You bet your sweet ass we do! GameStop CEO J. Paul Raines isn’t as big an idiot as most of you might think. Yea, sometimes he comes off as a bullish douche on certain things, but, realistically, the man does have some sense. “The world won’t be all digital tomorrow,” Raines told TheStreet.com in a recent interview, “even though that’s what people are claiming. In this business, users still want physical content.” And why wouldn’t we? Owning physical copies of games gives us a much bigger sense of security, and also allows gamers the freedom to do things like lend, borrow, smash, microwave, or Frisbee their games — it gives them choice. However, although Raines has his mind made up regarding the digital content thing, has has given on initiative that GameStop has loosely detailed in the past: a new in-store download option, which comes from a partnership with Microsoft.
Over the past few years, there has been an increase in digital distribution. NPD recently reported that there is an indication of a closing disparity gap between retail and digitally distributed PC games. Although this is true, one has to also consider that these digital purchases usually tend to be made on Valve’s successful Steam service, which stores your purchased information on a separate server (which then allows you install locally to your PC from their servers). Consoles do offer a similar service, though. But the difference between console games and PC games is that PC games tend to have a registration key which limits the “lending” option to a friend (considering that, in order to get online, you’ll need to register). Consoles offer slightly more freedom in this regard. You aren’t limited by keys, downloads, etc. when you own a physical copy of a console game – that’s the difference.
There’s no doubt that digital distribution will slowly make its way and, maybe, replace physical media. As long as there are people, though, that enjoy collecting – and that’s tons – I’m pretty sure that it won’t take place as soon as most think.