So there’s a lot of speculation flying around in the industry as to the future of consoles and game distribution. Some people are saying the next generation of consoles will have gamers getting their software through conventional means – i.e. going to the store and picking it up – while others believe that the new generation will see games being distributed exclusively digitally.
I, for one, think this is a really silly debate.
The people on each side of the argument will give you different sides of the story, of course, and like every story there will always be 3 sides. The side one group believes, the side the other group believes, and the side that’s true. None of these 3 sides will ever match. Sure there may be some overlap but the beliefs of sides A and B will never completely match side C.
So here we have 2 stories – one of which cries digital distribution and one of which screams traditional distribution methods. The people on the digital distro front say that the developers and publishers can’t afford to keep allowing retailers to dictate prices for software and the traditionalists claim these same developers won’t change to digital distribution because it will limit access to their consumers, based on internet connectivity.
The digital distro crowd says “B.S., everyone on the world has high speed interwebs” and the traditionalists say “LOL, rural areas” and then harp on about limited availability in some countries. The digital distro crowd counters with “All gamers have internets” and the traditionalists reply with “lol, bandwidth limitations”.
The fact is that NOT all gamers have internet access, no matter how much some people say it’s so. Another fact is that not all internet access is created equally. Some internet providers actually do limit the amount of data you’re allowed to pull, on a month to month basis, and such a thing would limit a person’s ability to download games. Surely, most of those people can change up their internet access plans and get more bandwidth, too.
So here we have the divergent opinions of 2 groups of people. The side which WANTS gaming to go digital distribution and the wide which WANTS it to stay in the stores. We have Sony, who just bought Gaikai, and Microsoft, who already does cloud based distribution to around 40 million subscribers AND could pull the trigger on acquiring a cloud provider like ONLive in about half a nanosecond. On the other side, we have the strength and flexibility of retail distribution, which has been driving video game sales since the 1970’s.
And this is where the truth lies…In the cloud and on the ground.
I believe that, moving forward into the future, games distribution will remain firmly in the retail stores AND will become available through digital distribution. I believe that the titles will come at a reduced price through digital distribution channels, due to less overhead, and will continue to be incentivized at the retail level via special add-ons for pre-order purchases due to kickbacks from retail companies.
Sure, sure, at some point in the future – when everyone who plays games has access to high speed internet with unlimited bandwidth – games will probably be distributed almost exclusively via digital methods but for now I think both methods have a strong foothold and a strong future…And I’m 100% sure the next generation of consoles will still sport some form of removable media…be they optical drives or flash ROM readers.
Don’t believe the hype.