Even though all-digital platforms are a dominant presence in the handheld market (mostly in the form of iOS and Android devices), there’s a lot of speculation about whether or not the next generation of home consoles can actually scrap physical media altogether.
While nothing is for certain, Sony Computer Entertainment chairman, Kaz Hirai seems to suggest that, while digital distribution is certainly growing in popularity, the PS4 isn’t likely to drop disc-based options altogether.
Hirai spoke out at CES 2012 – asserting that having a dedicated home console (as opposed to something like a download-only PlayStation-ready TV) will continue to be a key element of Sony’s business strategy in the coming years.
“It’s very important that we continue to have a dedicated home-based console [...] Relying solely on networks to deliver content is unfortunately just not possible. It’s still very difficult to have consumers download 50 gigabytes of data or more.”
Obviously Sony would love to move to an all-digital future, where they distribute their software without having to give retailers a cut of the profits (or rely on costly physical hardware components). However, things aren’t that simple. While gamers in large metro areas might roll their eyes at a disc-based next generation console – it’s easy to forget that plenty of video game enthusiasts may not even have access to high-speed Internet. The PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii are available all over the world – in a lot of areas where local couch matches far exceed the number of players engaging in online multiplayer. Developing a console that outright cuts less-connected gamers out of the equation would be disastrous for sales and brand loyalty.
Additionally, unlike Nintendo (the Wii still can’t play DVD movies), Sony has historically made sure that their consoles also offered home entertainment functionality – so that buyers could simplify their home theater set-ups. The original PlayStation included CD functionality, the PlayStation 2 added DVD support, and the PS3 was, when first introduced, one of the most affordable blu-ray packages on the market. In fact, a lot of mid-range PS3 adopters (who purchased the system over the Xbox 360) cited the blu-ray player as a major factor in their decision. As a result, just because blu-ray players are becoming more affordable doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of potential buyers that would prefer for Sony to continue to make dedicated console with physical media included.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates.