Digital Distribution Region Restrictions, Pricing, Overview

By | February 3, 2012

Just a quick post on the region restrictions, pricing, and a quick overview for some of the Digital Distribution sites.

This is a work in progress. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions/comments about the content. Keep in mind I started this document on Dec 27th, so that just shows how lazy/busy I’ve been. Mostly lazy lol.

Last Updated:

  • 10/10/12 – Updated some out of date things. Added links to activatable games. Added Get Games. Added GOG. Added GamersGate.
  • 2/3/12 – Added stuff. Need to add section for GOG. Big Fish.

Site Overviews:

Amazon
Overview
Amazon uses a downloader to distribute their games. Once you install the game, you can just run it from the .exe and the downloader can be deleted. CD keys/activation keys are provided for Steam/Origin/Etc games. You can use those keys to activate the production on their respective services. Recently they’ve updated a number of their descriptions to include something like “Requires Steam/Requires Origin” in the product description.

Games can be downloaded an unlimited number of times. They don’t take Paypal. It seems you can only buy one digital game download at a time, which is a PITA. They’ve recently added the option to buy an extra copy of digital downloads (in case you want to gift it to someone).

Region Restrictions / Pricing
Digital game downloads are sold to US customers only. However, it seems some users have determined your billing address just needs to be a US address. You can still pay with your overseas credit card. Keep in mind your credit card might require your billing address/mailing address to be the same though so it still may not work for you. If you decide to do this keep in mind two things:

  1. Your credit card company may charge you a foreign transaction fee. (Something like 4% – 8%).
  2. The game you’re buying might be region locked. So if it’s a Steamworks game, you might not be able to activate it anyway because the game is banned/not sold in your country.

The nice thing about Amazon is they don’t charge tax to most states.

Usually, Amazon is a great place to check if there’s a sale going on at Steam/GamersGate/etc because they will often price match any deals that are going on. These can be found on their Late-Breaking Game deals page. If there’a price drop on a game, you can try contacting support and asking for a price adjust. They will often times refund you the difference. (Note that their policy may have changed recently on this).

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Big Fish Games
Overview
Big Fish Games is probably the biggest casual gaming site around. There’s a new release every day. They have a huge collection of games that work for PC and Mac. Genres of their casual games are hidden object, time management, puzzle, dress up, and more. They also have a cloud gaming service called Big Fish Games Unlimited.

Big Fish Games use their own form of DRM. You download their client and the executable for your game. Once you log into the client, you can run your game.

Region Restrictions / Pricing
I am unsure if they restrict titles by region but I do know that there is regional pricing in effect. Usually deals vary by region also. For example the .jp site might have a deal going on, while the .com site does not.

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Desura
Overview
Desura uses a client program similar to Steam and most of the games available on the service are Indie games. This site is owned by ModDB and they also run the Indie Royale deals that appear every couple of weeks or so. Usually when a Humble Bundle deal goes on you also get activation keys for Desura also. I don’t know if you’re supposed to do this but I usually activate games from the HB deals on both Steam and Desura. That way I can play the game on my desktop while my friend plays on my laptop.

Overall the client is very light and works well. There’s a large amount of free games that are on the Desura service. Desura also houses a lot of mods for games, which is a bonus. Sometimes it can be hard to track the mods that you have installed for a particular game. I would like to see something similar for custom maps also. If you’ve ever tried to play custom maps for L4D2 with friends, you might know what I’m talking about. One person won’t have the right version of the map or a map will fail integrity checks or something stupid.

Pricing
The pricing for the games on Desura are reasonable. I think in general they are cheaper than Steam most of the time but when Steam/Misc site has a great deal for a game, it’s definitely cheaper on Steam/Misc. But I’m also sure that a greater % of the sale goes to the developers on Desura. In addition, there are games that are only on Desura that are not (yet) on Steam. An example would be Project Zomboid (Update: This game is now on Steam via Greenlight). You can also find games that are in alpha status and basically you can buy them in their unfinished state at a large discount.

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GameFly
Overview
This can be considered one of the new kids on the block. (Step by Step, ooh baby lol) They purchased what used to be Direct2Drive / IGN PC Store and merged it under their GameFly umbrella. D2D used to be all direct downloads through a website or you could use a client program. Currently, it looks like GameFly operates entirely through their client similar to Steam / Origin. I honestly haven’t used it yet so I’m not sure if you can start a game and then exit out of the client. That’s what I’m guessing is how things work but I’m not 100% sure.

All related cd / activation keys can be located in your payment history tab when you log into your account.

GameFly also has an unlimited PC play option. If you have a GameFly subscription, (which is not required to use their service) you have access to a number of games that you can play all you want. These do not cost anyting other than your monthly subscription cost. They have some decent games on the list, but overall the GameFly library of games is very small at the moment.

Region Restrictions / Pricing
There are region restrictions for some of their games and they do charge taxes for certain states. Right now it looks like they usually only have a couple of deals a week. That needs to change IMHO if they want to stay competitive with the other digital distribution sites.

