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Atari: Next gen will eschew physical media

Atari: Next gen will eschew physical media

Physical media may be on the way out, warns Atari's Phil Harrison who sees digital sales taking over soon.

Atari's Phil Harrison is a man with his finger on the pulse and, although his former employer Sony is still pushing Blu-Ray heavily, Harrison thinks that the next generation of consumers will abandon physical media entirely.

Speaking to Edge Online, Harrison claimed that the future of the industry would lie in digital distribution almost solely.

There’s a generation of kids being born today and probably already alive who I’m pretty confident will never buy a physical media product," said Harrison. "They will never buy a DVD, they will never buy a CD, and they will never buy a game in a box.

With this in mind Harrison, who recently left Sony to take a senior position at Atari, has started moving the company to fit in with this idea. The publisher/developer is now increasingly focusing efforts on online games and digital distribution.

Former Electronic Arts executive David Gardner even claims that 90 percent of Atari's games will be published online within five years - though we hope that comes in a more reliable and friendly form than EA Store, frankly.

With digital sales through services like Direct2Drive, Steam, Metaboli and GameTap becoming ever popular Harrison may be right on the money with his prediction. We wouldn't go so far as to say that physical media will be eliminated within a generation or two, but it's presence will be severely reduced for sure.

What do you think about buying games online? Do you prefer a quick download, or a physical copy of the game and box? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

30 Comments

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Silver51 5th December 2008, 12:22 Quote
Perhaps in the future, but in the UK, our broadband is still poor compared to the rest of the world (Japan.) We still have limited bandwidth, download caps, connection downtime and throttling.

I love Steam, but was a little concerned after downloading Left4Dead's 7 odd gigabytes that BT might get all upset and throttle our connection.
naokaji 5th December 2008, 12:33 Quote
Optical media will not die out until we get proper internet connections.
shigllgetcha 5th December 2008, 12:38 Quote
ill be glad not to have disks anymore
LeMaltor 5th December 2008, 12:41 Quote
These are the guys releasing a DVD version of EVE, a game you can download......

DD is great, but not with my capped connection (thx Virgin) :s
Flibblebot 5th December 2008, 12:55 Quote
I don't know, there's something about getting a physical disc in your hand combined with the fact that for better games, I prefer to get the special edition version (I know, I'm just a marketing whore!)

And like everyone else, I'd really rather not have to download all my games thank you very much - especially when PS3 games start filling a whole Blu-Ray disc, like MGS4 allegedly did. I'd rather not have to wait to download 25Gb of data.

The reason that music downloads have been so successful is that a whole album can be downloaded as MP3 files of a couple of hundred megabytes, tops. That kind of file size is acceptable, because the download is very quick with today's broadband speeds.

The model falls down with games, because that speed of access is reduced hugely. A few minutes for an album is OK, a few hours (days, even) is not. If I buy a game, I want to play it now.

Factor in the fact that all the games will have to be stored on a hard disk, and the next generation of consoles will need to come with multiple terabyte HDDs just to store the downloaded games.

Nice idea in theory, horrible idea in practice.
robyholmes 5th December 2008, 13:23 Quote
Why not store them in SD cards, they are getting a lot cheaper now, and most PC's would be able to use them. Maybe not in the near future but I'm sure they will be using some flash media, as internet isn't going to get much faster that soon!
bbshammo 5th December 2008, 13:31 Quote
Totally agree with the comments about the great idea in "theory" but totally gimped due to this country's pathetic broadband performance.

I'm living in one of the UK's top five cities and can only get a 768kbps connection, IN 2008 NO LESS!!!

It's beyond a joke and reflective of just how poor our little country is at making change.

As for the concept of DD's instead of physical media, right on!

Absolutely loving STEAM but don't necessarily feel that other DD services from others will be anywhere near as good.

To get an idea of the variation in service and format, just look as TV DD services and compare the likes of BBC's i-Player, 4oD, and ITV Catchup.

All vary hugely, but the only one that ticks all boxes constantly is the BBC's because one can argue that due to whatever reasons, they're totally consumer oriented.

The same goes for Valve and I think it's because of this that their service is so good, rather than simply assuming that the concept of DD's being solely responsible for their success.

The Atari's and EA's of our world are little more than cash hungry accountants to me, as demonstrated by countless offerings and their subsequent delivery, and support.

This won't change when these companies come on to the DD bandwagon.

They'll still release broken software, dishonour support, tie up our freedom and try and charge for things that have never been paid for previously, and give as little as possible in return.

Basically, poor business practise won't go away due to their chosen supply channel, and this is infinitely more important than how you make a product available.

To sum up; I think that Atari's and EA's see only two benefits to DD, piracy protection and cost reduction. I doubt very much that they see it as a tool for improving service and value to us.

