Color me a fan, but when I received an invitation to write a guest editorial for The Escapist, I was both fanboyishly excited and wracked with anxiety. "The future of gaming"? Crap! Don't you need to be an analyst to have enough balls to write about the future of the medium? Either way, I gathered myself and wrote back that I'd do it, knowing full well that ingrained into my DNA is the easily called - upon, opinionated, stubborn Irish ego that would enable me to make bold predictions about a subject dear to my heart. Without further ado, I give you the death pool.
"Digital distribution will soon kill packaged goods."
A bold-faced lie perpetuated in the halls of GDC and by stakeholders hoping and praying that saying it will make it so. Sure, this is virtually guaranteed to happen in the next one to two cycles, but not in the short term. I've been sitting on panel discussions for many years now, often next to "web 2.0" executives who pontificate long and hard about how their service will supplant Wal-Mart, GameStop and every other brick-and-mortar retailer; and I've never seen any of their predictions come to fruition. In fact, the more mass-market our medium becomes, the less pervasive digital distribution will be as a percentage of the business.
That's not to say that I don't believe in it, mind you. In fact, it was the first business I launched: a short-lived product called Video Games On-Line (VGOL), which we built to be a hub between AOL (back in the 14.4 days, for you old-timers) and the SNES. But my experience on the back end of the business has given me perspective for how the consumer buys and how retailers sell. That's not a process easily undone by digital distribution. Music, yes. Movies ... getting there. Games, not for a while. But since this is a "put it all on the table" column, I'll say that the next versions of the PlayStation, Xbox and Wii will still sell more packaged titles than downloads; the generation following will be the one where physical media is replaced entirely. Five years minimum. Ten years likely.
"Games will be respected soon because gamers will grow up and become politicians."
I get this one all the time. And sure, it makes perfect sense in theory, but the reality is that politicians - young and old - make political hay out of what they can. Just because the average age of gamers is in the early 30s and there are plenty of brilliant 40-somethings that are eager to get into public life doesn't mean that they won't exploit games when the opportunity arises. To believe that they would not is nothing short of wishful thinking.