About a week ago, Editor-in-Chief Sam Bishop and I were having a talk about downloadable content and its future in the video game space. It’s been a hotly debated topic as of late, both in the console and PC markets, so I wanted to share some thoughts with him on the subject. What I found out is that we both view it as a completely different monster, as does the rest of the industry, I’m sure. Is download only the future or will physical media still have a place in our homes?
It’s no secret that hard drives are getting bigger and people are becoming more technologically astute, as well as internet savvy. Fifteen years ago, the internet was a foreign monster to many households, but now it’s a way of life. It’s even extended itself to portable devices, the smallest of which can barely squeeze a couple lines of text on the screen from our favorite website. But that doesn’t stop us.
As it becomes easier for us to connect to the internet, it only makes sense that it would be easier for us to get content into our homes. Enter iTunes. Though it was hardly the first, it is one of, if not THE largest of all the online music distributors out there. Ten years ago, the idea of downloading entire music albums, TV shows, and movies was a pipe dream, but now we can do it with the click of a button. And storage space is becoming less of an issue, whereas ten years ago we were forced to burn everything to CD-Rs.
Even with that in mind, there is no definitive way to get that content. Consumers can use a myriad of choices, ranging from the Apple TV, a somewhat elegant solution, to Net Flix, which also offers a myriad of choices for the consumer, but none offer the fullest range of content or ease of use that would truly help download only technology go mainstream. Plug and Play this is not.
There are also other issues, most notably those of the hardcore variety. For those who demand the most out of their equipment, HD over the net doesn’t come close to a Blu-ray Disc running in the PS3. High fidelity picture and sound is a must when one invests thousands of dollars in equipment that is meant to deliver an eyeball melting, ear massaging experience.
But, if the equipment were in place, would the physical media experience matter to a consumer who still awkwardly attaches composite cables to their brand new flat screen LCD or plasma?
Sam and I arrived at a crossroads in our discussion. He supported the idea of physical media, stating that the utmost quality, as well as the sleek packaging, will always maintain mindshare in the mainstream. There’s also the notion that, as a species, we like to collect “things” to show off. I, however, believe downloads will be the future, with people purchasing a few physical discs a year of their favorite shows, and downloading or streaming the rest.
Granted, in the current consumer level environment what I envision is far from possible. But the push to broadband, and even wideband, could change all of that.
Location also plays a huge part in the download push, as a country’s internet infrastructure will dictate whether its citizens have the necessary bandwith to download large files quickly. Asia, with its dense populations, have infrastructures that far outstrip those of the western world, mostly especially Japan. With China and India becoming burgeoning world economies, it would only make sense to provide high speed internet access that even North America might not see for another decade. Huge population centers, as well as spending habits, determines content delivery and China and India may affect that delivery scheme in the next decade.
Combined, we could see a download only push in a little under a decade. The possibilities are endless.
So what do you think, fine readers: will download only be the future or will physical media still maintain its place? Let us know!