The future of video games is digital. At least if you consistently continue to think about previous trends. Thanks to Steam and co., digital distribution channels are standard on the computer.
Real copies of video games only play a role in the PC sector as collector editions. Most of the games are distributed purely digitally. A development that many also expect in the field of consoles and which has already begun there. But how far will that go? Will we soon only acquire digital rights of use when we buy a game? Will discs be completely supplanted? What are the advantages and pitfalls of such a development?
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PC gaming is already digital
As far as PC gaming is concerned, the almost exclusively digital distribution of video games has already been completed. Discs practically no longer play a role there. This is primarily due to Steam as a sales platform. Steam and rival platforms have revolutionized the distribution of PC games. This change was, of course, made easy by the already very internet-savvy audience of PC gamers. And he also fits the hair of today’s zeitgeist. The convenience of simply downloading a game and playing it shortly afterwards is congruent with how the Internet has shaped our media consumption in general. Steam is in the broader sense for PC games what Netflix and Co. are for TV series and movies.
Now considerations are being made as to whether all games should soon be distributed via download or even via streaming.
What is the trend in the area of consoles?
The first advances in this direction are already being made on the consoles. Even if this mainly refers to indie games, reduced games (often as an incentive for subscription services such as Xbox Live etc.) and backwards compatible games of the predecessor consoles. So the precedents are already there. However, a revolution as fast as on the PC is not to be expected here.
PC Gaming has had bigger and bigger problems with the annoying topic of copy protection. Thus, there was also an incentive on the part of the manufacturers to switch to digital distribution channels. Consoles, on the other hand, live from their respective exclusiveness. So if there are certain titles that are only published on a certain console. If games are fully digitised, it is difficult to predict how this would be compatible with this claim to exclusivity. Such a simple distribution model would push developers in one direction to distribute their games on all platforms. But this argument doesn’t even have to weigh so heavily, because due to the recent graphic developments (which don’t allow much more at the top) and measured by the increasing multimedia character of the consoles, they are approaching the PC as a format anyway more and more. Who knows if consoles won’t become redundant after the next generation (PS 5 and Xbox Scorpio) anyway?
Fully digitized consoles are therefore not to be expected in the near future. But the share of digital distribution channels will definitely increase. The rest probably depends on the clientele.
What do you think of that?
A fully digitized distribution of video games is something that divides spirits. The convenience of not having to purchase and store physical copies is offset by a reduction in the ownership rights of the purchasers. The following advantages and disadvantages can be asserted:
– Lower distribution costs: Selling digital downloads or offering streams saves a lot of costs. No discs to be pressed and no packaging to be produced. This makes this distribution channel realistic even for smaller developers. The popularity of Indie Games on the PC was only made possible by digital distribution channels. The fact that PC gaming has regained popularity is not least due to the fact that games are often cheaper there and indie titles and the early access area significantly increase the pool of available games.
– Purchase amenities: Downloads can be made conveniently from home and do not need any shelf space.
– Right of disposal instead of ownership: The question arises as to whether and to what extent games are still acquired as property at all. Basically, one has only acquired one right of use (especially in the case of streamed titles). You don’t really own the game, but a right of use which is connected to your own account. Especially for collectors and lovers or other customers who value a physical copy, this is a real counterargument.
– Uncertain support in the future: What does it look like when platforms (such as PS4) discontinue their service? How are the rights of use then transferred to subsequent consoles generations? What if you don’t want to buy the successor at all? Will all the games be lost then? And to what extent are these backwards compatible at all? Questions after questions… with some disturbing implications.