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Four Years Until Digital-Only Gaming? We Doubt It

We’re usually not ones to touch on financial analysis here at PCU. It’s just not our bag, baby. However, something came to our attention on Wednesday, which we just couldn’t ignore – because we’ve talked a bit about it before.

An article on talked about a recent revelation by American investment bank as asset management firm Piper Jaffray, in which they stated their beliefs that gaming could become a completely digital thing by the year 2022. That’s right: just four years from now.

It’s true that we’ve seen more and more content going digital, and the Xbox Store and PSN store gain a lot of traction in recent years. This chart shows the changes in delivery method between retail and digital sales from 2009 through 2017, and the numbers speak for themselves.

Digital vs Retail gaming 2017

Chart from

This shift is very telling, and the analysts at Piper Jaffray have said that they feel that it’s “a certainty”. Still, there are some out there (like me) who find this highly unlikely. For gaming to go 100% digital in just four years from now seem unrealistic. A lot would have to change in order for that to happen, and it’s not like those changes can be done quickly. So, let’s examine why.

First, like I recently talked about in this article last week, there are still areas out there (even in this day and age) where stable internet connections are not really a thing that exists, but gamers are everywhere. That means that people will still need physical stores to go to, and the actual physical media in order to enjoy the games that we all love.

PSN Store

The PSN Store

XBox Store

The Xbox Store


Second, what would happen to all of those people whose jobs it is to make the physical discs, cases, and artwork that go into the media itself? Would they have to find new jobs? Would they be trained in how to make other types of media? Would they just be left up s**t creek without a paddle? There’s a lot to consider there.

Third, look at how long it takes to actually make a decent game. Many of the titles we love have taken years to develop. To put this in perspective, development on Assassins Creed Origins began in early 2014, and wasn’t officially released to the public until October of 2017. When you consider that game developers are almost constantly working on games, it makes one wonder what types of changes would have to be made to all of the titles currently in development in order to release them in a digital-only format. The adage, “Time is money” really holds true here, and it would most likely cost these developers a lot of money to make such a substantial shift in the way they code and produce our favorite games.

Doesn’t seem very likely that all of this could be done in just four years, does it?

Now, we’ve also talked in the past about where we think this potential digitization of gaming will take us. While our version of a digital gaming future might be a bit of a far-off pipe dream, it could still mean that those in the aforementioned areas without good internet would still be able to get their hands on the newest titles without too much trouble. Still, that’s also not a quick change, and that kind of rollout of technology would definitely not be without its share of problems. After all, we’ve all seen what happens when things don’t properly go through a good quality assurance check, and we CERTAINLY don’t want another Assassins Creed Unity debacle on our hands.


Rushing digital media has its consequences

Still, we’ve all seen how fast technology tends to move and advance. We also don’t really know what’s coming down the pipeline from companies like Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo. For all we know, they could already have ideas in development for consoles that don’t take any physical media at all. They would save money on overhead by not having to have the discs and cases made, after all. That being said, however, it still seems like a bit of a stretch to say that we’ll see something like that anytime very soon.

On a more personal note, I’m kind of old school when it comes to the media I enjoy. I only recently got back into streaming TV and movies, I still own CDs, and I don’t own any kind of e-reader. I’m also a big fan of cover art on game cases, and really think that I would miss it if I didn’t see it without having to power on my console or my laptop. So, I’m really hoping that Piper Jaffray is off the mark on this whole thing.

As one of my colleagues recently commented, “I’ll believe that [games will go digital-only] when music stores are gone. Maybe the big chains have trimmed back, but you still have CD stores around; Hell, you still have RECORD stores out there (with new stock). People won’t want to get rid of the physical thing, and there will always be a market for it, no matter how limited”. I would agree with this notion. There’s really just something to be said for having that physical game disc in your hands, and being able to see the case on your shelf. I mean, really… What gamer doesn’t like to display their game collection for all to see?

So, dear readers, we would love to hear your thoughts on this new supposed timeline for digital-only gaming. Do you think four years is realistic? Do you think that’s too soon? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

About Doug T. (491 Articles)
A lifelong gamer, disabilities advocate, avowed geek, and serious foodie. Doug was born in South America, currently resides in Northern VA, and spends the majority of his time indulging in his current passions of gaming & food, while making sure not to take life or himself too seriously.
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