A great feature of the Xbox 360 is that you can purchase full digital version Xbox 360 and original Xbox games on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The only problem is that the prices are usually higher - in some cases much higher - than you would pay for the same game on eBay or at GameStop. How do you know which Games on Demand are worth buying, and which ones to skip? We have tips on which games to buy, as well as answers to any other Games on Demand questions you might have, right here.
What Is Xbox 360 Games On Demand?
Games on Demand is a service on the Xbox Live Marketplace where you can buy full Xbox 360 and Xbox games. They are full versions of the games, and with only a couple of exceptions (Halo 3, for example, loads multiplayer maps much more slowly so it isn't a recommended download) they perform exactly like the retail version. The games are stored on your hard drive or other storage device (such as a USB flash drive) and can take up to 7GB, so make sure you have enough room before you download.
What is the DRM for Games on Demand Like?
The DRM for Games on Demand is the standard Xbox 360 DRM. The games you download are tied to your GamerTag as well as the system you downloaded it on. They can be deleted from your hard drive and re-downloaded from your download history as many times as you want.
How Much Do Games on Demand Titles Cost?
Xbox 360 Games on Demand titles are available for $20, $30, or $40 with a handful at $50 or $60. You can pay with either a credit card or Microsoft Points, just remember that MS Points are 80=$1, so a $20 game is 1600 MSP, $30 is 2400 MSP, etc. The prices are set by the publisher and Microsoft and are generally higher than you'd pay for a physical copy of the same game. The price difference between a GoD and physical copy can be anywhere from $2-3 all the way up to $20-30+ more for a digital copy. Just because they might cost a bit more, however, doesn't necessarily mean the Games on Demand version isn't worth buying.
What Games on Demand Titles Are Worth Buying?
This is a hard question to answer because everyone has different ideas on value and worth, so while one person might be willing to pay a premium for a digital copy, someone else would rather just save money and buy the same game at GameStop. I won't give a list of what we think is worth it and what isn't, but I will share some tips on how to figure things out for yourself.
#1. Check the Prices (Duh)
Obviously, your first step should be to check the prices on the Xbox.com Games on Demand page and compare it to what GameStop charges for the same game. Sometimes, it will be pretty close - a used copy of Mass Effect 1 is just below $20 at GS, and is $20 on GoD - but sometimes it will be very different - Red Dead Redemption first appeared on GoD at a full $60, more than twice what a used copy cost at the time. Compare prices always.
#2. How Much Is Your Time and Money Worth To You?
Buying a Games on Demand version of a game is usually going to cost more than a physical retail copy. It is up to you, however, to decide how much more you might be willing to spend for the convenience. Not having to spend the time to go to the store, not having to buy gas, not having to deal with the occasional snobby jerk who works (or shops there ...) at GameStop, not having to wait on an item if you order it online, not having to switch discs when you buy a GoD copy (since it'll always be on your hard drive), etc., are all things you should consider. Figure the cost difference between a GoD game and a physical copy as a Convenience Tax and decide how much that is worth to you.
#3. The Quality of the Game Matters!
Along those same lines, the quality of the game you're thinking about buying also has to be considered. If it is a game that you already like, then the price you might be willing to pay for convenience will go up. Being able to play something directly from your hard drive without having to put in the disc is definitely worth a few extra dollars if you know you'll want to play it a lot. Replay value should also be considered. If you know you're going to play the game a few times per week, or if it is a game you really like that you plan to play through multiple times over the weeks / months / years, having a Games on Demand copy always waiting for you is pretty darn nice.
I would also say not to put too much stock in review scores when thinking about buying Games on Demand games. You have to remember that games are scored based on a full MSRP price point, and there are a lot of games that get mediocre scores at $60 but look a whole lot better at $20.
#4. Sometimes, Though, The Price Is Just Too Darn High
Of course, even if it is a game you know you'll enjoy and want to play a lot, sometimes the prices for Games on Demand games are just too darn high. My rule of thumb is that a $20 Games on Demand game is tempting enough that I would consider it over a physical copy if the price difference is $5-6 or less. A $30 GoD game is tougher, and honestly most of them probably aren't worth it, but there are a handful that you might consider depending on retail price comparisons. At $40 or more, there aren't any Games on Demand titles worth buying. None. Zero. Zip. Don't even consider it. The difference in value is usually more than $15-20, and that is just way too much to pay for convenience.
What About Original Xbox Games?
While there are a couple hundred Xbox 360 games on the service, there only a few dozen original Xbox games and they all have a price of 1200 MSP ($15). Generally, a used copy of an OG Xbox game will be quite a bit less than the GoD price, but there are a handful of original Xbox games that have held their value pretty well and would be worth a look. Again, check prices before you buy. GameStop doesn't really carry original Xbox games anymore, so you'll have to check eBay to determine the prices.