There are, I think, three main objections to electronic downloads, from a gamer's perspective:
- no disk - what happens if I have to re-format my hard disk? I lose all my games completely
- no paper manual - how can I consult the manual whilst I'm playing if it's on the disk?
- requirement for a fast Internet connection - a full sized modern game can be several gigabytes of data.
(Some people also like to collect the game boxes for the sake of having a collection of nice boxes)
Personally, the only thing I really
miss about a downloaded version is the paper manual. It also bugs me that many games that come in a box often have an electronic manual ('The Witcher', I'm looking at you!!)
I would suggest that, if games were distributed as ISO images using p2p networks like
bittorrent, then the gamer can burn the image to a CD/DVD (very easy with most CD/DVD burner software packages). Game manuals should then be included as easily printable materials on the disk.
(There's probably a legitimate business model in there for someone like Amazon to use the ISO (with permission of course) and produce CD/DVDs for those who wish to buy a pre-burnt copy)
For the piracy-paranoid (not that you're ever going to be able to beat them whilst the police tolerate obviously pirating merchants in town markets), the ISO could be published completely freely, but so key functionality (like the installer, or a software key, or similar) could be purchased through a secure website.
To summarise: make ISO images available online through a technology that doesn't require a fast 'net connection, allowing people to burn their own copy of the game and print a simplified form of manual, which they then install and activate with a securely purchased key.
Oh, yes, and you're absolutely right Darleen, there is no justification for electronic downloads costing as much as a bricks-and-mortar distributed game. The production, distribution, and shop costs are completely eliminate (especially if you use bittorrent or similar to distribute as you don't have to pay the bandwidth costs for every single download!)
Finally, the game publishers probably couldn't care less whether you can trade your games, though the my model above doesn't actually pre-clude it! (not sure about the transfer of keys though)