A somewhat short article today, because I'd like to think that this will serve as an introduction more than anything else.
I've already talked a little about downloadable games vs. physical copies, but at the moment the choice is available. Certainly there is a market for digital only games; platforms like Steam have proven that, and according to the ESA "Purchases of digital content accounted for 24 percent of game sales in 2010, generating $5.9 billion in revenue." While this includes things like DLC, there is no doubt that digital media is certainly a growing and profitable trend.
However, there is speculation on the part of the industry that eventually digital only content distribution might be the only type available.
In this Game Stooge article a couple of industry figures talk about the future of video game consoles. THQ CEO Brian Farrell believes that we could see a disc-less generation as early as the next console iteration. Kaz Hirai believes that disc-less consoles are at least a decade off due to the current infrastructure built around the sale and distribution of physical media. Note that he did not say that it would never happen, just that it wouldn't be in the immediate future.
The move from physical and digital content distribution to pure digital doesn't seem too scary on paper, but in reality it would mark nothing less than a huge change in the one of the fundamental ways we game: how we get our games would be altered. Right now physical and digital media share and compete against one another, but if the disc is taken out of the equation completely there are going to be widespread ramifications for not only the industry itself, but also the sales industry, the second hand market, and of course the gamers themselves.
That is of course not to say that the changes will be all bad or all good. As with everything there will be both positive and negative traits associated with turn to disc-less systems if -- or more seemingly when -- it does happen. Will it be a case of an innovative new way of getting the games you want making everyone happy, or will we end up wishing that we still had our jewel cases and discs intact? At the moment anything that anyone can offer (myself included of course) is mere speculation. But based upon some of the pros and cons that are associated with content delivery systems like Steam, The Playstation Store, Xbox Live Marketplace, and Wii Shop Channel, we can make some educated guesses as to what needs to be worked on, and what can do well enough as is.
That is why the majority of this upcoming week will be devoted to looking at just how a disc-less future would affect the various facets of the entire video game community. And this is something that I do believe will have to be explored, because it seems that the future may invariably leaning towards this method of getting games.