Game Changer #57 – Future Media is No Media

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My name is Jared Whittaker, one of the hosts and Audio Chewbacca of the Super-Fly Podcast and PCW! Welcome to Game Changer, a weekly burning missive about all aspects of video gaming with a little bit of opinion thrown in for fun. Proceed with caution and tread lightly, gentle gamers. It’s going to be good time. Like the first time you saw Super Mario 3 good time.

The game console and the media that runs on it has always been hand in hand in the world of video games. From the NES and Genesis days with game cartridges to the Dreamcast, the Playstation and the Xbox and game discs. They both have been like peanut butter and jelly. But last week, rumors started circling about the next iteration of the Xbox 360 possibly not having a disc reader at all. The console would rely solely on downloadable games from the Xbox Live Marketplace. If true, the Xbox would be the second major console to go without phyiscal media for it’s games. It leads to an interesting look at the future of gaming.

While digital media isn’t anything new. The current generation of consoles all have an online store for downloadable games and services. And all have seen great success in sales and distribution with digital media. PC gaming has already accepted the digital distribution method for the majority of it’s gaming delivery. And with Steam being computer-based gaming’s largest host of digital goods, the concept works and has proven to be a winner.

So while digital distribution isn’t new, but the thought that a major console maker and content producer could seriously be looking at not using a disc to play games is kind of mind-blowing. It’s a wild idea that could blow the doors off of conventional thoughts on gaming. In the world of other entertainment outlets where services like Netflix and Hulu are offering content on demand, it seems like gaming would lean more in the same direction. Some have tried, but this would be the first time a major gaming company tried it’s hand at it. The issue being that one of the main ways that the gaming industry makes it’s money is through the sales of games. Game developers get a portion of the sales of their games. Retailers like Best Buy and Game Stop rely on sales of games, accessories and pre-orders to make money from gaming, seeing that they make little money off selling the consoles themselves. While the thought is interesting and makes sense in a lot of ways, it still seems like there are still a few possible kinks in the process.

One of the biggest issues with Xbox’s possible switch to digital only is the age old agreement of what do you actually own when you buy digital products. One of the thoughts about the move to digital is that it could be possible for the console to require a connection to Xbox Live to play the games. The thought is that the requirement for a connection to the Internet would be a safeguard on piracy of the games. The flip side is that you don’t really “own” the thing that you paid for. You don’t have something to hold in your hands for your gaming dollar. The issue has been brought up in the music, movie and the comic industry in the last few years and it’s still an issue that has to be sorted out before we start thinking about an all digital gaming world.

All and all, this is still just a rumor. I personally don’t think that Microsoft will go strictly digital. Microsoft is very protective of it’s properties and I don’t see them giving up their hand in the game as well as possibly opening themselves up to more threats of security breaches. But it is a very interesting idea to think about moving forward. It seems like it’s a very clear end game for video gaming. But there are a lot of issues that will have to be worked out if that is going to be a reality.

What do you think? Do you like the idea of your console not having a physical media reader for it’s games? Let us know.

Keep gaming…….

Jared Whittaker plays a lot of games. Not as much as he’d like, but as much as time and money will allow. If you want to play some games with Jared, you can find him on Playstation 3; PSN tag: JFX. He is also on Steam and Battle.net as JFX316 and while he doesn’t have an Xbox 360, he has the coolest Gamertag in the world: Obiwan Jaborni. Feel free to add him as a friend or email him at [email protected] and on Twitter as JFX316

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Jared Whittaker is a contributing writer/columnist for PanelsOnPages.com. He acts as co-host and producer for the Super-Fly Podcast and PCW. He lives in Yellow Springs, OH and is generally awesome at most things.

Comments (4)

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  1. Joshua says:

    While I think that ultimately down the line gaming will go fully digital, along with movies and music, I still think it’s a ways off. There are just too many people who aren’t connected to the internet, at least not broadband, for this to work. I do think the gaming industry is going to start pushing harder to move away from physical software, something I admit I’m not too keen on. No one will ever convince me that it’s okay to purchase something you can’t re-sell. If I pay for something, then I should own it.

    Now one thing that could be intriguing is if developers offered physical games and digital downloads side by side, but offered the downloads at a significantly lower price. I imagine they’d be more likely to keep the downloads at the same $60-$50 price and just raise the price of physical copies, but it could make for an interesting solution.

    • The Playstation Vita does that to a point. The physical games are $5 more than the digital versions. It would make perfect business sense, but most companies see it as losing $5 rather than gaining an additional sale.

      I’m still not really ready for there to be no physical game media. I’m still having nightmares about having to re-download 60+ games again when my launch PS3 died.

      • Joshua says:

        Agreed. And maybe I’m just nostalgic for a bygone era, but I don’t like the idea of not being able to just take a game to a friend’s house. While there are advantages to living in a digital age, there’s a lot to be said for the physical medium and I don’t care that it’s slowly becoming antiquated.

  2. Sexton Hardcastle says:

    If you could somehow resell the game after you get bored with it, it would be cool. But as stated, I like the idea of being able to sell or trade in games I no longer play.

    I wonder if they’ll be stored on the console then. Heaven forbid you get the red ring of death and lose your purchases.

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