Would you be happy in a world where games were download only?

In thelatest episode of Pach-Attack!, gaming's most prolific professional guesser, Michael Pachter, said that a download-only games industry just won't happen. At least not until every console in the world is connected to the internet. Until then, games on discs, in boxes, will always be around.


Above: Some computing devices connected to the world. Actually, they're disconnected. This image may or may not have some relevance to this article

And I'm happy about that. I like my games on discs and in boxes. But I had a thought. Am I just being an old twat that's inherently opposed to change? Why do I dismiss the notion of having games conveniently piped directly and digitally into my console? Would a world in which games were download-only really be that bad? I put together a list of pros and cons to help me form something resembling a considered opinion.

Pros

  • No physical media. That would mean no discs, no boxes, no manuals, any of that stuff. This would be better for the environment - better for trees, better for pandas, better for everyone. That's a pretty big 'pro'.
  • Never have to go to a game shop ever again. They can smell a bit funny.
  • Cheaper games. Because all the cost involved in making all that physical media excess would be completely wiped out. And kind-hearted publishers would be only too happy to pass that saving on to us, the loyal consumers. Right?

Cons

  • No physical media. I like having a shelf full of games. I find it comforting.
  • Download times. I guess in the future we'll all have future-fast internet connections and this probably won't be a problem. But if download-only games happened this afternoon, can you imagine how long it'd take to suck something like God of War III through the internet? Imagine. I'd rather not.
  • Storage. Again, in the future, when download-only might become a reality, this surely won't be a problem. Consoles will probably have hard drives with storage space measured in exabytes. And exabytes are big.
  • Game shop staff would lose their jobs. It's not their fault that game shops can smell a bit funny. And mass redundancies should definitely be considered as a 'con'.
  • No more eject buttons or disc slots. Imagine a world withoutsatisfying ejections.
  • No market competition. Console makers would want to control where games were bought from, so we'd be buying exclusively from each console's own dedicated online store, like Xbox Live and PSN. That would mean even more power for them, less power for us, the gamers. They'd have us exactly where they wanted us.
  • No more trade-ins. For a lot of people, being able to trade-in old games makes buying new games affordable. Although, if all the games were cheaper, then it might not matter anyway. Wow. Guessing about stuff that might or might not happen in the future is actually pretty hard.

That's over 50% more cons than pros. But, if download-only game purchasing meant a better future for pandas and people, I'd happily say goodbye to my shelf-full of excessive physical game media. It'd seem like the right thing to do.

How about you fine people? Would you embrace a future of download-only games, or would you smash its face in with an overpriced collectors edition of a niche MMORPG that you bought down the smelly game shop?

May 24, 2010