Microsoft announced a pretty major shift recently but what does this really mean for the future of video games?
Some people, those who believed in the all digital future, are very upset right now. Microsoft has caved into the demands of gamers around the world who cried foul at their draconian treatment of the physical disk. Executives gathered into their bubble and made the mistake of assuming that everyone wanted an all digital future and payed dearly for it at E3.
The strange thing is that Microsoft might have been able to lube the friction if they approached this all digital future from a very small shift in their sales pitch. Everything that Microsoft had to offer in their all digital future was admittedly very intriguing. I can understand why the digital evangelists were so upset by Microsoft's reversal, but there is still hope. What could they have done to turn that frown upside down? Sell the disk for $0.99...
The problem I feel that most people have is attaching a quantifiable value (rightfully so) to a physical product that is encroaching the price of the hardware that is used to play it. When you are holding something in your hand that cost you $0.99, your perception of it's physical value is greatly diminished from that same object that is $60. I'm not implying that console games sell for $0.99 I am simply implying that this tiny purchase would have been a convenience tool for those who may have limited data plans but can still muster enough internet access (even if via tethered phone) to activate the game and make the $59.99 purchase. It also would have eliminated the need for the 24 hour checks considering used game resells, trading, and loaning would happen within the LIVE ecosystem and not GameStop. Here let me put my PR cap on (molded from construction paper in the shape of a captain's hat).
"We here at Microsoft understand that your bandwidth is limited and extremely valuable to you. As a convenience to you, we are selling pre-downloaded data disks at your local retailer. These $0.99 disks will allow you to purchase the full game through our Xbox LIVE service without having to wait for the download. We understand that the highly advanced games on Xbox One can grow to sizes of 50GB or more and this pre-downloaded data disk is a great way to save you time and money for those with limited broadband service." - Slick PR Guy
Separating the license from the data would have been great, and can still be a great option for those who want the all digital future, even if they can't afford it right now. Microsoft doesn't have to give up on their all digital dreams, they just have to change their approach.
Even though Microsoft has announced that they are stepping back from their hard push to digital, this is still an option. They can still have the $1 digital version (with a sticker notice) sit next to the $60 physical version and let the consumer choose.