Digitally Yours, Distribution

Sure, large evolutions of technology are nice, but let’s take a look at one of the subtler evolutions of gaming for a bit: how you get them.

By James Labalokie. Posted 10/08/2010 11:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

Video Game Store in Japan

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far…

Wait a tick; wrong document.  My bad.

A not so long time from now, in a galaxy far, far…

Er.  No, that’s not quite right, either.

Ok.  Let’s try this; twenty years from now, in a world that will remain essentially the same as the one we currently reside, there will be… video games.

Yeah, that doesn’t sound all that great, but what more do you want from me?  In all honesty, the world won’t have evolved that much, though this is of course assuming that nuclear warfare hasn’t already wiped out the planet.  Or galactic warfare for that matter.  OK, sorry; I’m done with the Star Wars jokes.

Just wait until they find out that that is no moon.

Alright.  I’m really done this time.

So, I’m about one hundred words in, and I haven’t even begun.  In my defense, there isn’t much to talk about; games just won’t change much in my opinion.  Most of the possible avenues have already been explored:  motion controls, realistic graphics, virtual reality (to a lesser extent); sure, those neato goggles that ruin your eyes with gameplay controlled entirely by your brain is super awesome, but it just isn’t happening in twenty years.

But that’s not where the importance lies; the important bit is how we receive said futuristic entertainment.  By 2032 I suspect that distribution of hard copies of media will no longer exist; rather, in twenty-even years, digital distribution — or something the equivalent thereof– ought to have dominated the market.  It’s not even close to say that that is stretching the truth; we’re there now.  Look at Steam, Valve’s PC/Mac software store: it’s flourishing, and without a doubt Nintendo has been exploring this possibility through the Wii’s Virtual Console (as has Microsoft via XBOX Live Arcade and Sony via PSN).  Really, why would you want to get dressed and go to a store to receive the same software that you can easily purchase while lying naked on the couch?  But then, this isn’t new information, either; Virtual Console dates back to ’06.  So, since this isn’t new information, let’s get off that topic and move on to the good bits.

Gaming consoles (specifically Wii, Xbox/Xbox 360, PS2/PS3) have been moving closer and closer towards PCs in the ways that they present their media. For example, USB ports, SD Cards, hard drives and wired internet/wireless capabilities have all made appearances in consoles over the past generation or two.  Though this isn’t to say that gaming consoles aren’t computers (they are), but rather that their development is leading them down a path which may eventually turn them into fancy, name-brand PCs.  Differences just don’t exist these days outside of game catalogs and some minor, specific features such as the Wii’s channel system (Wii Vote, Wii Forecast).  This is all kind of like a Mac: it’s a computer, sure, but its scope is limited.  If gaming consoles are truly becoming PCs, then streaming media and full titles bought straight from the developer is not far off.

With that, though, expect gaming consoles to become what Steam currently is: large databases that cater to specific games’ needs.  Expect instant and constant demos, videos of gameplay released as soon as they are developed, limitless screenshots, and so on. But with the good comes the bad. Also plan for games that are released as incomplete or glitchy, patches, server maintenance windows that inhibit your ability to enjoy your fancy-pants future toy, and the dreaded DLC– Downloadable Content.  That’s to say, incomplete games that are released for full price with the second half of the game sold to you a week later for the same cost as the first part.

It’s change; it’ll be different, but not so different that you and I will sit and play using only our minds.  That’s a long way off.

The world of tomorrow doesn’t have room for Gamestop. Without a doubt, Gamestop will not exist (as a pawnshop of video game software, anyway; they might do something like what blockbuster is attempting now).  And the world will be better for it.

One Response to “Digitally Yours, Distribution”

  • 678 points
    amishpyrate says...

    I’ve downloaded quite a few games onto my wii, but there is still a part of me that longs for a hard copy of these games. It just doesn’t feel the same without a game on my shelf.

    Thumb up 0

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