The gaming community really wants digital downloads to come and come fast for every so they an eliminate the big box store. and there are numerous reasons and most gamers are all gung ho about this, but hold on. Let’s think this through. Gamers are like any niche group of people and are a mostly insular bunch. They think of things that would be great for them but sometimes don’t realize there’s an outside world.
Not everyone has broadband. Simply put, if you cut out retail you absolutely lose anyone that can’t download. There’s a serious ‘last mile’ problem in the states that makes it hard for some people to get cable internet, or get it at a good speed. DSL is not close to cable internet anymore in terms of speed for most people. On top of that there are people who don’t download things and aren’t comfortable with it. There’s also people who like physical ownership.
Right now we’re in this weird battleground on the internet when it comes to digital ownership. DRM makes it so that people buy things and don’t own them. There’s a fear among some people that they may buy a game and in a few years not be able to play it. If you buy a game right now from a store there’s no question as to who owns it. Five or six years from now you’ll still be able to play that game. If you download a game on xbl are we sure that when the next system comes out we’ll be able to play it on that system? or at all if they change the service over? Same with virtual console and PSN.
Another part of the ownership issue is that it officially kills the ability to share games. No more borrowing games from friends, no more picking up used games for over half off, no more inheriting games from siblings and no more taking games to a friends house.
Last thing I can think of is tiered internet. If this goes down in the states then that’s the end of the digital download only dream. If you have a 5GB a month cap on your internet useage and the only way you can get Gears of war 4 is to download it then you may not pick up gears. In fact, you may not buy much of any games. They’re already clocking in over 9gigs now so there’s no telling what they’ll be like in a few years. The number of downloads is going to be inhibited deeply by the pricing structure of the Internet Service Providers like Comcast or Time Warner.
All that said if any or all of those things are fixed then this will be a done deal. It makes too much sense for publishers and developers to cut out the middle man for their own profits for them to not push this forward. I just hope that if everyone in the community pushes it forward it doesn’t cut out all the fringe customers who just casually enjoy the medium, which would be the only thing I could think of to send the industry into a downward spiral.