Though it may be years off, the death of the disc-based model for video games is inevitable, says EA Sports president Peter Moore, and companies must prepare for a digital-only world or risk the same fate.
"Look at the platform we're on, it's a burning platform," said Moore on a recent panel at the PLAY Digital Media Conference, as reported by consumer site IGN
. "As a concept, do you stay on the platform and face certain death, or do you jump into the water and face probable death? Most of you would choose probable death, so you start moving towards a hybrid model of digital distribution."
So are video game consoles themselves as we know them on the way out? "I'd say the core business model of video games is a burning platform. Absolutely," Moore reiterated. "We all recognize that, and we'll recognize it 10 years from now when we tell our grandkids."
"We'll tell them we used to drive to the store to get shiny discs that have bits and bites on them and we'd place them in this thing called a 'disc tray,' and it'd whirl around…and they'll go 'What?'"
EA, however, currently ships 125-130 million discs per year, Moore said, hence the "hybrid" in the ideal vision for the present. Most publishers are cautious about alienating key retail partners by too eagerly embracing an all-digital model, and the economic reality is that most of the revenue still lies in packaged goods.
Cloud computing services such as OnLive and Gaikai could change things, however. "As digital distribution becomes more and more, we'll continue as an industry to work with retail and to ship discs, but more and more of the content will be in the 'cloud,'" Moore said. "More content will be delivered daily, weekly, or monthly, and less will be of the old model of cartridges and discs."
According to IGN's report, Moore pegs Microsoft as the first among the Big Three to launch an entirely digital gaming console when the time comes -- referring, apparently, to home consoles, as Sony has already made the digital-only move with the PSP Go.
"As an industry, I still think we may be as many as a decade away from saying goodbye to physical discs," Moore added. "The important question is, what does the next console look like? Does it actually have a disc drive?"