Codemasters cofounder David Darling believes consoles must embrace a digital-only future or face extinction. Now heading up British mobile gaming firm Kwalee, Darling posted a blog entry to the company's site, offering a prediction of where the industry will stand in the future.
"Sony and Microsoft cannot let the retailers dictate game prices going forwards if they want to break free from the current over-priced model," he said. "Their next consoles, PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720, need to be digital only, or they will fail."
Darling sung the praises of digital distribution, saying this delivery model gives publishers access to a "worldwide marketplace," while removing what can be an "expensive chain of production and distribution" that is required for boxed games.
"If hardware manufacturers such as Sony and Microsoft do not manage this transition soon, they will be overtaken and left behind by companies who are embracing digital distribution wholly and completely," he said. "Companies like Apple and Google are not tied to brick and mortar retailers with shackles and are not being held back by them."
Later in his blog post, Darling compared consoles to dinosaurs, saying these systems are "heading for extinction as their natural habitat begins to change." He called consoles "ancient beasts" and praised the work of Facebook, Steam, and Apple's App store as places where innovative properties can thrive.
"There is an immense amount of innovation on the App Store compared to recent console games," he said. "Big sellers on console like FIFA and Call of Duty change very little each year, whereas many apps are exploring entirely new realms of gameplay."
Lastly, Darling said another advantage that comes with digital distribution is that games become a service rather than a product. He explained that after a digitally distributed game has launched, the developer has immediate access to player feedback, which can be used to make "improvements."
"On the current consoles this process is slowed by the need for hardware manufacturers to approve each game and they also charge developers a fee for each update they create," he said.