Is the proliferation of downloadable games making us choosier about our full-priced gaming purchases? It's quite a heavy topic to throw at you on a Friday afternoon, admittedly, but I've a feeling that the answer is, in most cases, yes.
Now, obviously I have to play an ungodly amount of these games, so a lot of my gaming time has been dominated by checking out the whole scene. But the more of these stupendously high-quality and low-priced games that come out every month, the less reason you have to take a punt on a good-but-not-stellar boxed game. I know what I'd do.
And because of the impulse-purchase price of most of these games, I suspect that people are actually spending more on games than ever in total but in the absence of raw data from all the relevant services, it's impossible to know one way or another. The fact that retail sales are in decline is highly misleading, and it would be good for Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Apple and Valve to shed more light on how the digital market has grown.
In the meantime, here are some more good games to annoy the retail community...
- Xbox Live Indie Games - 80 Microsoft Points (£0.68)
And the hits just keep on coming for Radiangames' Luke Schneider with his seventh and final Xbox Indie title diving headlong into wild-eyed twin-stick shooter territory once again.
At first glance, yes, it's another riff on what Geometry Wars was gunning for, but don't let that put you off. At 80 points, you'd have to be feeling especially fun-averse to pass up on this effortlessly slick and surprisingly varied attempt.
The basic idea is to steer a little ship around with the left stick, and fend off swarms of enemies by directing your fire with the right stick. So far, so done-to-death.
Each 'wave' requires you to play the Pied Piper of death, weaving a path through the madding crowd and ultimately putting an end to their brief existence with dead-eyed accuracy and fortuitous path-finding.
Where Ballistic starts to divert from the obvious is through the addition of various weapon enhancements. At the start, you get to choose one of the nine, and get to choose whether going faster, shooting faster or dealing extra damage is your death-dealer of choice.
Upon completion of every fifth wave, you gain access to an extra enhancement, which is just as well in a game where things start off demented and rapidly degenerate into frothing, unblinking chaos. Some enhancement combinations evidently work better together than others, but figuring out the ones that work best for your playing style is all part of the intrigue.
As if merely ploughing through wave upon wave wasn't quite tempting enough, Ballistics adds a further five score-attack modes, each limiting the the player to two minutes of madness to test their mettle. With online leaderboards in the mix, there's no hiding place.
It all looks glossily divine, too, as we've come to expect from Schneider, though the pyrotechnic fug adds a challenge all of its own.
If this really is the end of the road for Schneider in the indie scene, Ballistic is a fitting conclusion to his retro evolution project. Ladies and gentlemen, pay your respects.