1UP writes: "One day, games will depart the physical world, existing only as data on a storage device, downloaded like everything else. It's inevitable. And with the ever-growing popularity of digital distribution services like Valve's Steam, Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade, and Sony's PlayStation Network, that future seems to be near. Freed from the constraints of shelf space and the enormous cost of physical distribution, game developers will have a chance to explore ideas that never could've turned a profit at $60 on a Best Buy shelf. We've already seen it happen with last year's (partially) Steam-distributed hit Portal and the currently in-vogue Xbox Live Arcade puzzler Braid.
Recently, however, that future's hit a speed bump. Broadband Internet providers, the folks you pay every month for unfettered access to the online world, are reconsidering the way they do business. In order to save us all from the movie-pirating bandwidth hogs -- who, broadband-service providers contend, are gumming up everyone else's good time -- many companies are testing or implementing limits on their broadband services. Time Warner's currently experimenting with 5-to-40GB caps in Beaumont, TX, charging customers a buck for every gig they download over the limit. Canadian cable operator Rogers has already implemented a system with a hierarchy of caps -- the lowest of which dead-ends at 2GB -- that charges customers between $1.25 and $5 per GB for excess downloads. Comcast is looking into a more generous, yet precedent-setting, 250GB cap. All signs point toward a shift away from the heyday of all-you-can-download to an Internet that charges by the YouTube video."