I Love Downloadable Media, But It Makes For a Crappy GiftS

iTunes, Netflix, Amazon and even PSN are all pretty good at distributing downloadable movies and music. But all of these data files, as easy as they are to buy, make for a crappy gift.

Let me backtrack for a moment. Someone I know has a birthday coming up, and one item I'd really like to get them is an XBLA (Xbox Live) title. Since the game isn't available in stores, that means I have two solutions. One, I can sneak onto their Xbox like a ninja, enter my credit card info and make the purchase for them (which is just sort of creepy), or two, I can give them an Xbox gift card for the sum of the game.

I'm not really happy with either option.

My sincere gesture, giving a friend a game they'd enjoy because I've accounted for their tastes, is diluted to an exchange of capital. It's really just giving them cash in a nicer form. Sure, you can buy someone a gift card, but you can't actually buy them a gift.

This is a problem.

Today, the limitation is probably only bugging me and a handful of other uber nerds. But what about in four or five years? We're a society that's only moving more and more digital. Soon, even giving someone a CD may very well seem like a dated gesture—one that may inconvenience the recipient since, hell, they don't have a CD drive anymore!

I just don't want to be condemned to a life of gift cards with a little note written in Sharpie "for the new Batman."

Luckily, implementing gift giving on a service like Xbox Live would be incredibly easy. They already have the infrastructure to manage various payment accounts and allow users to communicate to one another and a central server. So imagining a system in which you receive a message informing you that Sk8rB0y has sent you a game is by no means a far stretch. (The feature would probably take Microsoft all of a week to complete, if they put their mind to it.)

But what about an iTunes? UPDATE: They actually offer gifting through email. That's something I didn't realize and I'm guessing a lot of people don't realize. Including even custom playlists, I'll admit, it's a good start. My question to you is, do you consider an email link enough? Does that feel like a gift?

Maybe it's just my perspective that will be forced to change as I bow to the next level of consumerism. But for the moment, the gift card approach feels like a one size fits some philosophy being squeezed over nearly the entire modern home entertainment industry—and I can't imagine it's adding a lot of humanity to the already cold digital realm.