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The current streaming model still presents a number of points where players run into walls: registration, downloading, installation and patching. Each of these factors discourages potential players. Plus, free-to-play games usually look terrible. Streaming services mean to solve all of these problems at once. Since all of the installation and updating takes place server-side, you'd never have to install another game. The last few impediments to streaming games would disappear, and content would attain the level of the highest quality disc-based games.
"We're still waiting for that one great game, but when it comes, you're going to see all videogame investments swing to free-to-play," says Perry.
Streaming services will present game-makers with challenges of plenitude. Console makers have to face challenges of scarcity.
"It's going to be very hard to convince players they have to keep buying a completely new console and that all of the games that they currently have are about to become redundant," says Perry. Consoles are paragons of planned obsolescence. Do they deserve to be destroyed?
Think of all those guys down at the disc factory or all of the good folks who scrape off whatever it is that burns up in your 360 after a Red Ring of Death. The crashing of the console industry would have huge consequences - nothing on the order of the collapse of General Motors, but a similar shockwave will blast through the supply chain. You may never again hear a GameStop employee tell you that you should have pre-ordered a game released last week.
Let's set aside our tears for consoles and focus on the big boys for the moment. Perry and Urbach think Sony and Microsoft may hang around. "I think the console manufacturers all have to stream at some point," says Perry. "I think it's a certainty." What remains uncertain is how long they'll resist this change and what form they'll take when they give in.
OnLive's MicroConsole provides a good example of where the Big Three may be headed. "There still is a piece of hardware at the end rendering this stuff that's streaming from the server," says Urbach. "You might see a PlayStation 4 that's super cheap and is just a great way of streaming content." The hardware could even take a form invisible to the average consumer. "You may see it reduced to a chip that goes into every possible device out there," he says. "It's what's happened with music, and it's happening with video and television. And you're going to see it happen with games."
"Just because CDs went away doesn't mean that there's no music players sold," he says.
Manufacturers can take small comfort in the thought that they can still produce some manner of object for sale. But players are looking at a future of zero media, in which streaming dissolves their games into the ether.