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Complete digital transition 'some way off'

Total online distribution of games still years away, agree industry execs - but inevitable

In the latest video feature from Scott Steinberg - The Future of Digital Distribution - industry executives have addressed the topic of digital distribution, with solid consensus that while a complete transition away from boxed product is some way off, the total transformation is inevitable in time.

"I think the [videogame] business was always moving towards a services business, and so I think that getting rid of the physical media was just a natural step," said Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, as the rate of change in the games environment gathers pace.

And Chris Petrovic, GM of digital ventures at US-based retail chain GameStop admitted: "What you're doing is avoiding the necessity of going to the store to buy something, but still having to experience the pain point of waiting however many hours or minutes or days that it takes to download that piece of content.

"I think the convenience is outweighed by some user experience hurdles that we still have to get through, but we're pretty convinced that with technology continuing to advance that this will only get better."

In terms of timescale, only Wedbush Morgan senior analyst Michael Pachter was willing to put a solid number on the deadline for a complete transition.

"Digital distribution will become the norm and completely replace package products in about 20 years, maybe 25," he said. "22 per cent of all households in the US don't have cable or satellite, so if they don't have cable or satellite they probably don't have high-speed internet - and they're probably not about to download all their games."

And Graham Hopper, executive VP and GM at Disney Interactive Studios, broadly agreed: "Digital distribution is very much in the early days right now.

"I think we're at a point where all the threads are in place, and we will soon get to the point where there will be a tipping point where a lot more people will be comfortable with it, you'll see more types of content being made available digitally, and it'll become a bigger and more important part of the business."

The full video of The Future of Digital Distribution is available on GamesIndustry.biz now.

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Phil Elliott