Earlier this week Develop asked the development community for their views on the rise of digital distribution, following Square Enix president Yoichi Wada’s claim that consoles and physical gaming are set for extinction.
A report on the industry’s verdict can be found here, but below you can read all responses in full.
(If you’re a developer who’d like to take part in future debates, ping an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Develop Jury Service#1
Is server-based gaming and digital distribution set to replace physical content altogether?
Ed Daly, General Manager, Zoe Mode:
History has few examples of technology standing still, the printed book has some way to go but of course 100 per cent digital distribution is inevitable. And as games hardware is updated more often than music and movie equivalents, and as the back catalogue is less important, while games might have been slow to get going they’ll probably be first to vanish from malls and high streets, 15 years I reckon, bar some developing countries and charity shops.
Gary Penn, Creative Director, Denki Ltd:
I suspect served-based play and digital distribution WILL replace physical content altogether. I know it can't happen soon enough for me :D
It's all a matter of convenience. Physical media is already feeling, like, SO last century, granddad. Like wires.
No doubt as the intangible becomes more rooted in reality, the tangible will become increasingly valued by the cognoscenti to sustain a specialist industry.
John Chasey, co-founder, FinBlade:
There is a vicious circle occurring where retail is seeing a growing percentage of sales are in the second hand market since the margins are greater, which reduces revenue to publishers/developers.
The publishers and developers will therefore migrate towards online as a method of increasing their margins since the physical goods are not required plus the second hand market will not be an issue.
Services like iTunes have shown the consumer is entirely comfortable buying content digitally. I can imagine in years to come that there won't be a GAME on the high street any longer but instead a flagship EA stores in selected locations to market the content rather than to shift physical boxes.
Jon Burton, Director, Traveller’s Tales:
Yes it will, but it will take a long time.
If you look at the model adopted by the music industry, it is getting rarer and rarer that you would physically buy an album.
iTunes, Amazon MP3 etc is a faster way of getting what you want. The trick is educating the public to be confident of buying things in this way. It is obviously working looking at how many apps have been sold on iTunes for instance.
Extrapolating this into Movies and then games, it is just a matter of time before the public confidence in “soft goods” grows to a point where convenience outweighs owning a physical copy.
One thing that would speed up the transition is for digital to be priced a lot lower than physical. At the moment the prices are kept at parity as the platform holders need physical stores to sell their consoles/PC’s etc. so don’t want to undercut them - PSPgo is an example.
But once they realise they can use outlets such as supermarkets etc. for bulk distribution of consoles, then they can slash the prices for downloaded content and that will signal the beginning of the end.
At the moment it’s kind of a stalemate as both sides think they need each other and no-one wants to blink – I’m betting on Sony making the first move by making PSPgo games much cheaper than the UMD versions, or the PSPgo will die.
I own one but don’t want to buy LBP, for instance, as I can get it 20 per cent cheaper on UMD from Amazon and could resell it once I’m finished with it, whereas if I download it, no discount, no reselling – how annoying is that?
Martin Hollis, CEO, Zoonami:
“There will always be a place for plastic circles. I've put mine in the bin.”
Martyn Brown, Studio Director, Team17:
I think that’s pretty much inevitable, although there’s just debate about the point at which more commerce will be done digitally as opposed to retail/physical media. For us, that’s already happened and we’re only working on digital platforms and publishing our own products again.
Paul Farley, Founder, Tag Games
Yes, although without an iPhone style revolution the time scale of transition will be a matter of many years, and not overnight.
Sarah Chudley, Commercial Director, Bizarre Creations
I don't think digital will replace physical totally it until traditional shops have ceased to be - which I suppose will happen if and when people have lost the need to physically browse boxes and interact with real-life shop staff in order to make their purchase decision!