Both the PS4 and Xbox 720 will fail if they do not reject physical media in favour of digital distribution, the co-founder of Codemasters has boldly claimed.
In what amounts to a scathing attack on games retail, David Darling stated: “Sony and Microsoft cannot let the retailers dictate game prices going forwards if they want to break free from the current over-priced model, their next consoles, PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 need to be digital only, or they will fail.
“Consoles have become like dinosaurs heading for extinction as their natural retail habitat begins to change. These ancient beasts must now adapt to a new environment where platforms like Steam, Facebook and Apple’s App Store are pushing innovation.
“The industry is transitioning from boxed to digital games. Physical media like DVD is dying out and gaming is rapidly moving to digital distribution. If hardware manufacturers such as Sony and Microsoft do not manage this transition soon, they will be overtaken and left behind by companies who are embracing digital distribution wholly and completely.
“If the next generation consoles have media drives like DVD to keep distributors and retailers happy so they can sell physical product this will make the machines uncompetitive. They will not be able to compete on price. The retailers will say to Sony and Microsoft “you can’t sell game X at retail for $60 and then sell it in your App Store for $2.” However, console-makers will need to sell games for $2 or else they will not be competitive with Apple.”
What must not be forgotten, however, is that Darling does have a vested interested – he is currently the CEO of digital games firm Kwalee.
Why Darling believes that big-budget core games and smaller-scale digital titles can co-exist is uncertain. He also does not address the fact that the type of software that is currently predominant on console would take an age for consumers to download.
Indeed, he even attacks those who may still harbour a preference for disc-based games.
“Luddites are always resistant to change,” he adds. “In the 1812 the new technology they didn’t like was the mechanised weaving loom. In 1986 it was the CD when they preferred old vinyl music records.
“Today there is resistance to the idea that physical media, such as DVD, and its retailers will disappear completely and give way to digital distribution. But changes are happening very quickly.
What is true, however, is that publishers will need to find a way to compete on price. Yes, there will always be consumers willing to pay £50 to play the big triple-A titles. But they are likely to become an increasing minority.
Next-gen consoles certainly need to embrace more flexible pricing models if they wish to grow the core market.