The end of physical media. Could it happen?

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Matt Barton
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True
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I don't think digital only is necessarily an anti-piracy option, but rather a natural evolution of digital consumption. The way bits have been stored has changed over time, from tape to disk to optical media to "cloud". Each one getting more reliable and larger in capacity. I think for most people, piracy will become increasingly not worth it and the potential ramifications too severe. The easier and cheaper you can make a legit option available, the less need there is to do something illicit. The illicit element can NEVER be completely eliminated - it's basic human nature, sadly - but it can certainly be minimized. I think there is indeed a positive trend toward minimization, with people embracing services like Netflix, Steam, iTunes, Amazon Digital, etc. This will clearly increase and quite likely at the expense of stealing. The average person really can't be bothered past a certain point.

That's true, but let's face it, greed is human nature. There will be plenty of content owners who will refuse to go with Netflix (or whatever else is out there) and want to charge a high price for their stuff. If everyone would play nice, there would be no pirates, because, as you say, there's a point where it's just more convenient to go the legit route. But what if Netflix cost $100 per month? Hell, people were leaving in droves because of (IMO) very minor and reasonable increase.

The same for games companies. Imagine if companies could completely eliminate piracy and bootlegs. What would they do? Now all games are subscription based, you don't "own" anything, they can do whatever they want with your characters/assets/user-generated content...Suddenly everything is on the stupid "gym plan" setup--free to join, but only if you sign a year long contract ($50 per month whether you ever log in or not...) Forget about having anything maintained; hey, we got'em locked in, screw'em!

Of course it will all balance out in the end, but I expect a helluva growing pain period.

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clok1966
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I think the real "pull" for

I think the real "pull" for me isnt so much lossing the BOX.. i could find some way to store it if I had to.. but The ability to always know where it is, use it from any device. Games , maybe not so much, but a Movie, a song.. sitting in one location i can access at all times im connected. At one time the "connected" thing would be a sore spot.. it stillis, but its part of life now, I'm not going to compalin about somthing that "IS" and isnt going away.
As for games, I recenlty wanted to play C&C red Alert II, I have the C&C Decades pack with all games on one DVD.. but finding it, now thats the problem. its not that I dont know where it is, its in the back of my closet in a box, under a box, under some spare blankets, with shirts stacked on top... I went to Best Buy and picked up another copy for $9, it was easier then diggin it out. THAT is the real draw for me.. 250 games on STEAM i can play anytime i want in a few hours at most.

I do agree, we will always see hard copies. especially the "collectors editions" they make TONS of money, they will not go away. BUT, if you go to the local Best Buy/ walmart/target.. thre are a ton of them makred way down. I have a WoW Cat Collector copy i picke dup fo $19... a Bioshock for $9, and a DC online with the Limted edition Joker statue for $9.., I been eyeing the HALO helmet one .. i think its $29 at the local Best Buy right now.. Now these I can get a grip on why people want them, they have neat swag (beyond normal gameing swag).

Bill Loguidice
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Hmm...
Matt Barton wrote:

In short, not many of us here in the U.S. have ever had the option of going to a store and buying a bootleg copy of a game or software for a fraction of the cost of the real thing. So bootlegging wasn't a major issue here. But now with a digital streaming service, that becomes a very real possibility. Yeah, nobody is going to travel to Hong Kong to get a $60 game for $5. But would you pay $5 per month to get access to an entire company catalog via a bootleg server in Hong Kong vs. $50 per month to get a limited selection from a US server? It seems pretty clear to me that a lot of folks will definitely be interested in the bootleg option.

I don't think digital only is necessarily an anti-piracy option, but rather a natural evolution of digital consumption. The way bits have been stored has changed over time, from tape to disk to optical media to "cloud". Each one getting more reliable and larger in capacity. I think for most people, piracy will become increasingly not worth it and the potential ramifications too severe. The easier and cheaper you can make a legit option available, the less need there is to do something illicit. The illicit element can NEVER be completely eliminated - it's basic human nature, sadly - but it can certainly be minimized. I think there is indeed a positive trend toward minimization, with people embracing services like Netflix, Steam, iTunes, Amazon Digital, etc. This will clearly increase and quite likely at the expense of stealing. The average person really can't be bothered past a certain point.

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Matt Barton
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There will always be physical

There will always be physical media. It's just not possible to have data stored in an ethereal "cloud" that all the nitwits like to talk about. Sure, it might be streamed from one physical media to another, but the data has to be stored somewhere. Subsequently, if something is stored somewhere, it can be stored somewhere else, as well. Thus the pirates of the future might be more like unauthorized Blizzard servers streaming from overseas somewhere. We certainly already see a lot of this.

Instead of streaming media being an anti-piracy measure, it will actually empower pirates--or at least bootleggers--like never before!

Consider: now a would-be pirate has the option of buying a game at a store. That's pretty convenient for a lot of us. But take that option away...now the option is to buy and download a game from a legitimate online service, or to download a game for free from a rogue server, what I like to call "bootleg servers." I use that term because inevitably, these rogue sites will generate money from advertising if not subscription fees, albeit much lower than you could get from the authorized companies.

In short, not many of us here in the U.S. have ever had the option of going to a store and buying a bootleg copy of a game or software for a fraction of the cost of the real thing. So bootlegging wasn't a major issue here. But now with a digital streaming service, that becomes a very real possibility. Yeah, nobody is going to travel to Hong Kong to get a $60 game for $5. But would you pay $5 per month to get access to an entire company catalog via a bootleg server in Hong Kong vs. $50 per month to get a limited selection from a US server? It seems pretty clear to me that a lot of folks will definitely be interested in the bootleg option.