It's little more to them than a cost-cutting and risk reduction tool.
Evildead666 5th December 2008, 14:38 Quote
I've been using steam for quite some time now, and I love the fact that i don't scratch my CD's or DVD's anymore....or lose them.

BUT, if DRM is going to creep even into Download models, then why are we bothering ?
I understood steam was supposed to be DRM free, since you have an account and log into it....

I have suspended all my future steam purchases until i'm sure i'm not getting what I don't want...
Blademrk 5th December 2008, 14:41 Quote
Give me a disk and a box to keep on my shelf any day of the week. DD is fine for small games (see XBLA) but once that starts creeping into the muliple-GB range we're looking at a storage problem.
Denis_iii 5th December 2008, 15:01 Quote
Steam is great! Atari should just use Valves framework and have no bother! Valve needs to get in on the console action with a client though. But BT needs to start rolling out Fibre far faster then its currently doing and Virgin needs to get there act together because this throttling pisses me off but what really gets me is the apalling latency in the evenings making online gaming impossible between 5pm and 10pm.
mctigger 5th December 2008, 15:08 Quote
Great idea in theory as mentioned above!

But the storage requirements and the D/L time is a major factor!

With BT currently upgrading its current network to thier 21CN network, which is going to take around 10 years i think, which is not going to reduce speed to something that would allow you download a 20GB game in a couple hours, then the issue of throttling, caps, what if the games are distributed by a legal means of torrent software or some new derivavtive (sp?) and your isp says hold on a second, thats alot of torrent trafic, we are going to cut your connection.....

Then the storage requirements, as mentioned games filling up whole blu-ray discs, 25Gb for a single sided, what about us poor sods who can only afford small hard drives? where you can only fit on a few games?

but then there is still the satisfaction of having some physical in you r hand when you hand over 30 quid. :)
Joeymac 5th December 2008, 17:33 Quote
BT's 21CN is a joke. All it is is going from ADSL to ADSL2+. I've got that already, I went from 3Mbits/400Kbits to 5.5Mbits/1Mbits... not exactly going to rock the world is it.
If you get 1-2Mbits on a theoretical 8bmits. ADSL 2+ will give you about 1 extra Mbits... that's it.
BT's idea of 21st Century Network is every other countries idea of a 20th century network. They were too cheap to go for VDSL (52Mbits), which France and other parts of Europe have had for years... They've all now moved on to VDSL2+ which is up to 100Mbits.
Nikumba 5th December 2008, 17:33 Quote
I love downloading game purchases, apart from 360 games, the only PC gmae I bought on a disc was RA3, everyting else is on Steam.

Of course I am blessed with a line that lets me download at 1.5 megabytes/sec :)

You can winge at BT for dragging their heels on the fibre rollout but you should blame OFCOM. BT wanted to roll out fibre several years back, but were told, they would be forced to hand parts over to allow fair competition, so why should BT spend the multi-billion pounds of investment if going to be forceed to just hand it over?

What should have happned with BT, like what has happened with Gas, water is a company like Transco, who own the lines/pipes and rent it to companies.

You get the govement to give a chunk of cash to BT, to buy the infrastructure off them, and do it that way.

KImbie
Zut 5th December 2008, 20:05 Quote
I'd far FAR rather own a physical copy, regardless of download speed.
Bluephoenix 5th December 2008, 20:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by naokaji
Optical media will not die out until we get proper internet connections.

+1
sui_winbolo 6th December 2008, 08:13 Quote
Hmm. This guy does not know much about distribution. Not saying I do, but there's a huge problem with digital media distribution. Such as download time, lack of high speed internet, payment options, storage space. Plus a lot of consumers will rather have a physical disk then something that solely exists on their media device.
notatoad 6th December 2008, 09:11 Quote
digital distribution is definitely the way of the future. the pirates are already doing it, it's only a matter of time before the industry catches up.
r4tch3t 6th December 2008, 12:13 Quote
Hmm most people are saying it would be fine if their internet connection was fast enough. I personally haven't bought a physical game in years. The only games I buy are from Steam, I live in New Zealand with a 10Mbit capped connection. The speed of the connection is not really that much of an issue for me. I don't mind if it takes a day or so to get it. The ISPs just need to stop capping us so low.
For me I do like the special editions and some games that are not on steam, but I find that I just don't play those games much. It's so much easier just to open up steam and look at your games to see what to play. Combined with the streamlined updating system I never have to worry about the latest patch or anything.
I have been off physical media for ~2-3 years now.
airchie 6th December 2008, 13:19 Quote
I can't believe people are citing storage space as a concern.
Do they realise you can buy a 1TB HDD for £80??

Internet speeds are a concern but remember we're not talking about going 100% DD any time soon.