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GamersGate / GamersGate UK
Overview
GamersGate is a Swedish based digital distribution service that was originally created by Paradox Interactive. These are one of the bigger services along with Steam, Origin, etc. They also have a sub-service called VOID, which is an ad-based free play service. You can check out an X amount of games, which you can play for free after viewing an ad or two.

All of their game purchases come with virtual blue coins, which is their rewards program. Collect enough blue coins and you will be able to get a free game. 

There is no GamersGate client program required. All games are available via micro downloads. In the cases where games are on a different DRM system, you get a cd/activaiton key.

Region Restrictions / Pricing
For the most part EA deals are usually in the US only. Pricing is usually a little bit more or around the same price as Steam. On occassion their prices will be slightly lower. Coupon codes are very sparse but prices are very competitive when you take into account their blue coins rewards system. Sometimes there’s a cross promotion with IGN. Sign up for IGN prime and you get 15% off for life at GamersGate.

Get Games
Overview
This digital distribution site is owned by Eurogamer.net, which is one of the biggest game related sites in Europe. There’s no client program to run. When you purchase a game you get a link for the download. If it uses another form of DRM (i.e. Steamworks) you get an activation key in your email that needs to be activated on that service.

These guys also own the Get Games Get Loaded website, which is usually a Pick two games from a list of games for X amount of dollars deal.

Region Restrictions / Pricing
I don’t know if there’s regional pricing but these guys are located in the UK, so if you’re outside of the UK you’ll want to pay with paypal to avoid foreign transaction fees. Another alternative would be to use a credit card that doesn’t charge those fees.

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Good Old Games (GOG)
Overview
GOG used to sell only older games. Stuff you couldn’t find on Steam or the other digital distribution sites but they’ve recently have started carrying newer titles also. The main selling point for their service is all of their games are DRM-free versions. You don’t have to download any clients that run while you play the game. You only download an installer for the game. This site is owned by CD Projekt RED, the developers of The Witcher series of games.

There’s usually two releases a week. Usually every Tuesday and Thursday.

Region Restrictions / Pricing
I don’t know if they have any kind of region restrictions in place. I know they have different pricing depending on your region. However, they usually have at least two deals a week. Discounts are usually around 50% – 60% off.

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Green Man Gaming (GMG)
Overview
GMG uses a downloader program called the Capsule. Once you download a game using their Capsule you can run it straight from the .exe file without having to run the Capsule. If you buy a game that comes with DRM it will come with a CD/Activation key. GMG sells Steamworks games, and the description will have Steam listed in the product description. Those keys can be activated on Steam. EA games come with a CD key and they use a special EA downloader. The reason is beause GMG has a EA contract through a third party. I downloaded BF2 using the EA client and it seemed a little slow to me.

Most games purchased can be traded in for store credit. They also have a referral program set up. If you sign up through a referral link, you will earn $2 store credit after your first purchase of $2 or more. The person that referred you will also earn $2. You can also earn store credit by posting reviews of games to their site.

Region Restrictions
GMG has a .com and a .co.uk site. Sometimes they’ll have deals only for their UK site. Most of their EA games are region restricted to UK. Usually deals are available to all regions.

Pricing
Depending on the country of origin, EU users may have to pay in USD or EURO. GMG is a UK based country so if you’re in the US, make sure to pay with Paypal otherwise your credit card company may charge you a foreign transaction fee. Or make sure your CC doesn’t charge that kind of fee first.

This site is one of the best for pre-orders. Especially Steamworks games. They usually have at least a 15% off discount or more with a voucher code.

Issues
These guys have had issues with Steam keys. Sometimes it seems they oversell or something happens. This was an issue with Dead Island and it took a couple of days for some people to get new keys.

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Origin
Overview
Origin is an all in one client program similar to Steam. The nice thing is usually once you start a game, you can turn off the client and continue playing the game. You will need to log back in to start a new game though. I’ve noticed it uses similar resources to Steam. There’s an IM/web browser client built in. Their IM client can be hit or miss. It seems as buggy as Steam friends  used to be. I like how you can go invisible with their client though. Their webstore can be a nightmare to navigate through though.

A lot of their recent games can be activated on their Origin service. Usually anything that cam out 2009 or later. Usually you just need the CD/Activation key. Some of their newer releases require Origin. For example, Battlefield 3 requires Origin. Click here to see the official list of games that can be activated directly on Origin. Other games can also be activated on Origin but you may need to contact support to do it for you. There’s cloud options for some of the games, but the feature is very buggy at the moment.

Region Restrictions
Games are sold to most countries on Origin, but most promotion codes and deals are region restricted to US Only. On occassion there are UK only deals. I have purchased from the UK site. I used Expat Shield (UK proxy) and my regular mailing address. I did change my country to UK though. Note that this was for a free game.

Pricing
Discounts usually range from 30% – 50% off. Their bigger discounts are usually around 60% off. Their discounts are always off the regular retail price.

EA / Origin Flash deals are posted to their Facebook page. These are temporary discounts on games at their Origin store that require a certain number of likes or comments by a certain deadline. Once that target number has been reached the deal will go live at a designated time for a limited amount of time. Usually about 2 hours. Most of the time there’s a unique promo code that needs to be entered at checkout to get the deal.

They do charge taxes to a number of states. Their overseas pricing can be very high.

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Steam
Overview
Steam uses an all in one client. It has an IM/Web Browser/Server Browser built in. (Server browser works with Valve games). Their IM client is awesome when used with a game that supports their Steam overlay. This allows you to chat with a friend while in a game. One complaint I have is it’s a closed system, so you can’t chat with people on other services like GChat/AIM/Etc. I also wish they’d allow tabs for their web browser. BTW these complaints are the same for the Origin client. If you don’t need all that then the client can feel bloated.

Steam is a form of DRM. The client always needs to be running while you play your games unless you enable offline mode for the games. This requires you to be online the first time the game runs and then you can setup offline mode (has to be setup at least once).

The Steam client does auto patching of games, which is awesome. Cloud features work well and they save your game settings so you can access them from different machines.

When the Steam servers go down for maintenance or they get really overloaded, you can have issues playing your games. For some reason maintenance times are only posted on their forums on their Steam Downtime Announcements thread. It doesn’t really make sense because not everyone visits the forums. When the Forums were hacked a message from Gabe was posted there initially, but was followed up by a “News” posting via the Steam client. I’m not sure why they can’t do that for maintenance downtime.

You can activate a number of games on Steam if you have a CD key or a Steam activation key. Most games that activate on Steam use Steamworks. Some games don’t actually use Steamworks but can still be activated on the service. For example, Prey (I actually picked up a used copy on ebay for $4 and I activated it on Steam). For the most part most EA games will not activate on Steam. Click here for a list of games that activate on Steam. Steamplay titles are games that work for PC or Mac. If you activate a Steamplay title on Steam for PC you will also gain access to the Mac version. The opposite is also true.

Region Restrictions
I believe Steam has the least region restrictions out of all the digital distribution sites. Usually the only reason you won’t be able to purchase a game in a certain region because the game can’t be sold because it’s banned/censored there.

Pricing
Steam is big on regional pricing, so some users might have to pay a premium for their games. For example, Australia always seems to get ripped off and they pay using USD. Most of their games are a little higher than the other sites, when they’re not on sale. Usually it’s the retail price, so if you can, wait for one of their sales.

Region Locked Games
Keep in mind if you find a workaround for a region restricted sale, you still might not be able to activate a game on Steam/Amazon/Etc because the game can not be sold in your country because it’s banned/censored/etc.

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Other Information:

Reader Indra, has an article about his overviews of some of the digital distribution sites. He originates from Indonesia so I’m linking via a google translation page. It’s a good resource for everyone, but might be really good for those based in Asia. Just to get an idea of what kind of restrictions and where the best deals can be found.

5 thoughts on “Digital Distribution Region Restrictions, Pricing, Overview

  1. Common Cents

    Good info for new peeps in the pc game. I like all of them except GMG. They ripped me off the first time I went there, taking money from my account but not accrediting the game to my account. Called bank, canceled transfer, and I never went back.

  2. Jeremy

    Great article thank you. Mostly use steam as most people do. Also have used greenman gaming with no issues. Really wish amazon would sell to Canada. If anyone knows a good work around for it that would be great

  3. Slug

    I’m Australian and commonly purchase Steam games via proxy to beat regional price gouging and the local censors. I do occasionally have problems with proxying, usually where the proxy has trouble establishing a secure connection to the credit card transaction screen, but after a purchase is made I’ve never had a problem playing the game locally, downloading patches, etc. It’s quite common for region-restricted content to be stored on local mirrors (eg L4D2 full version). Another common work-around with Steam is to get a friend overseas to buy the game and gift it to you. I’m not aware of anyone buying games this way who has had problems. Of course, some of this is an arguable violation of Steam’s terms of use, so could theoretically get your account banned at some hypothetical time in the future. I’m happy to risk it to save 50% or more.

  4. Slug

    The jury is still out on the GameFly takeover of Direct2Drive, but I’m staying well clear. Direct2Drive was barely better than Amazon prior to the take over, in that a large number of their games were sold as US-only, and unlike Steam they were almost impossible to circumvent via a proxy as they actually had a phone-verification requirement on credit card transactions that you could only call from within the US. None of the GameFly material distributed during the change-over acknowledged international customers, and as far as I can tell, the core game-rental business remains US-only. All of this strongly says stay, stay-away to this little black slug.

  5. Slug

    Origin/EA has a history of blacklisting/blocking accounts using serials purchased in another region/market, even if, for example, you used to live in one market (such as the UK) and then move to another (such as the US) and want to continue playing your games. Origin is on the 100% boycott list for me.

    GamersGate are my alternate source of games when Steam is too expensive or the game isn’t available there. GG has the added bonus of no messy DRM client – downloads are stand-alone and very forgiving. Once the game is on your hard drive it doesn’t call back to the GG servers again, however the games may still have their own dodgy DRM that might still throw a spanner in the works. GG is a good source of European games not yet available in the US.

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