To Digital or Not To Digital – Musings on Mediums

The buzz around the internet today regarding Xbox One and PS4 has me thinking more about this new age of downloading. It’s quickly becoming the prefered medium to obtain entertainment and tools. Just last week I downloaded  several ebooks to read on my Nexus 7, my prefered reading platform. On Saturday I streamed 3 new albums to my Galaxy Nexus via Google Play Music All Access while I mowing the lawn (by the way, the new August Burns Red is awesome). And in the last week, I’ve watched a ton of new stuff via Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other options.

The last time I bought a CD was sometime in 2009. The last time I bought a film on disc was a year before that. I still buy physical books, but only reference pieces that I want on the shelf. And many of those I have digital forms that are searchable, which I honestly use more often.

Microwaved-DVDSo today I’m thinking about all this as it relates to video games. I love video games. I’ve been playing the for close to 30 years now. I’ve had floppies, carts, CDs, DVDs and now… digital downloads of games I’ve loved to play. So what does the future hold for video games in relation to the trends we’re seeing in music, movies and books?

I believe the future of digital is download. Who likes going to the store to buy a piece of digital content stored on a disc, when you can download it while you make a sandwich? Especially if you can purchase it for less than the hard copy available at the retailer? The last time I was at my local Gamestop they were terribly understaffed and overstocked with junk games. It really wasn’t a very pleasant experience overall. Who wants to deal with that?

And the trends of the digital age are easily tracked. Nearly 3 years ago CNet was commenting on the trend in regards to PC games. And it hasn’t slowed down.

Just look at the promotional material after the PS4 reveal. How many clips show people going to the store to buy a game? None. They’re all using their devices to download.  And Xbox is offering all their titles with digital download options as well as some disc based options (both systems have chosen to go with Blu-ray as their physical media of choice). But they’re both touting the age of downloads. And that’s because it’s the way of the future.

But some may ask, what about “ownership.” Disc ownership is something that Sony mentioned was a benefit to the new Playstation. The reality is that people don’t really care anymore. The trends of “ownership” to licensed content is obvious, especially in the age of Netflix and Spotify. Millennials especially don’t really care about the ownership of things, they just want the easy access. Apple sought to provide this with the introduction of iTunes Radio on Monday and to compete with Spotify and Google’s All Access. No ownership here, just convenient access… for a fee.

I actually think Microsoft is seeing this trend. They’re making ways to actually share and trade digital content on the new Xbox One (if the publisher allows it), something you can’t do many other places and nowhere in video games. That’s actually a more liberal approach to digital content than we’ve ever seen on a console before. Trade and sell digital downloads? Amazing! While the method may not be perfect, I think they’ve thought about this a lot more than they’re getting credit for.

Whether the next generation of consoles can keep up with the digital trends or not remains to be seen. Either way it appears that the medium shift is in full swing, and here to stay. Hopefully, the consumer comes out on top.

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