Time and again, I hear the argument that one day, games etc. will stop being distributed on physical media, and all will be digital downloads. I’ve even heard a rumor (though don’t quote me on this–I think it’s B.S.) that the Playstation 4 isn’t gonna have a disk drive. If that turns out to be true, the PS4 isn’t gonna have much of a future.
Physical media has a future, or if it doesn’t it should. Here is why:
1) It exists. The advantage of Physical Media is that once its there, it can’t be gone, but something that only exists as code is far more fragile. Take cell phone games: once the phones they run on become obsolete, the games themselves will simply be gone, unless said games get ported (and most of them don’t). I feel sorry for Mega Man collectors who will want Mega Mans 9 and 10 in twenty years, and the only way to get them will be to actually buy old consoles that have the games on them, then hope said console still even work and their hard drives haven’t gone bad. I’ve seen games totally disappear this way.
Which brings me to:
2) Physical has less limitations. I can let a friend borrow Mega Man 6. I can’t let him borrow Mega Man 9 unless I give him the entire console. And to look at that from the other angle: if my NES breaks, I can just get another NES and play the Mega Man 6 cartridge I already have. If my Wii breaks, then I have to re-buy the console as well as Mega Man 9 (I know there’s supposed to be some sort of download recovery stuff, but I doubt it works).
3) Physical has presence. And I’m sure anybody who has ever been to a ROM site can see I’m right here: what has more impact for you, seeing a list of titles with a small graphic next to them, or seeing the actual media (possibly with packaging) on a shelf? It’s like, if I’m seeing a list of Sega Genesis games and I see one called “Mystic Defender,” I’m all like “Mystic Defender? What the hell is that?” but if I see it on a shelf, I’ll look at the cool box art and read the back, and if the store is nice enough and has it I might thumb thru the manual. I mean yeah, you could say that looking up a Wiki entry or a review is the modern equivalent, but Wikis are rather dry and make everything sound boring, and reviews can either tell you too much or nothing at all, and might even misrepresent the product in either case.
And you might be noticing something here:
4) Physical media is not dependent on the internet. And this is a HUGE issue that everyone just overlooks, because apparently the entire internet is stuffed full of rich upper-class nerds who are able to afford every console ever made and a zoo to house them all. This causes them to develop a big case of tunnel vision where they think that because they have something, everyone else does too.
I have a dark, terrible secret: I use dial-up. It’s not by choice–I live in the country and its either Hughesnet’s overpriced, under-performing satellite service or a dial-up connection that is cheap but functional. And I see every day that most of the internet is designed with the assumption that you have high-speed. It’s irritating.
But getting back to the point: there are a lot of people like me, and not everyone can afford the kinds of connections that are necessitated by the concept of games big enough to fit on Blu-Ray going all-digital. If King of Fighters 16 or whatever is only available on X-Box Live Arcade, then that means I simply can’t play it, no matter how much I want to. This is the same reason I never played Half-Life 2, even though again I really wanted to. Gamers and game companies think its perfectly realistic to expect me to buy a new house just to play a game, and the fact is it isn’t.
And I repeat: I doubt I’m the only person like this. There are billions of gamers–not all of them can be rich nerds. Physical media is not just a convenience but a necessity if the industry doesn’t want to become a niche catering specifically to an elite crowd.
That is why a switch to all-digital would spell the end of gaming.
Excuse how rushed this entry comes off as. My phone line is out so I’m forced to make this entry from a friend’s computer.