DRM etc on the other hand is a major concern.
Someone already said that companies won't see it as an opportunity to make thing better for the consumer, rather a way to cut costs and make higher profits for less work.

If they somehow managed to stop piracy but didn't make their products and services any more appealing to consumers, they'd be in for a massive surprise as their income didn't increase at all.
StephenK 6th December 2008, 14:27 Quote
I think there will be a physical element of pop media culture for a while. Kids may buy the album or movie in mp3 and avi and never own a physical product but I wonder if they will get pdfs with the purchases and print them out to stick on their walls. I guess if wall computers ever become common place, maybe they'll just stick gifs up around their room ;)

I wonder what a teenage bedroom will look like when it doesnt have the physical dvd, cd, book and videogame 'collections'.
Rain 6th December 2008, 15:12 Quote
There are 2 ideas that i have towards the downloading of games:

1) Due to internet caps etc they could just have self serving Vending Machines in supermarkets or the like were you just pay an extra couple of quid to get a game burnt onto a DVD in minutes.

2) The likes of Steam and Microsoft Xbox Live should introduce a Market Place for people to sell off there old games that they no longer want. This could be a very good idea due to you would have to buy credits first to purchase a 2nd hand game, and the seller wouldnt actually get money but get credits instead - hence forcing them to buy another game. I cant see that anyone would loose out.

I used steam since Half Life 2 came out and i think it is a great way to get games, i also like to have game boxes on my shelf, but they gather dust and to play a single player game you always have to go and get the bloody disc to stick into your drive to prove you own the game, not with a downloaded version

.
Fod 6th December 2008, 16:30 Quote
disk space: we're talking at least four year away, people. by then you'll be picking up 2TB laptop drives for £50.

internet speeds: downloaded games don't need to be delivered in one massive chunk. the technology is there to enable you to download parts of games as you need, spreading the download over a much longer period of time, yet letting you play sooner. combine this with techniques such as the ones virgin media are using for iPlayer (locally hosting content on their own backbone to limit the impact on their links to the WWW, which is where the bulk of the stress lies), and it's more than feasible.

DRM: as long as they take a leaf from Steam things should be fine.

those of you complaining about terrible internet in the UK need to wake up. we're one of the leading countries in the _world_ for network infrastructure development. Seriously, there are about 2 countries that are better.
kaligura 6th December 2008, 17:51 Quote
how about streaming games? you could download the first two gigabyte for example and while you play the rest is downloaded..could work?!
Fod 6th December 2008, 18:03 Quote
i see the tradition of reading a thread before posting has become unfashionable
kaligura 6th December 2008, 18:42 Quote
yes i see that too
DriftCarl 7th December 2008, 12:06 Quote
I think it is quite accurate.
I havnt bought any physical media for a long time, the few albums I do get are from itunes and my last few games, GTA4, HL2 series, WoW expansions have all been digital downloads.
Same with movies too and tv shows too.
If you are looking for a job that you expect to be in for 2 or 3 years, I wouldnt look for one at an entertainment store.
Silver51 7th December 2008, 18:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by StephenK
...I wonder what a teenage bedroom will look like when it doesnt have the physical dvd, cd, book and videogame 'collections'.

In the future we will have OLED walls. A teenager's bedroom will have more animated gifs, pointless flash apps and emo self-photos than the whole of myspace and bebo put together. I pray the zombie apocalypse happens before this.
Krog_Mod 7th December 2008, 22:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver51
In the future we will have OLED walls. A teenager's bedroom will have more animated gifs, pointless flash apps and emo self-photos than the whole of myspace and bebo put together. I pray the zombie apocalypse happens before this.

In which case the emo self-photos will be replaced with emo zombie-headshot gifs.
cjmUK 8th December 2008, 12:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain
2) The likes of Steam and Microsoft Xbox Live should introduce a Market Place for people to sell off there old games that they no longer want. This could be a very good idea due to you would have to buy credits first to purchase a 2nd hand game, and the seller wouldnt actually get money but get credits instead - hence forcing them to buy another game. I cant see that anyone would loose out.

A better idea than the eventual reality.

Digital distribution will make pirating more inconvenient (but probably won't stop it) but more importantly, it will cripple the 2nd-hand market, which lots of publishers have already confessed to viewing along similar lines as piracy. I suspect we are going to need legislation to stop it, and personally, I think it is unlikely this will happen.

So I expect we can all look forward to gaming becoming ever more expensive...
Kinder 8th December 2008, 13:47 Quote
I have also been downloading from steam for a long time with no problem until recently when I got Left4Dead on DVD delivered for cheaper than I could have got it from steam (the makers of the game).

Steam should have the accounts tailored to the location of the user then -
1) Use local currency
2) Remain competitive in price with the physical copy's of the games.
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