Ding dong! The disc is not dead…

Despite the popularity of streamed services, apps and downloads, disc-based games and consoles are still holding their own in the gaming market. According to PwC, by the end of 2015, experts predict the download industry to be worth $5.6 billion (a 14% rise from 2014). Although sales of disc-based games are dropping, they still rake in almost four times this amount: $19.5 billion. Leading analyst Paul Raines, GameStop’s CEO, predicts discs and consoles will be around for another twenty years, at least.

Though fewer music CDs are made in 2015 than perhaps ever before, the industry hasn’t completely switched to digital at their expense. Following the arrival of Napster, Spotify and their peers, CD sales have dropped by 80%. The fact remains, however, that record companies still produce music on discs – which they wouldn’t do if a portion of the populace wasn’t buying them.

The strength of the second-hand market, worth two billion pounds to the gaming industry, means discs, as well as the relevant consoles needed to play them, look to be going nowhere.

Raines reckons discs and consoles could take decades to disappear, if indeed they ever will. Likening the game market to DVDs, he said: “DVD sales are down around 50 per cent from their peak, but again, movie studios are still making films on them.” Whilst the fate of Blockbuster is often attributed to a consumer shift towards streaming, Raines says this is inaccurate. He added, “Blockbuster was put out of business not by digital downloads or streaming video, but by lower-priced Redbox, whose sole business is renting physical DVDs.”

Live play is awash with new technology and creativity; in comparison, disc-based games could be described as limited. However, their popularity may be due in greater part to established distribution, long-standing consumer habits and expectations, and a buyer’s desire to get more value from their spend, by selling on their unwanted titles. And when digital downloads of new games cost the same as the disc version, despite lower production costs, buyers tend to opt for the tangible. Add into the mix issues concerning console memory that a personal game catalogue comprised entirely of digital may pose, it’s not hard to see why discs are still around.

That’s not to say game designers don’t ever see an end to discs. Games made for websites such as Facebook, as well as smartphone apps, are growing exponentially. Eventually, things will reach a tipping point, but it appears not for some time yet.

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