Digital distribution

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Digital Distribution (ger .: digital distribution ) represents the direct distribution of digital content over the Internet , without a transfer of physical media (such. As DVD takes place s). No uniform name has yet become established for this form of distribution; it is known as Electronic Software Distribution (ESD), Electronic Software Delivery, Online Distribution and Direct Download Service , among other things . Digital distribution has not only economic but also ecological advantages and is therefore a green IT measure. The usual use of the term "digital distribution" is actually wrong, since the content is also stored digitally on the data carriers that are otherwise used.


With digital distribution, software or digital multimedia content (or licenses to use it) are bought and paid for online . The advantage for the buyer is that the digital goods can be bought, downloaded and used immediately in a relatively short time. In most cases, there are no shipping costs, as in contrast to packaging boxes or software licenses, there is no shipping of a medium (CD or DVD) or a physical manual. In addition to software, digital products such as e-books , music (for example in MP3 format), videos, computer games, etc. are sold in this way on the Internet.

Purchased licenses are usually only registered when the software is used, as is the case with the purchase of a data carrier in retail. This is an advantage compared to classic software licenses (document registered on the end customer with permission to use software components), which in most cases must be registered at the time of ordering.

Music industry

In the music sector, in 2003 Apple, with its commercial iTunes Store, was one of the first providers to take up the digital music distribution model already practiced by illegal music exchanges such as Napster at the end of the 1990s. Originally mostly distributed with DRM -capable formats such as WMA or AAC , the MP3 format or price flat rates are now also becoming increasingly popular in digital music and e-book distribution.

Since the start of digital distribution, more and more artists and music labels have used the digital distribution channel without conventional record contracts, and sell their e-books and music themselves to download shops and portals. So-called self-publishers use digital sales portals such as Feiyr , iMusician Digital , Zimbalam, CD Baby or The Orchard .

As a result of the growing importance of direct digital music and e-book distribution, the ongoing consolidation in music distribution or sales companies is seen, for example in August 2008 with the end of the Canadian music chain Sam the Record Man .

Computer game industry

The introduction and expansion of online distribution channels are changing the structure of the entire computer game industry. Sharply rising costs for the production of commercial games (since 1997 increase by up to thirty-fold) lead publishers to a strategy of risk avoidance, which is why they tend to reject innovative ideas for fear of loss. Online sales channels such as Stardock Central (later called Impulse ) or Valves Steam , with the first providers in the early 2000s, counteract this by reducing distribution costs significantly .

“The most difficult time for developers was during the cartridge games for the Nintendo, the publisher's money was stored in the warehouses in the form of silicon. You couldn't take any chances, so you stayed strictly conservative about things that worked. With Steam exactly the opposite is the case, you can try everything without losing any money. The unlimited shelf space also makes Steam interesting for old, no longer available games. "

- Gabe Newell (Valve CEO)

With digital distribution, not only developers can take greater risks, but the threshold to commercialization for smaller development projects such as independent developer studios ( Humble Bundle ) or for hobby and mod developers is also significantly reduced. This made possible the success of the Garry's Mod , for example . Originally developed as a leisure project for a single hobby developer, the mod has now sold over 1,400,000 times.

Personal computer

There are significant differences in the approaches and principles of digital distribution providers. In Steam is an integrated is platform approach attempts of using a proprietary client following functionality includes: online distribution , maintenance ( patches ) and monitoring (DRM) of the Games, as well as communication between the players, the formation of communities and the provision of publicly viewable Players Profiles . is a deliberately DRM-free provider that uses standard web technologies and specializes in the MS-DOS , Windows , Linux and macOS games segment of the 1980s , 1990s , 2000s and 2010s (see Retrogaming ). Green Man Gaming allows the resale of its online licenses, while with most other providers the purchased licenses are inextricably linked to a personalized user account and are neither transferable nor resale. The Humble Indie Bundle (HIB for short) is based on the pay-what-you-want principle and enables non-profit or charitable organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation to share in the proceeds. In addition, the HIB has an event character, for example, with some offers, crowdfunding-like games have been released under an open source license from certain sums reached . Desura is a digital distributor that is characterized by a wide cross-platform offer, strong support for mods and an open source client.

Game consoles

In the console sector, Intellivision already offered the possibility of downloading games to one's own console in 1981 with the help of the PlayCable online service via the US cable television network. Since the late 1980s, there have been an increasing number of provider-specific digital services for downloading software, for example for the consoles from Sega and Nintendo , which are under the full control of the hardware manufacturer. In the beginning, however, there was often a lack of the option of permanently saving the downloaded content, which made it necessary to reload the content for each game session. Newer services such as Xbox Live (since 2002) or the PlayStation Network (since 2006) are now available across generations and hardware for both stationary and handheld consoles .

Individual evidence

  1. Video Digitale-Distribution (January 10, 2010)  in the ZDFmediathek , accessed on January 26, 2014.
  2. ^ A b Arnold Picot, Dominik K. Heger: Does the Internet need a new competition policy? In: Peter Oberender (ed.): Competition in the Internet economy . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-428-11060-9 , pp. 17 ( online view ).
  3. What is ESD software? In: PDF Store. DataPerform, accessed July 23, 2013 .
  4. How the Physical Distribution of Digital Goods Impacts the Environment By Carolyn Pritchard Aug. 16, 2007 (English)
  5. ^ WHITE PAPER: Calculating business value and environmental benefit of digital software distribution.  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on (English)@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  6. ^ Mark Harris: iTunes Store History - The History of the iTunes Store. Guide, accessed March 25, 2012 .
  7. Zeit Online: [1] .
  8. Computer Week : [2] .
  9. ^ Sam the Record Man to shut its Yonge St. doors. In: Entertainment section. The Toronto Star , May 29, 2007, accessed January 18, 2009 .
  10. Work on the topic of online sales (PDF, December 13, 2006, English, accessed: January 23, 2008; 82 kB)
  11. John Walker: RPS Exclusive: Gabe Newell Interview. Rock, Paper, Shotgun, November 22, 2007, accessed on May 2, 2012 (English): “ The worst days [for game development] were the cartridge days for the NES. It was a huge risk - you had all this money tied up in silicon in a warehouse somewhere, and so you'd be conservative in the decisions you felt you could make, very conservative in the IPs you signed, your art direction would not change , and so on. Now it's the opposite extreme: we can put something up on Steam, deliver it to people all around the world, make changes. We can take more interesting risks. […] Retail doesn't know how to deal with those games. On Steam [a digital distributor] there's no shelf-space restriction. It's great because they're a bunch of old, orphaned games. , German translation Interview with Gabe Newell
  12. ^ Brian Garr Brian: Download distribution opening new doors for independent game developers. (No longer available online.), April 17, 2011, archived from the original April 21, 2011 ; Retrieved July 23, 2013 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  13. Keith Stuart: Back to the bedroom: how indie gaming is reviving the Britsoft spirit. In: The Guardian . January 27, 2010, accessed November 8, 2012 .
  14. Tom Senior: Garry's Mod has sold 1.4 million copies, Garry releases sales history to prove it. In: PCGamer. March 16, 2012, accessed June 28, 2013 .
  15. Michael Thompson: Humble Bundle: greatest sale of indie games ever? Ars Technica , May 4, 2010, accessed December 5, 2011 .
  16. ^ Benjamin Jakobs: Desura: ModDB's own sales platform for games and modifications. December 17, 2009, accessed July 23, 2013 .
  17. Michael Larabel: Desura Game Client Is Now Open Source. Phoronix , January 21, 2012, accessed January 21, 2012 .