Id's Carmack Positive Digital Distribution Will Destroy Retail

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Id's Carmack Positive Digital Distribution Will Destroy Retail

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According to the co-founder of id Software, digital distribution will take over the videogame industry for sure.

Over the years, co-founder and current technical director of id Software John Carmack has been a pioneer of videogame engine technology. Using his pioneering vision, John Carmack recently said he feels there is no doubt that digital distribution will take over the industry, cutting out traditional retail for good.

Speaking to the Telegraph about developing the iPhone version of id's Rage, Carmack said he prefers platforms like the iPhone/iPad over the DS and PSP because of product distribution. To Carmack, the App Store and other digital platforms are vastly preferable to traditional retail avenues.

"You know, I really, really like the App Store platform as far as being able to remove obstacles to getting your product out," Carmack said. "You don't have to cut deals with publishers. It's almost completely egalitarian on there."

He also likes that it's easier on platforms like the App Store to take feedback from consumers and update a product right away. He calls digital distribution "the wave of the future."

"Everybody knows that eventually [everything] will be digital distribution like this - it's only a question of time," Carmack added. "Clearly, packaged goods sales are still critical on the big platforms at this stage, but that's all going to go away sooner or later. This is the model of the future."

Brick-and-mortar retail outlets themselves are afraid of the possibility, with that fear perhaps growing recently due to increasing digital sales numbers. However, I've found myself wondering lately if digital distribution can ever really annihilate traditional retail as we know it.

Digital distribution will definitely become a new possibility for gamers to purchase product, and we know this because it already has with platforms like Steam dominating. As far as it taking over like Carmack predicts, I'm not so sure. After all, doesn't the average consumer still need a place to buy their consoles in the first place? Will the current retail outlets want to stock items that only sell digital products? Will the mainstream gamer that isn't aware of the inner-workings of the videogame industry be able to swap his/her purchasing habits to get rid of discs completely? It's a common thought pattern to say that the industry will go digital someday, but there are a lot of details that have to be worked out before that ever happens, making me think that retail outlets will always be around to keep a large portion of the industry's audience in the fold.

Source: Telegraph

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Not so sure. People will rage over it. Despite what dev's think, there are people that still want a hard copy of their games. Of course, if this means cutting out the middle man and selling games for half the price...then I could be persuaded that this is for the best.

EDIT: also, there are still many gamers not online or who's online is craptacular. I really don't see this happening in the foreseeable future. Just sayin'.

I for one want Digital Distribution to blow retail to pieces.
For one it will actually force internet companies to up their ante and provide better and better speeds, I mean seriously speeds have been somewhat throttled for way too long in some places unless you pay an absurd amount.

Second maybe then companies will finally give the consumers a break in price because they are cutting out the middle man that is retail/ packaging/ making copies.

Maybe it is just me, but it seems more and more of a hassle now a days to go out for a particular game or item and just having the rotten luck of not being able to find a copy. Stores often stock their gaming inventory terribly, don't carry titles older than a few months unless they are like AAA titles, and very often have any deals. Whereas you see the digital distributors like Steam or D2D always having some kind of deal.

Digital Distribution will never completely overtake Physical Media.

They can only compliment each other.

If the entire video game industry, and you must keep in mind that if video games go digital than most likely other forms of media would have gone down first (it's a big world out there, people), goes digital than I, for one, would be quite distraught.

I don't think enough people have stable connection with their internet, or even properly connected to the internet. I don't think people want to download 15GB (or higher, as games get bigger) on a 742kb download. And keep in mind, this doesn't soley effect PCs, what about consoles? What if I just want to play my single player game, all by myself, yet I have to wait for it to download everything on the internet and possibly stay connected as a form of DRM?

Digital Distribution will never completely overtake Physical Media.

They can only compliment each other.

Probably half the games I buy are digital, and it is cheaper too. No tax, no gas money, no shipping, and a lot of times they are on sale. So, I could go for digital only... better for storing games anyway, no need for discs...

It's interesting that most of the comments on the PC Gamer version of the article seems to boil down to "Rubbish!". Although the fact that the biggest nay-sayer on there is a regular on the GOG forums... Personally, I think it's a question of when rather than if, especially for PC games which are already well down that road (hasn't DD overtaken retail already?). Outside of Collector's Editions, of course.

Tom Goldman:
After all, doesn't the average consumer still need a place to buy their consoles in the first place? Will the current retail outlets want to stock items that only sell digital products?

Hands up people who purchased their console at a games shop? I got my 360 at the local Target because it was $40 cheaper then Gamestop for the same package. 20 years ago any "computer" store also games, now I rarely see anything beyond Windows and Office and maybe some AV on the shelves, it's all hardware, it seems to work for PC.

