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So the ESRB “slip” about an XBOX 360 title turns out to be true. Eidos UK officially announced that Tomb Raider Anniversary — already released on the PlayStation 2 and PC — will have an episodic release through the XBOX Live Marketplace before its retail release later in the year. For the 360, will mark the first time a retail game is sold via its online store. The game will be made available through four separate downloads, the first two are expected to be released in September with the latter two reaching gamers shortly thereafter. Minus the manor section (which will be available for free), the entire game will cost 2400 MS points, or roughly $30 which matches the MSRP of the current console releases. It’s possible (and probably likely) the retail version will be priced higher — though I don’t suspect by much.  The only bad part about this should-be historic gesture is that Eidos is only allowing those who have TR Legend to download Anniversary — does this make sense to anyone?   Why Eidos is doing this makes little sense, especially if you think about the fact that Anniversary is supposed to be a way to enter the world of Tomb Raider for those who may not yet be familiar with it.  Without a doubt, Eidos is  losing out on online sales by forcing consumers to buy Legend in order to access this option.

This news comes on the heel of Capcom’s announcement that it had signed an agreement with Valve’s online distribution system Stream. Capcom will bring Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, Onimusha 3, Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition and Supper Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (try saying that three times fast) to Stream — and future Capcom titles are also part of this deal. Capcom is the first Japanese developer to sign up with Valve and its move might be the first signal that we may be moving closer to the day when entire games will be purchased online. MS and Sony have repeatedly made mention of this idea — and that it is very likely in the next-gen that disc formats will be made defunct by broadband distribution. While I’d like to agree with them, I do think part of gaming is driven by material collection — it’s the same reason why many people (though not as many as before) still buy music CDs. CD sales in Europe and Japan for instance remain healthy — and that is because music publishers bring out CDs packed with exclusive content (music videos, interviews, not-for-online tracks). US publishers haven’t quite moved in that direction just yet but it’s one way to keep retail sales flowing. That might also explain why so many Japanese console games are released with limited editions and extra swag. We’re already starting to see such collectibility slip into US gaming culture with Halo 3 and multiple variations of Gears of War. As broadband penetration picks up, I’d suspect we’re going to get a lot more of these types of releases. The question is whether broadband will actually make up the majority of future game purchases. If the price difference is substantial then it just might — but something tells me it’s still unlikely — or at least a decade away.

BTW, for all of you staring at the photo, that’s Karima Adebibe — the model Eidos hired to represent Lara Croft for TR: Legend released last year. Eidos has always hired a new model to be Lara for each of its games dating all the way back to the decade old orginal Tomb Raider game (the one Anniversary is a remake of). Based on most gamers’ views, they think Karima is the closest to Lara there has ever been (well, perhaps excluding Angelina Jolie — though that’s debatable after the painfully awful “Cradle of Life”).