BT Games' New Download Service Might be the Answer for Local Gamers

Recently BT Games launched their new digital download service to complement their retail store chain and online order and delivery service. As the title suggests, this may well be one of the greatest things to happen to gamers in South Africa, for several reasons. Then again, is it really offering gamers anything that they can’t get elsewhere? There are at least a dozen different digital distributors out there, so why should you buy from BT Games, which already has a bit of a bad reputation in some circles?

Some might argue that BT Games' venture in to digital distribution is the first step in replacing their brick and mortar store business model.
Some might argue that BT Games' venture in to digital distribution is the first step in replacing their brick and mortar store business model.

Pros

  • More payment options – you aren’t just limited to using your credit card where you expose yourself to great risk by having your credit card details online. Remember when Steam was hacked not too long ago, or how about that massive PSN hack catastrophe? With BT Games Downloads you can use credit cards, but in addition to this debit cards are also welcome. You can also pay via a secure internet deposit.
  • No tax issues – when you download games from Steam, you are supposed to declare this to SARS and pay VAT on the items. If you don’t you can be prosecuted for tax evasion. With BT Games, you don’t need to declare them and pay VAT, mainly because VAT is already included in the price.
  • No consumer rights conflicts – other countries like the USA have different consumer rights than we have here in SA under the Consumer Protection Act.
  • Getting games is quicker and easier – this is the first service of its kind in SA. Before, several local stores let you order things online and you had to wait for them to be delivered, or you could visit a brick and mortar branch of that chain to buy the game. Now you can download content straight to your PC. It’s still recommended that you do so after hours or during off-peak periods for best performance.
  • DLC – if for some reason you didn’t have access to digital-only content (due to credit card issues or other, such as services only being available to customers in the US in the case of Amazon Digital), now you can download DLC from BT Games Downloads with more payment options to suit your needs.

Price Comparison (highest to lowest)

Distributor or Reseller
Game
Price
Steam
Splinter Cell Blacklist
$59.99 (R597 - Sep 12, 2013)
Uplay
Splinter Cell Blacklist
$59.99
Amazon
Splinter Cell Blacklist
$59.99
GameStop PC Downloads
Splinter Cell Blacklist
$59.99
GameFly
Splinter Cell Blacklist
$59.99
Get Games Go
Splinter Cell Blacklist
$59.99
GamersGate
Splinter Cell Blacklist
R595 ($59.70 - Sep 12, 2013)
Green Man Gaming
Splinter Cell Blacklist
$44.99
BT Games Digital Downloads
Splinter Cell Blacklist
R399 ($40.08 - Sep 12, 2013)
BT Games is not a distributor in itself. It's really just a reseller of games featured on Steam and elsewhere.
BT Games is not a distributor in itself. It's really just a reseller of games featured on Steam and elsewhere.

Cons

  • Only certain debit cards are accepted – as far as using debit cards for payment goes, only Standard Bank and Nedbank debit cards are accepted, and you have to be with either the MTN or Vodacom cellular networks in order to receive an OTP.
  • Only certain credit cards are accepted – only Visa and MasterCard is accepted; American Express and Diner’s Club are not accepted.
  • No refunds – unlike the physical products sold at BT Games, digital content cannot be returned for a refund (note that only physical copies of games that are still in the original packaging may be returned). EA Origin offers refunds on titles within 24 hours of first playing or 7 days of purchase.
  • No reselling – content cannot be resold once purchased. Green Man Gaming allows you to resell games.
  • Help and support is rubbish – if there is something wrong with your game, you are encouraged to contact BT Games for support. Having tested the help and support at BT Games, they aren’t that helpful in my opinion. Sometimes they don't even bother to reply to my emails.
  • Their catalogue of games isn’t as large – there are less older games, which you find plenty of on Steam and GOG.com. No indie games either. And I found something particularly frustrating: some games that are standalone by design require other games to be bought. Take for example S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. It is a standalone game and yet BT Games claims that you must own S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl or S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky before you can buy it. Okay, so several places sell this Loyalty Version of Call of Pripyat, but the most fail part of this is that they don’t even sell the other two games in digital or physical form. So you might as well in that case buy all those games from Steam where you can buy them individually.
  • The service only sells PC and Mac products – Xbox 360, PS3 and products compatible with other consoles are not sold here and are not available to these platforms. Linux also isn't supported.
  • Games are split according to operating system – PC and Mac titles are bought separately. Steam does not split games like that so if you buy a game on Steam it is available to you based on whatever platform you have (PC, Mac, and Linux). The same goes for GOG.com.
  • You can only use the service in SA – if you’re abroad you can’t use BT Games Digital Downloads seeing as it’s only open to SA IP addresses. Steam and most other digital distribution services can be accessed from almost anywhere in the world.
  • You can't use the service if you don't have an ADSL connection. BT Games claims that it is recommended that you use their service if you have an ADSL connection. The problem is that it's pretty mandatory as far as I can tell, because I have tried to buy games using a 3G connection, and couldn't carry out the transaction. BT Games support told me that they don't support dynamic IP addresses.
  • Games still need third party software to be installed and played – in most cases games still work with Steam, Uplay, and Origin. So most games aren’t DRM-free. All GOG.com games are DRM-free.
  • Pricing is not consistent – while some games are cheaper than their retail counterparts, I’ve compared the prices of several games available in-store (and their online order prices) with the digital distribution service (as well as other distributors’ prices), and there are some inconsistencies. TES V: Skyrim sells for R529 at BT Games’ digital platform. You can get it for much less via online order (R199), and not to mention you can get Skyrim: Legendary Edition via online order for R365 – something they don’t even stock digitally (you have to buy the DLC separately). For just a little more than BT Games sells Skyrim for, you can get Skyrim: Legendary Edition at Steam. However, looking at the table in this hub, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is available for a much cheaper price than you’ll find elsewhere – R399 versus nearly R600 in most places).
  • Older games cost way too much – a copy of The Ultimate Doom will set you back $4.99 on Steam, which is about R50. On BT Games it is R129! So you'd be paying nearly R80 more. Steam or GOG.com would be much better places to go as far as older games are concerned.

Conclusion

So it’s not looking to good as the pros are far outweighed by the cons, as you can see.

To be able to compete with other digital distributions services, BT Games will have to offer some sort of incentive. They’ll have to get their act together and offer excellent customer service – something which I feel is lacking at the moment. That should be standard for any business. They’ll need to try to rectify most if not everything that is currently wrong with the service they’re providing. And their pricing need to be sorted out. Otherwise, what is going to stop customers from dealing with Steam directly instead buying from – essentially – a reseller?

Have you used BT Games' digital downloads service? If not, would you?

  • Yes, it's very good.
  • Yes, and it sucks!
  • No, but I might be interested if they prove they can compete with Steam, etc.
  • No. I prefer dealing directly with Steam, or other distributors.
See results without voting
5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of BT Games Digital Downloads

© 2013 ANDR01D

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