Dunno. All I can say is that I agree it will go down in terms of stuff-that-can-be-downloaded-too sold and all that. I remember buying games (physically) very regularly... until around 2008. When the ISP suddenly switched to fiber optic and/or removed download caps entirely. Not sure which came first, but the speed just jumped magnitudes and it ended up being more of a hassle to go to the store.

Also, given the cheapness of terabytes, why would I even need a separate disc for each piece-of-tiny-little-bit game? PCs FTW.

I have two qualms with that possibility.

1) Companies could very easily start charging you every time you play the game, like what the movie and music industry is pushing for.
2) Eventually, those servers are going to go down and there is nothing that says the distributor HAS to provide a means to play your games after the company goes under.

Steam shows the most promise as a digital distribution platform in price, accessibility and the fact you can burn your downloaded games straight to DVD. However, there is no certainty that other platforms will follow suit, and it continues to remove the idea that the game you purchased is "yours."

Jumplion:
Digital Distribution will never completely overtake Physical Media.

They can only compliment each other.

If the entire video game industry, and you must keep in mind that if video games go digital than most likely other forms of media would have gone down first (it's a big world out there, people), goes digital than I, for one, would be quite distraught.

I don't think enough people have stable connection with their internet, or even properly connected to the internet. I don't think people want to download 15GB (or higher, as games get bigger) on a 742kb download. And keep in mind, this doesn't soley effect PCs, what about consoles? What if I just want to play my single player game, all by myself, yet I have to wait for it to download everything on the internet and possibly stay connected as a form of DRM?

Digital Distribution will never completely overtake Physical Media.

They can only compliment each other.

in its current state maybe but you are forgetting that infrastructure and interconnectivity are improving in leaps and bounds, and whilst I beleive there will always be game shops in town it's going to move away from a situation where you can have 3 from one chain in a medium town (reading is my example i always facepalm about this).

Jumplion:
They can only compliment each other.

Physical Media: "Oh, hey, Digital Distribution, you look swell in that hat!"
DD: "Thanks, PM! Have you lost weight? You're looking good!"

(Sorry, I just had to do that. I get what you're saying, but the Grammar Nazi in me only laughs at this exchange. The word you're looking for is "complement.")


OT: I agree with Jumplion. Digital distribution seems like it will take over, but there are some serious hurdles to making that a reality, which is mainly Internet access. Not everyone has the bandwidth to utilize digital distribution effectively, and that's not going to change until we completely change the infrastructure for accessing the Internet and make it more widespread. Game size and data storage could also be a potential issue, especially for consoles, and definitely for people who have a limited download speed: why wait for three days for your game to download and then install when you can hop on down to your nearest retailer and start playing the game within the next hour or so?

There's also the issue of price. Digitally distributed games should theoretically be cheaper than their physical counterparts since they cut out costs associated with physical production, shipping, and retailer's cuts in exchange for the costs of maintaining a server.

There's also the issue of changing the ownership model of "games as a product" to "games as a service," the model that Valve currently uses. Digitally distributed games are no longer yours under a non-revocable consumer license, and those licenses can be revoked at any time (of course, it depends on the distributor to choose whether the games are a service or a product). For instance, getting your Steam account banned (and made inaccessible) results in the loss of all the games tied to that account. Want to play some more Team Fortress 2? Too bad! But we might change our mind if you give us twenty more US dollars to "purchase" the game again.

And then there's exactly what you can do with a piece of physical media. Sure, you can be banned from accessing certain components of the game (such as online multiplayer), but you would still have access to the game's other components. Not to mention that once you buy the game, it's yours to do whatever you want with (within legal limits). You can destroy it, sell it, trade it, give it away, caress it, experiment with it, store it on a shelf and forget about it for years. Not to mention the current business model of brick and mortar retailers that allow you to trade in old games for credit towards purchasing the latest title. Digital distribution has none of that.

Until the digital distribution model can adequately support these concerns, physical retailers are going to stay in business. There's also the argument that supporting both models increases the consumer base, and getting rid of one in favor of another would be akin to cutting off your left hand because the right one does all the work anyway.

I'm of the belief that it will be more relative to the PC than the console.

Firstly, the computer was is open to more platforms and their clients. They offer a vast selection of games at various prices, as well as special offers to draw more customers.

The consoles are a private service, with their online distribution moderated by their parent company and under imposed gimmickry. Plus I like to see the physical expansion of my game catalog with my console games. (No clue why the same isn't true for PC.)

Perhaps when a fast internet is everywhere. Until then, there's still craploads of people who'll buy retail.

Eventually it probably will, but I think that day is a very long way away.

First, not everyone has, or wants, or needs the internet connection to rely on digital distribution. Pretty much all of Jumplion said. I also know several people who have little to no interest in the online aspect of gaming.

Second, some people are still going to want a hard copy (like me) and I can think of several reasons. The simplest would be that they just like having something physical that they can hold, look at, etc. If the cable/internet/whatever goes out and you get the urge to play something you'd need to DL again, you still can. If you go to someone else's place you can bring your copy with you, although that's probably against the EULA technically, but oh well.

