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Sony Computer Entertainment big boss Kaz Hirai said this week that he believes that a PlayStation console supporting 100% digital distribution is over ten years away. As expected, this opened the floodgates of discussion, with topics ranging from the desire for more downloadable games to net neutrality and the worldwide internet infrastructure. Obviously, this is a multifaceted issue.

But I’m interested in a hypothetical situation here. Assuming that the infrastructure were in place today, and we could quickly, painlessly, and easily download all of our games, would we? When will we, the consumers, be ready to switch to 100% digital distribution?

Call me non-committal, but I honestly can’t commit to an answer. Am I ready now? Am I ever going to be ready?

Here’s one thought I have: I, like so many others who have driven the point into the ground, enjoy possessing a physical product. I’m proud of the collection I see resting on my entertainment cabinet. The joy of unwrapping a game, thumbing through the manual, and popping in the disc for the first time simply can’t be replicated by queuing up a download and watching the progress bar inch along before the download completes.

I also look at some of the fantastic packages offered for Atlus-published games, and I don’t want to see those go away. My Raiho plush from the fantastic Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2 package is displayed proudly in my residence despite the fact that I barely played the game.

At the same time, as I think about my downloadable collection, I wonder if I really want a physical product to accompany any of those. Do I want my habitations filled up with boxes for Limbo and Snoopy Flying Ace? Is my enjoyment of those games lessened by the fact that I can’t hold them in my hands? I have to answer no, despite what that may mean for the future of physical media.

The only conclusion that I can come to here is that I’m happy with the way things are now, or how they may be in a couple of years or so. Having the option to download many games digitally while still having the choice to head to a store or have a game shipped to me from Amazon seems like a golden era of choice for the gamer – one that likely won’t last.

It’s all about choice, really. As soon as one of our options for obtaining a game is taken away, we as consumers have less of a voice and game publishers have more power over us. We lose the ability to choose to take advantage of a certain retailer’s holiday sale to pick up a game we’ve been waiting for. We’re no longer able to rely upon rentals and trade to decide which games we really want to own, and which are not worth our time. We’re forced to do things their way.

Before it starts to sound like I’m paranoid of “Big Brother” here, it should be said that I don’t think publishers are evil, and I don’t imagine that digital distribution is this big scheme dreamed up to screw us over. The reality, though, is that it might. We might find ourselves in a situation that we never expected with the selling of games being handled entirely by one entity for each platform.

Here’s what I really want. I want digital distribution to be available for every game alongside a physical product, a release on a cloud computing service such as OnLive, and whatever other distribution model the future might hold for us. More choice for the players can only be a good thing.

So, if it takes ten years to see a PlayStation without a disc drive, then I’m going to revel in those ten years, because I’m sure they’ll prove to be the years that gamers enjoyed the greatest amount of choice.

  1. My main concern is that it will be done poorly. Games will be locked to specific consoles or storage devices, no backwards compatibility at all (yes I actually care about that), time limits or restricted “rights” to the game. These are things I get the bad feeling we will be screwed on in the digital distribution model and the only things that would cause me to hesitate to go all digital.

    If they find a way to go all digital and avoid those issues though… I think you will find the vast majority of gamers would convert very quickly.

    • avatar Youyou

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  2. I’m all about price. If digital distribution leads to prices coming down due to saving money on printing manuals and cases and pressing discs then I’m down with it. I got Dawn of War II digitally off Steam and for a little while I missed having the box and the manual, but I pretty quickly forgot about it.

    That said…old habits die hard, and if I had it to do over again, I’d probably buy a physical copy of DoW II instead. *grin*

    • avatar Abdul

      You can rest assured there were APN sintetgs available in the previous version of the carrier bundle otherwise you would have no data connection on your iPhone at all The APN sintetgs field is just handy to tinker with and to give you the flexibility to choose what flavor of internet you use on your device.WAP, internet or direct all have their own characteristics that can be of interest depending on your particular use case.No biggie, I am just glad everything works as I expect it to (bengels has made 2 comments)

  3. avatar R.S. Hunter

    I’m worried about storage issues as well as the ones Karkarov brought up. My console’s hard drive only has so much space on it, just like my laptop.

    Will I have to play hard drive musical chairs, swapping things around and hoping there’s still space left? Will I have to Decide which games to keep and which ones to delete to make more space? How long are the digital games going to be available? What if some company goes out of business and takes their game down from the internet, and I had deleted it? How will I get to re-download it.

    With physical copies of my games the only things I have to worry about is shelf space. If I don’t play a game for over a year I always have the option of just grabbing the disc and popping it in. I don’t have to worry about whether or not the game is still installed on my hard drive or anything.

  4. I think, as you point out, that there will come a point at which all major releases are distributed both physically and digitally, and the vast majority of people will opt for the hard copy due to the concerns stated above. It all depends on whether publishers choose to ignore this, but download-only consoles would certainly be the final nail in the coffin for physical games, which would be a real shame.

  5. avatar A.W.

    well, there is a more practical problem. there are also very few choices in ways to download games. So it is more vulnerable to price manipulation.

    Like i go to target and regularly check out the areas where they put clearance. and sometimes i find a gem. i found bionic commando back there, for something like $7. if it was on psn i don’t think i would ever see it for so cheap. and certainly you are limiting how many places you can buy it from.

    I think it will probably be long-term a mix of digital and physical media. i own alot of downloadables, and for me the nice thing about downloaded is you can fit alot of games in a very small package. that doesn’t matter when you are playing your ps3. but it means the world when you are toting around a psp.

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  6. avatar A.W.

    oh, and i consider it awesome when they make a game playable on the ps3 and the psp, at the same time. all ps1 games you can download are like that, and some minis are, too. And some that you can play on the ps3, can be still played remotely using the psp. That doesn’t work so well when you are playing an intense action game like “bionic commando rearmed” but there are some less twitchy games that work really well with that.

  7. avatar William

    go to Settings >> General >> About and there is an update to the ceirrar settings for Telecom taking it to 11.1 which fixes the contacts bug. It was always a ceirrar bundle issue that has now been fixed. Nothing to do with Apple.“Nothing to do with Apple” is incorrect. Apple host the ceirrar bundles on their servers and it is up to them to sign and push them out – the ceirrars have no control over this. It isn’t like a SIM update that can be pushed OTA.What is interesting (and I didn’t know before today) is that Telecom have their own ceirrar bundle despite not being an official ceirrar. I wonder how they managed that. 2degrees do not appear to have this.Right so names matching and personal hotspot is now fixed. Just the APN menu to go and we’ll be back to 4.3 functionality again.(rdw11 has made 14 comments)That was my point as well.Guess what is also fixed .. THE VOICEMAIL BUTTON!!!!!! woohoo!! (silverfox has made 6 comments)

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