Angry Birds.  If you haven’t been keeping track, Apple has sued Amazon of the use of their “App Store” trademark.  You can read up more on that in this article at the WSJ.

Mar 152011
 

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Amazon does downloadable games now — and not just casual games, but “core” titles too. As an aside, for some reason the whole “core” moniker attached to games that are the opposite of casual games (hardcore games!) I find irksome, no specific reason why.

Anyway, Amazon is doing 20% off of all their “Core” game downloads, making a serious run at Steam. They’ve been matching Steam’s weekend and midweek deals recently too. Definitely worth checking out as another option to Steam, Direct2Drive, Impulse, etc. New titles in there too like Bulletstorm, Homefront, Dragon Age 2…you get the idea:

Amazon 20% off Core Games