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Rockstar, the creators of the Grand Theft Auto series, have made a rather significant jump up the evolutionary digital distribution ladder by partnering with Amazon to add music downloads to their game world.

Their new title, GTA IV, will likely be the best selling game of all time. Amazon are the most successful online retailer in the world. Obviously some bright spark noticed their might be an opportunity…

A major slice of awesomeness found throughout all the GTA titles has been the music. When you drive any vehicle in the game you have a selection of radio stations you can “tune” into.

Music in games is nothing new but the GTA coup was that their music was proper chart music, music you recognise, music you could have an emotional connection to. And not just pop and rock hits but also opera, classical, jazz and much more. It really did add an edge of realism to the whole thing.

One of my favourite gaming memories of all time is from GTA: San Andreas. I was running from a car park roof top ambush and firefight. I stole a motorbike and gunned for the exit. Just as I thought I had got away the camera swung round to show an articulated lorry driven by one of my adversaries smashing (in slow motion!) it’s way off a flyover I had just passed under and barreling towards you.

But what made it really sweet was that all this happened as “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns and and Roses was blasting out. I seriously cannot tell you how cool this was.

So now Rockstar have teamed up with Amazon to sell you extra music via the medium of your characters mobile phone. From within the gaming experience you will be able to browse a music store and download digital music to compliment your game. Also the tracks will be portable, meaning you can then transfer them to your MP3 player.

This type of approach will help revolutionise the distribution of digital content. Rockstar provide the traffic (customers) and Amazon provide the content. This is a “mash up” to all intents and purposes, on an unheard of scale.

What this does is further widen the gap between those who want to exercise a “command and control” approach to content delivery and those who want their content to touch as many points as the consumer requires.

Everything is pointing towards content liberation and greater user choice.

  • Virgin and Sky allowing you to choose your own TV.
  • iTunes abandoning restrictive DRM so you aren’t forced to own an ipod.
  • BBC iplayer giving free and easy access to the last 7 days of all BBC programming.
  • Youtube encouraging you to embed their video streams into your website.
  • Ringtones being available to buy directly from your mobile phone.
  • RSS feeds bringing website content updates to you rather than you having to go and find the content.
  • Guitar Hero 3 releasing extra tracks through the next generation of consoles shop fronts.

All these methods are commerically viable or bring added value.

If a community is available any switched on company should be able to provide them with a channel to their content in a form (or forms!) that enhance or complement that experience.

What is ODE?

ODE will be a webstore where educators can buy little bits of digital educational content and put them back together any way they like. Simple.