Third, I know people hate other people, but retail does provide human interactions that you really can't get from digital distr. You can ask for opinions and recommendations (assuming the workers aren't jackasses). I am quite antisocial and don't like people anymore than most people, but I still like to go out and shop (for games) in the meatspace often enough.

Retail, once you get out there, is much quicker (opinion) to browse different games.

Okay, so if they account for all that stuff, then I can see it happening, but I still don't think physical retail will completely go away. I mean, online retail like Amazon haven't (completely) destroyed physical retail and that's been around for longer than digital distribution. (right?)

well maybe if retail would stop sucking we wouldn't have this problem.

Carmack is a PC guy. He must be thinking of Steam.

I don't see this happening soon for consoles. Too many unconnected boxes. Maybe in the long term.

Although internet access is getting faster, games are getting bigger. I'm expecting a massive upgrade to my broadband sometime over the next few months (1Mbps to 15MBps). But I also expect games will come on Bluray disks in a few years.

Ultimately I reckon that networking technology will hit a wall before storage technology does.

I am going to stay primarily with going to stores and getting my shiny art boxes and paper manuals with my games.

Not only is it a matter of ownership (if your computer perma-freezes, your games are scrap. If your IPhone gets stolen or falls into a puddle, no more games), but it's also far easier to browse games in a store - which enables trying new or practically unheard of games more likely.

Besides all that, I like interacting with actual people out there in the real world. This generation seems so bent on keeping people glued to a computer chair all day, going cross-eyes and burning retinas on tiny machines that are only getting smaller.

It will happen for the simple reason there is money in it. Digital distribution increases the margin to publishers, by cutting out manufacturing and distribution costs and killing the second hand games market. Those simple reasons will drive the rapid development of platforms. Consoles can be bought from a general retail shop but like the ipad have an in built games store. However it will be the next generation of consoles is when this will appear. Retail is already pretty much dead for pcs these days anyway.

Bad Jim:
Although internet access is getting faster, games are getting bigger. I'm expecting a massive upgrade to my broadband sometime over the next few months (1Mbps to 15MBps). But I also expect games will come on Bluray disks in a few years.

Ultimately I reckon that networking technology will hit a wall before storage technology does.

tbh there isnt much reason for games to get any larger in storage size than what we are at at the moment. Especially since the investment needed to make better graphics will strain the already fragile price point of video games.

Id's Carmack Positive Digital Distribution Will Destroy Retail

And so am I.

I don't think enough people have stable connection with their internet, or even properly connected to the internet.

But they will. In around 6 years i've jumped from a 32kb/s connection to a 5MB/s internal and my download speed on steam is around 3 MB/s, and the connection costs me a grand total of 9 bucks per month. And this isn't the US, rather an old eastern bloc country in the backseat of Europe. Saying DD will never overtake retail seems like a horribly stupid thing to say from my perspective.

When external TB hardrives are $10, maybe.

I would agree to digital distribution if my HDD was a fucking 100 GB retard

guys like this should shut their mouths: it's not because they have a good position in a gaming company that they hold the vision of the future ! (i was going to say the crystal ball but that's a little "too much").

certainly it will be a possibility, but it's like with 3D techs, they said it would revolutionize the public, it only revolutionized the manufacturing side of the industry...

Tom Goldman:
After all, doesn't the average consumer still need a place to buy their consoles in the first place?

Amazon.com

Obviously.

bahumat42:
in its current state maybe but you are forgetting that infrastructure and interconnectivity are improving in leaps and bounds, and whilst I beleive there will always be game shops in town it's going to move away from a situation where you can have 3 from one chain in a medium town (reading is my example i always facepalm about this).

poiumty:
But they will. In around 6 years i've jumped from a 32kb/s connection to a 5MB/s internal and my download speed on steam is around 3 MB/s, and the connection costs me a grand total of 9 bucks per month. And this isn't the US, rather an old eastern bloc country in the backseat of Europe. Saying DD will never overtake retail seems like a horribly stupid thing to say from my perspective.

Again, Digital Distribution will never completely overtake Physical Media. Only compliment it. I'm confident enough to bet money on it, and I don't bet money, so I guess I won't bet on it.

I don't care if new infrastructure and interconnectivity leaps to 10GB per milisecond, you've got Physical media disks like this beauty here holding up to 1 Terabyte of information within only a few years. I don't think anyone would be partial to downloading, not to mention the possibility of redownloading multiple times due to errors, a whole friggin' Terabyte of info, and that's only in the more recent future (just wait till we get Yottabyte fo'). And that's only if most people have standardized 10GB/ms, that'd be expensive shit yo', many people are still on dial-up.