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Bill Loguidice
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Reasons
David Barbour wrote:

Would this also spell the end of optical disk drives? (im guessing yes)

I think we've already started to see that trend in laptops, certainly. Obviously tablets and smartphones never had them in the first place. You don't need the drives if you don't need physical media... I can't remember the last time I've used the optical drive in any of my systems other than after I first got them to install some software. Once that stuff is in the cloud, a la something like an app store (which is already a big trend and will only get bigger with Windows 8), even that need will go away... Optical drives then will mostly become external devices for enthusiasts who need to burn a disc for whatever reason... Again, this is already pretty much the trend now.

There were rumors (most certainly false) that the next Xbox would in fact not have an optical drive. Consoles are special circumstances, of course, and I think we'll see this one last generation with them. After that, it will surely be pure digital, especially since we're talking 10+ years out... Time is not on physical media's side anymore.

Obviously people will argue that you can't beat the quality of a Blu-ray movie - I agree - but at the same time, HD streaming is plenty good for most people, even me, so even that argument falls down. Most people settle for "good enough" and over time "good enough" becomes as good as anything, and I think we'll eventually see that in full force with the streaming.

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David Barbour
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Good points

Some great points so far, I am as well a product of my time and feel an attachment to the products I buy. You're correct in saying it's just a matter of time but internet speeds as of yet I dont think are fast enough to support anything near a DD only so yes in 5-10 its plausable. Thinking about it I have over 1500 DVD/Blu Ray disks but only use Netflix now. I only buy the smaller arcade titles on PSN and XBLA and still prefer physical copies of my games. I suppose it's just nostalgia (there's that word again) on my part. But I would still like to see a game in a physical form one way or another. But I guess that's just not going to happen.

Would this also spell the end of optical disk drives? (im guessing yes)

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Bill Loguidice
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By the way, an example of

By the way, an example of giving only a half-assed nod to physical media are the retail games for the PlayStation Vita. You get a nice plastic case with a slip cover that contains ONLY a tiny game card inside. There's not even a quick reference sheet. Every Vita game has a self-contained digital manual (essentially a PDF!) that you can access from the game's LiveArea prior to starting to play. The ONLY advantage to buying your games retail rather than downloading them (besides being able to find a sale price) in this case is that a retail "cartridge" takes up far less space on your memory card (space that is rather precious given the current sizes and prices for the things) than the equivalent download of a retail game from the PlayStation Store. Obviously other game publishers have followed suit with the "empty box" syndrome. Again, it all leads to a digital only future. Packing in many cases is purely legacy stuff...

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Bill Loguidice
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Here's what I think the

Here's what I think the bottom line is: digital only media is inevitable. Enough consumers have voted with their wallets that they're comfortable with digital, rather than physical ownership. It's going to happen, it's just a matter of whether it's within five years or 10 years. I think within five years is reasonable for a majority to be digital and 10 years for everything non-digital to be mostly on-demand, boutique, or special edition type stuff.

Personally, I have a huge collection of physical goods related to old school media. I'm a product of my times, though. I don't think newer generations have the same attachment to physical media, and the divide will only increase. I know, for example, I've pretty much stopped buying physical movies, and the same thing with books. I'm either all streaming with the former, or all digital with the latter. I still buy an equal number of digital and physical games, but I can see giving into all digital with the way things are going. I know with Legend of Grimrock, I ultimately have not missed physical goods, and that's the type of game that I usually crave such things.

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clok1966
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I think the push for no boxes

I think the push for no boxes on digital media will be pushed hard by the big boys eventually. They have NOTHING to lose and everything to gain. Right now they are to worried about pirating and the Big Bad Internet. But once they really get a grip on the fact most are paying the same price for digital as Hard Copies which has to a fair price saving for them. The physical media has almost no value, but you start counting all the parts, boxes, shipping, etc. not to mention cutting out the middle man (stores) and the profit margin goes way up. My nostalgia stage is long gone for games. Not because I don't care for them like i once did, but cold hard facts have shown me I don't have the room, nor the time left in this lifetime to spend on them (which sound so ominous...) simply put to many hobbies take my time up. Im a HUGE move and music person and have a size-able DVD/Bluray and CD collection and with digital, I have almost not used them at all.. My music is all ripped, my dvd's are pretty much all ripped too. A couple 2 TB HD's , less then the size of a couple of books..

GOG has the right setup, all manuals and maps right there for me whenever i need them. Easy to view or print. NO hunting up something, no digging in closets, INSTANT use. I do feel for you guys who love this stuff.. but I cant see how one can deal with it all (easily).

Shawn Delahunty
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Paying Extra

I always pay the extra price if a developer provides a physical media version. This is getting harder to do with Indie games--often they only have "limited edition runs" with the CD/DVD version of the game, simply because the up-front cost can be prohibitive for setting up a CD pressing/printing. Many don't offer it at all--in which case the first thing I do is burn several copies to physical media, and stick on a shelf.

Actually, with the success of Kickstarter, I'm considering the following possibility with my own future game releases--set up a funding campaign, so that if the necessary threshold is reached to cover all the up-front costs, then those contributors get the "deluxe physical edition" of the game. Cloth maps, t-shirt, buttons, full-sized posters, a nice sturdy box, physical Player's Guide.... all that stuff which I absolutely LOVED in the old box games becomes possible. Every one else? Well they can fork over a lower amount for a pure digital download.

Musing and meandering,
-Shawn

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