Upcoming launches of new consoles and the future of games distribution

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With more and more data stored in the cloud, digital natives are nowadays used to work with “invisible data” that does not require to be saved on physical devices. That also means that most of them do not use actual physical DVDs or CDs anymore. At the same time, gamers who own a PlayStation or an Xbox spend a lot of money on games they still need to buy on physical devices. There have been many discussions about whether this is a sustainable model. Consumers of computer games can nowadays purchase their games online and this is not only cheaper but it also makes sense from an environmental point of view. Thus, a question that remains to be answered is if this model is also applicable in the realm of consoles.

With regards to this question, MCV recently reported that David Darling, the head of the mobile games developer Kwalee, made the statement according to which console producers Sony and Microsoft do not only need to consider this option – they rather need to act swiftly. Darling attracted enormous attention by warning the producers of PlayStation4 and Xbox 720 of the danger game retailers pose to the success of their consoles. He claims that physical media are losing importance and that the future belonged to the digital purchase of games. Moreover, he stresses that “if hardware manufacturers such as Sony and Microsoft do not manage this transition soon, they will be overtaken and left behind by companies who are embracing digital distribution wholly and completely”. Not everyone agrees to these claims. The Escapist and other media stressed that Darling might have a point in stressing the need to focus on digital ways of distribution. However, they also claim that Darling’s statement was rather very alarmist and not very helpful in the current discussion – and that it might only have helped him attracting more attention.

So, who is right here? Probably both sides have a point. Even though digital solutions are always cheaper, there is no sign that consumers are currently rejecting the model according to which they pay up to 60 $ for Xbox or PS3 games. Some do not even hesitate to buy each new version of the PlayStation console. Moreover, at this very moment, both companies heavily rely on the retailers. Thus, PlayStationLifeStyle is right in stressing that both Sony and Microsoft have an interest in maintaining a positive relationship with them. Therefore, Darling’s assumption that a natural hostility between both sides should exist by now, is wrong.

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