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The next generation of game consoles from Sony (PlayStation 4) and Microsoft (Xbox One) isn't just about the hardware, it's equal parts software and whether or not the gaming industry as a whole is ready to transition to a digital distribution model. For the most part, the transition is mostly complete on the PC side thanks to services like Steam, and had Microsoft stuck to its guns, the Xbox One would have leaned much more heavily on digital downloads than physical media. As for Sony, it wasn't even a consideration, because gamers simply don't want to buy games online, the company says.
"What we try to do is offer a relatively level playing field and let the gamers decide. We're not trying to advantage them, we believe in consumer choice," Sony SVP Guy Longworth told GamesIndustry International. "It's clear that the vast majority of people want to go down to GameStop or Best Buy, they don't want to buy it online right now. I think physical games will be around a lot longer than some people think."
Longworth isn't incorrect, but it's also only the half truth. As PC gamers have proven, digital downloads are perfectly acceptable, especially when they lead to lower priced titles across the board and frequent sales, as Steam is known to hold. It's not uncommon for a triple-A title to receive a deep discount on Steam, and if the same pricing structure was in place for the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, would gamers be so quick to pay a premium for physical media? Probably not.
The other issue is DRM. Microsoft's original strategy was doomed from the start because the company wanted its console to dial home every 24 hours. In reality, it's the same general concept as logging into Steam when you want to play a game, only the Xbox One would log in automatically every 24 hours. Even so, the idea creeped out gamers, perhaps rightfully so when things like PRISM come to light.
What's your opinion on all this? More specifically, if Sony or Microsoft switched to a Steam-like model where you could download games at a cheaper rate and would only need to log in when you're getting ready to play a title (versus automatically every 24 hours), would you have a problem with that, or is Sony correct in thinking that gamers simply don't want to buy games online?