Aspyr reveals Game Agent online store details

Digital River on Thursday revealed a collaboration with Mac game publisher Aspyr Media to create Aspyr’s long-awaited online game store. The store is coming this summer, according to the statement.

Back in 2006, Aspyr first announced plans to produce Gamerhood, their solution to dwindling shelf space for Mac games. The company envisioned it as an online distribution system to enable users to buy games then download them, rather than having to go to a store and buy a physical box. The company put plans for Gamerhood on hold as it focused on Apple’s Intel transition, Leopard and an increased focus on the PC game market. Now Gamerhood is back in Aspyr’s crosshairs — as Game Agent, a new iteration of their game client software for the Mac.

The idea of online distribution is hardly new, especially for the shareware market. But until broadband access in the United States hit critical mass and digital rights management technology developed to a point where software piracy was less of a concern, it wasn’t economically viable for publishers of large commercial products to use online distribution as a way of getting their titles out to customers.

Since Aspyr announced Gamerhood, the Mac market has seen other Mac game companies come forward with online distribution systems. The business people behind Virtual Programming created Deliver2Mac, for example. Inside Mac Games’ founder also created Macgamestore.com, which sells digital and physical games. Cider developer Transgaming recently stepped into the fray with its Gametree Online service, and Hothead Games, makers of the forthcoming Penny Arcade Adventures game series, will be distributing that title later this month through their own Greenhouse service.

Aspyr Media’s Game Agent has been around for a while. The free utility, available for download from Aspyr’s Web site, originally was created to answer the question, “Will this game run on my Mac?” It catalogs Aspyr’s Mac games and compares their requirements to your Mac’s specifications. Gradually, Aspyr has built new functionality into Game Agent, culminating with an April update that enables the software to check for, download and install updates to Aspyr games you already have.

E-commerce service provider Digital River announced Thursday that it has partnered with Aspyr to develop Game Agent as an online store. Digital River will build, host and manage Game Agent for Aspyr, and will deliver select Mac and PC games in North America. Aspyr expects the new Game Agent online store to launch during summer, 2008.

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