Your internet download might have jumped up hugely in quality, but Physical Media has done the same thing.

There are plenty of problems with Digital Distribution, as well as Physical Media, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have it's place or that it can't improve. I'm excited as anyone to see what the future holds with technology, but if that involves the eradication of an entire medium and I have to settle for waiting 2 1/2 hours to download a game while leaving my PC on (it turns to 6 1/2 hours if I need to use it while it downloads, that's just annoying), instead of just buying a physical game and maybe waiting for a 30 minute install, then I'm not hopeful for the future.

Assassin Xaero:
Probably half the games I buy are digital, and it is cheaper too. No tax, no gas money, no shipping, and a lot of times they are on sale. So, I could go for digital only... better for storing games anyway, no need for discs...

those are probably pc games and you can only count on no taxes for so long, eventually you will see them

I think the big worry about digital distribution should be what happens when every publisher decides it should have its own steam type service and tries to link its games exclusively with that service, if they get weird enough then you could end up having to run multiple invasive programs in the background to just play a game

I don't care if new infrastructure and interconnectivity leaps to 10GB per milisecond, you've got Physical media disks like this beauty here holding up to 1 Terabyte of information within only a few years. I don't think anyone would be partial to downloading, not to mention the possibility of redownloading multiple times due to errors, a whole friggin' Terabyte of info

Letting aside the note that downloading a terabyte of information would take around 1/10th of a second with the connection you're talking about, you seem to suggest that the volume of information in games is growing proportional to the size of a disc.

Which is a bit weird. Why exactly are we going to play games that are terabytes in size in the next few years?

From the point of a lowly PC gamer, I think that Carmack is (Sadly) right.

I don't think it's digital distribution that's doing it, though, I believe retail is killing itself. I rarely buy games and things from stores now because it's too expensive. I bought a wired 360 controller for my PC yesterday, and it cost me 25 (Yes, I know I could have gone online and got one for a bit cheaper). I bought the recent Wolfenstein too, but only 'cos it was 99p. But I can go into HMV and Batman: Arkham Asylum is 35, go to Game and Force Unleashed 2 is a mind boggling 40. But it's also a case of retail stores reduced the size of the PC department, and as such there's a tiny selection, usually comprised of new releases or overpriced older games. Unless you want, say, Starcraft 2 or Black Ops, you're lucky to find the game you want these days. Retail is falling behind because it lets itself. It doesn't do anything to stop it. I think that retail needs to get its act together and combat the digital era if it's to stay in business.

And on the "flip side", why does digital win? Games rarely, if ever, go out of stock, there's a bigger choice, pricing is more fluid (And often more "fair" due to that) and you often only have a short wait until you can play your game. I think it's great for indie games and smaller companies, but it's really bad for the bigger players - at least with regards to the PC.

seems interesting at the least. i for one welcome this change depending on how its implemented.

there should REALLY be a method of transferring the digital thing onto physical disk/flash-drive/etc because some people (like me) like to have physical copies of games.

other than a few obstacles like the above and hoe exactly Special Edition games will work unless they only supply digital extras. Cutting out the retailers can only strengthen the developers and allow lower costs of games which means more risks can be taken when it comes to game design. A lot of the issues people have i think are just minor ones that will become less important or just not exist as technology improves in internet connections and peoples knowledge of technology.

....of course, if we are talking extremely LOOOOONG term, once we invent teleporting technology that allows us to instantly 'beam' in stuff we buy online than not just the gaming industry but retail in general will be completely and utterly destroyed! So go future Sci-fi technology =p

Does ordering online count as digital distribution? If so then I agree, not much point in going to stores when you can just order your games online.

I still want my retail copies. All safe and stored in my home and under my responsibility. I don't like 100% digital storage for my games.

This_ends_now:
Not so sure. People will rage over it. Despite what dev's think, there are people that still want a hard copy of their games. Of course, if this means cutting out the middle man and selling games for half the price...then I could be persuaded that this is for the best.

EDIT: also, there are still many gamers not online or who's online is craptacular. I really don't see this happening in the foreseeable future. Just sayin'.

Yup, IF they lower the prices of their games (in online distribution) to increase the volume of sales, i dont have a problem with it.

The thing is.. they dont. Online or not we almost always pay the same 50-60$ price tag.

If it happens, I'm not buying games anymore. I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it again. I'm not fucking paying 80$ for a game I don't own and can be taken away at anytime.

I'd be all for it if the prices reflect the elimination of distributors and retail. For $60 you're damn right I want a disc, box, receipt and entirely unnecessary booklet, but for $30 I'll cheerfully accept a download. I'd be even more happy to jump on the digital bandwagon if purchasing said download comes with the right to download it to my profile as many times as I require. DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs are fragile things, and if you lose or damage one you're screwed - at least with digital distribution you're guaranteed to have access to whatever you paid for as long as you're capable of downloading it again.

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