Best Sites to Legally Download PC Games

Nikhil Pradhan 22 Jul 2010

A month ago, I did a small news story on how there wouldn’t be a PC launch for Codemaster’s newest Cricket game- International Cricket 2010. In the big scheme of things, the studio’s decision might not seem that important. However, when you place it in today’s context, a picture begins to emerge. The people involved with the Cricket game blamed piracy for the PC getting boycotted and that’s a point of view that’s becoming ever more popular nowadays. Remember, a majority stakeholder in Codemaster’s is UTV, an Indian company that probably knows that most gamers in India still rely on the good old PC for their gaming needs. But, still they consider it a good business decision to ignore the largest platform available and concentrate on platforms where piracy, if not non-existent, is within acceptable levels.

However, in the U.S. and Europe, PC sales have been given a shot in the arm thanks to digital distribution. There are a number of major players in the digital distribution game, the largest of which are Valve’s Steam and Stardock’s Impulse. These services allow you to download a game directly to your PC and keep a digital copy on the cloud. As a result, you don’t need to keep a game CD or DVD always by your side and it removes the risk of you not being able to play your favorite games just because the disc is scratched. Plus, you can access the games from anywhere you have a broadband connection and are able to download the games.

So, without any further ado, here are four of the best digital distribution services that you can use to populate your PC games library (all of which have been personally tested):

1. Steam

The grand-daddy of the PC games digital distribution scene. Steam was first conceived by games publisher Valve as a method of efficiently distributing patches and updates for their own games. It has now grown to become the largest digital distribution service in the world with a 70% share of the market.

Steam gives you access to a library of over 1,100 games from $2.99 to $99.99 (Rs. 142 to Rs. 4,738 approx.). There are also a whole lot of videos, demos and other content that you can download for free. Steam also provides matchmaking services so that you can engage in multiplayer gaming. Getting down to downloading the games is a simple process: first, you create an account on Steam and then download the Steam client and install it. Now, you can select a game from Steam’s catalogue (categorized by genre, Metacritic score and price among other things) and purchase it using a Credit Card. After purchasing a game, the game will be permanently attached to your account and you can access it anywhere.

Here’s a complete list of games currently available on Steam.

Website: http://store.steampowered.com/

Good Deal: Valve Complete Pack- All games ever released by Valve (22 in total) from Half-Life to Left for Dead 2 for $99.99.

2. Impulse

Stardock’s Impulse is another digital distribution service that’s very similar to Steam. Impulse doesn’t just stock PC games but also software and helpful utilities.

Impulse stocks over 600 games from all major publishers like Activision, THQ, Ubisoft and EA. It also has a large number free content available for download including free games and game add-ons. A cool addition is that the prices for games are displayed according to region; so I could see all the prices in Rupees. The process of downloading a game is very similar to that of Steam. You download and install the Impulse client after registering an account. Thereafter, any game you download will always be available for download through your account.

Website: http://www.impulsedriven.com/

Good Deal: The THQ Ultimate Bundle: A bundle of 17 games that includes heavyweights such as Company of Heroes (and all its expansions), the entire Red Faction series, S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl, Supreme Commander (and its expansion Forged Alliance), Titan Quest (and its expansion Immortal Throne) and all the Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War games, among others for $99.99.

3. Good Old Games

Good Old Games is a digital distribution service that lets you download, well, those good old games of yore. If you have ever wanted to own classic games like Arcanum or Fallout but have no idea how to obtain them legally, then GOG.com is the answer to your prayers. Owned by CDProjekt- the guys behind the Witcher PC games- GOG takes all that’s good in digital distribution and improves it. For one, the games are completely free of any form of DRM. The games are also either free or priced at $5.99 and $9.99 (Rs. 283 and Rs. 472 approx.). GOG currently has close to 250 games in its catalogue including really old classics like Betrayal at Kondor and Descent to more recent games such as 2005’s Two Worlds and 2004’s Far Cry. Also, like Steam and Impulse, a game that you download from GOG will be permanently linked to your account so you can re-download it any time later. Along with the game, GOG also lets you download the requisite manuals, game soundtracks, hi-res wallpapers etc. for the game at no extra cost.

Website: http://www.gog.com/

Good Deal: GOG has a number of great games priced at the highly affordable $5.99 mark including Freedom Force Vs. the Third Reich, Fallout, Fallout 2, Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition and Empire Earth: Gold Edition among others.

4. EA Store India

I first came to the Electronics Arts online store for India in my quest to find an inexpensive pre-order deal for the upcoming Medal of Honor PC game. To my delight, the Indian EA Store was offering the pre-order deal for a reasonable Rs. 999. On searching the site further, it revealed close to 50 EA titles including games from their Need for Speed, Command & Conquer, Spore and EA Sports titles. Also, available on the site are various add-ons, expansions and DLCs of games. Overall, the Indian EA Store is a great place to buy the latest EA games at prices that are much lower than those in the U.S. or Europe.

The registration, download and installation process is similar to that of the other sites. Any game that you download will be permanently attached to your account and you can re-download them at your pleasure any number of times (there was some confusion regarding this, but a prompt response from EA confirmed that there are no limits with regard to downloads).

Website: http://eastore.ea.com/store/easa/en_IN/DisplayHomePage

Good Deal: For Rs. 999, the Medal of Honor pre-order gives you a key to the MOH beta multi-player (from June 21 to July 31), exclusive content in the form of two guns and early access to other weapons, along with the full game when it launches in October.

Digital distribution proves that procuring PC games legally can be both convenient and economical. In fact, while researching for this story I came across a number of great deals and as a result I ended up buying quite a few games. Hopefully, you will also scour through these sites and emerge with games that you like, were looking for and most importantly, paid for.

Do tell me what you think in the forum.

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