Gamestop And The Future of Physical Games

Discs are causing me a problem.

Since the beginning of this console generation, I have begun to purchase the majority of my games digitally. With Rock Band 4’s impending release next week I have a problem. I need the wireless adapter for my Xbox One. I need a guitar (I only have one wireless guitar from the previous Rock Band set), and of course, I need the game. The problem is that the only way to buy a guitar at launch includes the software. I spoke to somebody from Harmonix at Twitchcon this past weekend and confirmed instruments will not be available by themselves until early 2016. This leaves me with two options. Wait 3+ months to have a full band setup or (shudder) buy a physical game disc.

Recently Gamestop CEO Paul Raines spoke with Fortune and while he believes that physical games will always by some part, however small, of the eco-system he does realize that digital games are the future.  Raines specifies that “disc-based games will be around forever” but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he just means physical game media. A recent patent filing, which may or may not be the new NX console, from Nintendo shows a game console that only includes a memory card slot. No disc drive whatsoever. It’s a safe bet that games will continue to exist in a tangible form, but to be certain they will continue to exist as discs is a bit of a longer shot.

It’s no secret that the shift to digital games distribution is problematic for Gamestop and other retailers. While they have adapted by selling digital content as well, the bulk of their sales are still based on the used games market, an area that will only shrink as people purchase their games digitally.

At this point, thanks to Steam,  PC gaming seems like it’s gone almost entirely digital. Consoles may never get quite there, their user base is wider so they may not be as comfortable as quickly with only buying games online. At the same time, if a console maker did shift to an online-only platform, would it really take consumers that long to figure it out?

How do you purchase your console games? Would you go online-only if that was the only option?

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