According to this recent article on WebProNews, Electronic Arts will be publishing it’s future games in an digital-only format soon.

Reference
Rumors are spinning. And not good ones. Most of what I have to say is clearly just my opinion and should not be taken in any other context, however there are some factual arguments to be made with the advent of digital game downloads coming on the heels of EA’s announcement.

Rumor 1: Apparently, Next-gen Sony console dev kits codenamed “Orbis” have been sent out to developers and the news, if in fact true, is good. The dev kits, essentially modified PC’s, run on AMD CPU’s, support 4K resolutions and the kits feature 8GB or 16 GB of RAM with a 256 GB HD AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – a Blu-ray drive. Sony is still pushing to keep this tech going and why not? Movies on Blu-ray discs and BD Players have affirmed their hold in the marketplace, eventually guaranteed on replacing DVD’s as the best retail format for home movie releases. BD Discs and players are more affordable then
ever now and with the amount of space offered per BD disc, they should easily be able to provide more than enough space for next generations console games. I can only see this is purely beneficial as more space means better graphics, (textures and cinematic sequences don’t need to be compressed anymore) more content which equals more replay value. I truly hope Sony does plan on adding Blu-ray functionality to it’s next-gen console.

Rumor 2: If the above is true, this puts Microsoft in a odd situation. Their next gen console might not even include a disc drive , excluding the gamer and OWNER of their console to borrow games from friends, ravaging if not destroying the second hand game market and meaning that all those cool new HD games you want have to be downloaded and activated at full price. If I’m going to pay the full price for digital as the hard-copy retail game cost, how about at least throwing me a disc and manual so I OWN the game
permenantly?

If the Xbox 360’s early rendition is any indication of Microsoft’s tendencies, then when your next-gen MS console RRODs (the infamous “Red Ring of Death” on the aforementioned 360) or whatever epic fail the H/W will be privy to, will you lose an activation OR license for you pretty new digital download? Will you have to call, email or god forbid, create a “support ticket” to the publisher to acquire a new install/activation. Why do you think PC Games have no second hand game market? No one wants to purchase a pre-owned PC Game when they have no idea if it can be installed and THEN played because of licensing /activation limitations on Microsoft Windows platforms (yes, I know STEAM does this garbage too). Again, all the above is speculation but what is not speculation is that EA, one of console and PC games biggest publishers has made their position known that they will exclusively be publishing all future
releases in a digi-download only format. It may not happen next year, or even in 2014, but rest assured it WILL take hold.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy going to my local game shop and purchasing 3-5 used games for reasonable prices to add to my collection. Being able to pick up and hold a physical object makes the experience all the more surreal, and I’d really hate to see that go by the wayside just because publishers and console manufacturers aren’t squeezing every last penny out of you. Maybe I’m an “old school” gamer (shit, I’m only 28) but when I was given an original NES brand new back in the late 80’s as a Christmas present, since then, I have always enjoyed going to video game stores to buy the latest title or trade-in my old, played out games for something new. If EA’s digital download only format takes hold and the console developers abandon the disc/cartridge/flash card WHATEVER medium for their games, I will truly be disappointed. Game shops will be a thing of the past, being able to borrow your friends copy of that $70 new release so you can judge if it’s worth your hard earned cash will
be a thing of the past.

Sure, there are advantages to digital only downloads. The pro’s obviously being low publishing costs for both developer and publisher which means more games and DLC being released, more indie developers will surely release awesome games having a great platform for their medium and gamers in
remote areas will be able to get their game immediately instead of traveling to a shop (or just very inpatient people for that matter). But for every PRO their is a serious disadvantage:

You will NEED internet access for your console if you want to buy or even play any games for that matter. In these times of economic hardship, not everyone
can afford broadband internet access.

If you’re paying 50-70 bucks for a day-1 digital release which cost the
same amount as a hard copy of a game,  then what’s my initiative to purchase the digital format of the game when I can own the hard copy forever or resell it if I choose to?

EA has already begun the transition, in a way. Several EA titles I have purchased used require the the use of an “Online Pass” to activate your title so it can be played online. If your pass has already been activated or the used title you purchased is missing the Online Pass, then you’re shit out of luck. Good thing my local game shop sells these online passes for $10 a pop if you are one of the unfortunate ones who are without this “feature” (EA touts the online pass as a “bonus” in the description on the back of the game case). I don’t recall having to pay an extra fee to play online with friends as a “feature” or a “bonus”
for all my other games.

I sincerely don’t see why the current format can’t co-exist with the digital format. Is the game industry going to become so controlling that everything we purchase for next-gen consoles requires a high-speed internet connection to monitor how many installs we have used or counts down how many activations have been initiated per title? Like it or not, this could very well be what’s in store for the next-generation of console gamers.

And btw, I am aware of the hipocracy of using a digital format to decry the future of digital game control so don’t bother pointing that out.

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