Ok as a gamer I've been around the gaming block. I've seen games evolve graphically and seen them change storage devices. As a gamer for 4/5 of my life I've played on almost every gaming console and played a large variety of games. Digital distribution is a new method for selling games that has been getting a spotlight shone on it by gamers for various reasons and some gamers ask if this will be the only way to get games? I'm here to give you some reassurance but remember I may be wrong as well, only time will tell.
The short version is yes digital distribution is the future of gaming BUT for the PC space. Why? Well let's face it, those who game on PC are a small market and it saves a boat load of money. Also think about this, we use PCs to download various media and it's convenient. Services like Steam are a fantastic distribution channel for games on PC and is a near perfect system that anyone who's used it haven't really got much to complain about. Cloud gaming is also one of the great feature Steam has and this is great for people with multiple PCs and allows the PC gamer to play almost anywhere. Could a home console use this method... HELL NO!
Digital distribution for consoles is a relatively new thing that has been embraced by all gamers but here's the truth about it. If Microsoft for example released a digital distribution console, would you buy it? I bet the majority of you said no and you want to know why? We buy consoles to avoid the PC space and have a solitary gaming unit separate to our PC. Look at the fact that we buy different consoles to play each companies games, how many of you have seen the games for these consoles on PC? A lot of them are aren't they? Also don't forget this thing called an emulator, with a PC any good programmer can reproduce the emulation program used by the console and people will just stick with the PC then. Microsoft can afford to go full digital because of PCs but what about Sony and Nintendo? They can't! The main reason we like having a console(or at least the main reason I like having a console) is because we like diversity and variety. If everything is digital both PlayStation and Nintendo will die in the gaming industry due to piracy and more importantly people will prefer the all in one unit.
What does the future of digital distribution and consoles hold? To be honest I think what we already have but better. I can see to be honest retail games selling extremely well like they are now and digital distributed games being games of yester year and from every region of the world with indie games having they're own separate section in the online stores. The way I'd improve the service would have the online stores having 3 sections. A classic games section with classic games from the companies previous console with games never seen in the regions before eg. Grandia 3 for PS2 available to PAL region or Final Fantasy III (NES) available to USA, an add on section that has all the expansion packs and extra content for games, and a Indie section for all the games like Blade Kitten and Limbo to populate and be separated from the rest to get their own spotlight. Will the console companies adopt what I think would work? Probably not but maybe if we all ask for it, it will happen.
I like digital distribution on consoles but I don't like the idea of downloading Fallout 3 or Mass Effect 2 on my Xbox 360 when I can buy it instore and save HDD space for indie games like Blade Kitten and DLC like Halo Reach's Noble Map Pack. Most of us prefer the physical medium for games and always will but for PC, the physical medium is pretty much dead and it's not a problem since services like Steam are well designed and actually helps the PC gaming space. I haven't used Steam myself but from all my PC gamer friends opinion it's a god sent and they agree, if console lose a physical medium the south(PC gaming) shall rise again and the consoles will die. Their words, not mine!
What do you think? Is digital distribution the future of gaming? Or is it the end of console gaming? Would you give up console gaming and go to PC gaming if the home consoles go digital only? And would you like a cleaner online store with 3 proper sections to search to separate the classic games, indie games and add on's?