Friday, March 9, 2012

Why Going Full Digital is a Bad Idea (for now)

Recently rumor appeared stating that the next Microsoft console, whatever may be its name, may ship without any form of drive reader. What that means is that they would be going full digital, with the only possible way to acquire new games for the machine would be through their on-line store. And that, if true, is probably the worst idea ever, at least right now. And now, presenting reasons:

First, they need physical stores to sell the hardware. It means that those stores needs a reason to sell such devices. And in the actual model, they don't have any reason. With pretty much no control over the price of the hardware, the stores don't profit enough of their sales to keep it. They compensate it by selling software and accessories, but manly software. Without software to sell, the only reason to stock consoles would be if they could sell the hardware with larger profits.

So, all the money that could be saved by removing the drives would be lost with retailers demanding better profits from the manufacturers. We would not get cheaper hardware for this decision. Would we get better prices for games? No. Games would still sell by the $60 standard price we have today at launch, but without stock surplus and used game, there is no reason to rush with price cuts.

Too many gamers also loves to have physical copies. To have something in their hands. So, it will be hard to convince them to accept a machine were their games will never be with them, but stored somewhere else. And there is the main reason why full digital will not be the standard so soon.

There is plenty of gamers who don't have access to fast internet connections. Yes, many have connections just fast enough to download patches and even smaller games, but many don't have a connection fast enough to compensate the full digital. Many still take hours to download small games. And countries like Brazil, Russia and India doesn't have widespread broadband. To many gamers, a full digital console would just not work for them. If they couldn't buy discs or any form of physical media, they would be locked out of games.

I believe that full digital will be the norm, probably in the next decade. But today is not the time. If any company try to do it, they will suffer greatly. So I highly doubt the drives will be entirely dropped right now. Maybe we may see a driveless console as an option.

But discs are not disappearing soon. 

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