Kingdom Hearts 3

The day of the download-only video game marketplace may be nigh

Contributed by
Jun 26, 2018

Amid a video game marketplace loaded with pre-launch bundles, collector’s editions, game-of-the-year editions, and steelbooks, it’s hard for many avid gamers to envision a time when physical media falls completely away, leaving digital downloads as the go-to way to play the next much-anticipated title on their lists. 

But that’s exactly where we’re headed, and soon, according to the market analysts at Piper Jaffray. A new report from the financial firm predicts that gaming’s shift to a download-only model could be complete as soon as 2022. 

Via Wccftech, the report envisions the contracting market for disc-based physical gaming media will have shrunk enough over the course of the next three years that nearly 100 percent of revenues from the sale of new games will come from downloads. 

“We believe it is a certainty that video games will be 100% digital in the coming years, and while exact timing is hard to pinpoint, we think 2022 is a realistic expectation,” the report states. Sweetening the deal for game publishers is the eliminated overhead that would accompany the reduction in producing and delivering physical media, giving each digital transaction a far higher profit margin over its disc-based counterpart.

The rise of subscription-based gaming services may also play a role in the accelerated shift to a digital marketplace. “With ongoing datacenter build-outs and improving internet speeds, streaming games from the cloud could be a commercial reality within 2-3 years,” the report predicts.

The move to a digital marketplace already appears to be on game retailers’ radar. Gaming retail giant GameStop, fresh off the announcement that it’s test-marketing an expansion of its entertainment offerings beyond just games and related merchandise, has reportedly been courting buyout offers, as more and more former customers trend toward purchasing new games without ever setting foot in a store. 

Are you among the gamers who prefers to have a physical artifact — that is, the game disc and the artfully designed box it came in — of your favorite games? If so, do you think the day ever will come when you can’t get your hands on a physical copy of forthcoming AAA titles like Kingdom Hearts 3, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Death Stranding, or The Elder Scrolls VI? Let us know in the comments if your predictions align with this report.