GAME OVER: IS THIS THE END OF THE GAMING DVD?

Gamers worldwide have been following stories of Game UK’s demise with increasing curiosity.  A lot of Indian gamers were disappointed to see the store go into administration.  Admittedly, most of us based our best wishes for The Game Group based on our experiences (and cheap prices) with their website.  Those closer to the erstwhile retail giant’s physical stores felt otherwise.  For instance, here is a comment from a reader from the Guardian’s coverage  of the event that sums up a lot of what customers in the UK are feeling:

“Ask any gamer why they don’t shop at Game anymore. Price. Range. Poor Customer Service.”

The Game UK Website wore a "down for maintenance" notice as well.

Those are probably the three most important things that drive any business — it doesn’t matter whether the business is a brick and mortar store or an online site.  While our assessment of the coverage shows that Game’s outcome was driven by a series of incorrect business decisions, it does belie the question: what about the gaming market?  Will all stores eventually close?  We have seen how the music industry has been taken over by online (legal and illegal) downloads and no-one ever buys CDs anymore — is that what will happen to gaming as well? Considering how we are investing our lives savings into the GamesINC franchise, you can imagine how important this was for us.

But like what any business should do before they launch, this is one of the considerations we took into account early on.  And it is being supported by those in the industry sharing their opinions in the wake of Game’s demise.

Our take is that we are still between five and ten years away from going completely digital (more infrastructurally advanced countries may see the change in five years and we expect India to make the shift in 7-10 years).  So here is our no-numbers (well almost) quick assessment of the future (we can’t share all our IP on our blog now, can we?):

Software Requirements

Video graphics have come a long way in the last decade.

The top reasons why we love the console — the graphics, sounds, and features — eventually translate into massive software storage requirements.  An XBOX game can take up to 8GB in storage whereas a PS3 game can go beyond 15GB.  A digital download that size is still a nascent possibility in the UK and U.S., and a near impossibility in “fair” usage policy afflicted India.  Even without fup, I’d feel a tinge of guilt spending all my bandwidth on games — sort of like the guilt you feel when you print out a hundred pages on your work printer.  With time, the size of games will only increase, not decrease.  That said, there is a distinct possibility that — if the XBOX720(?) and the PS4(?) allow — the market moves to SD cards as an alternative to DVDs.  That will possibly be a step in the right direction and will enhance the lives of our consoles significantly.  In either case, there will be no impact on online and physical retail stores who will still have something to sell.

Internet Infrastructure

The biggest bane of online downloads is not fup, but overall infrastructure support in the country.  Downloading a 8GB game is hardly the same as downloading a 100MB music album.  Chances are high that even before games are delivered online-only, movies will take the plunge.  If a large proportion of the customer base moves to streaming videos, DVD and BluRay downloads, and game downloads, free bandwidth will become scarce.  Our Airtels, BSNLs, and Reliances will hardly be able to keep pace with the upgrades required. Of course, not all of these scenarios will come to pass all at the same time, so I am admittedly being more catastrophic than the situation demands.  However, if you look at how our ISPs have taken a reactive, almost regressive, stand toward business and have focused on acquiring customers that they know they won’t be able to sustainably serve with the current infrastructure, we see a lot of pain in the coming days — with or without massive digital downloads.

Compare your speed to those around the world and you can see that we are not nearly ready. Source: http://bit.ly/GYWiAs

Business Sense

The most important factor that will determine whether the gaming world goes digital is the amount of business sense it makes.  When Microsoft launched the XBOX, it was estimated to be losing $125 per box just on cost of goods.  It takes a lot of time, effort, and R&D money to design a new console — 10 years is a completely legitimate timeframe for such companies to ride the tide.  Companies will still make money through online sales of passes, DLCs, and (some) games.  It was only about 4 years ago that Microsoft started to make money off its console business and followed it up with about $1Billion in profit in early 2011 thanks to the Kinect.   It is too early to try to change the entire gaming environment by moving to digital downloads.  Remember the first XBOX and the red ring of death?  If Microsoft tries to change its hardware in a way that goes beyond extracting more performance, then it might well run into another couple of years of technical nightmares.  Its not that they can’t build a great system, but that it is unreasonable to expect that the first attempt will be perfect.

Beyond the technical aspects, there is also an entire logistical and delivery system associated with ensuring that a game DVD reaches the end-user.  A new delivery channel — technical and server upgrades for every publisher wishing to offer digital downloads, for instance — will need to be built. That does not come overnight.  We can speculate all we want on what the new XBOX720(?) or the PS4(?) will bring, but one thing that new consoles will not bring is automated upgrades for all service providers in the value chain.  It is still possible, but this will not be the revolution everyone expects — it will in fact push back innovation by a couple of years while we transition to the next infrastructure and game publishers themselves understand the new platform.

The change from physical media to online digital downloads cannot be avoided and will happen, whether some of us want it or not.  Companies, suppliers, and retailers will have to innovate or die.  But it is still a few years out in the future.  In the meantime though, it is not business as usual.  In India, we have a lot of work to do.  Unlike most other ventures — online and offline — the gaming market itself is nascent here.  We can’t sit back, look at those burgeoning numbers that consultants share with us, and expect the money to keep flowing in.  India is still not taken seriously as a gaming market.  We retailers, developers, and gamers have to build the market together.  But that is a story for another time.

How far out do you think the digital media revolution is?  Do you think Indian infrastructure and gaming market is ready for it?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Research and articles sourced from:

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CONSOLE WARS: SONY PLAYSTATION 3 OR XBOX 360?

This article comes to us from our guest writer, Anish Kataria. Anish is a passionate gamer, a car and bike enthusiast, and a generally happy guy. He can be reached on twitter @AnishKataria.

Choosing between the PS3 and Xbox 360 is for most gamers one of the most difficult decisions they’ll ever have to make.
You might compare it to deciding between Alexandra Ambrosia and Adriana Lima (did you ever really have a choice?). The following guide is meant for gamers who don’t have the privilege of being gifted a console or a lot of money lying around in the bank.

Decision Point One: The Basics

Factor

PS3

Xbox 360

Price in India 160 GB – Rs. 16,990320 GB – Rs 18,990

320 GB + Move Starter Kit – Rs 19,990

4 GB – Rs 14,990250 GB Elite – Rs 20,889
The CPU 3.2 GHz Cell Processor, 7 Single Threaded Cores ( +1 Backup core), Maximum 230 GFlops 3.2 GHz Xenon Processor, 3 dual-threaded cores, Maximum 77 GFlops
The GPU NVIDIA RSX “Reality Synthesizer, 256 MB GDDR 3RAM ((additional 224 MB can be shared w/ system RAM), 22.4 GBps bandwidth ATI Xenos, Up to 512 MB GDDR3 RAM (shared w/ system RAM), 21.6 GBps bandwidth (256 GBps via eDRAM)
RAM 256 MB XDR RAM 512 MB GDDR3 RAM (shared with GPU)
The Hard Drive 160 or 320 GB HDD, 5400 rpm, User replaceable with standard HDD 250 GB HDD or 4 GB SSD, 5400 rpm, User replaceable w/ proprietary HDD
The Disc Drive 8x read speed (DVD), 2x read speed (Blu-ray), 25 GB disc space 12x read speed (DVD), 7 GB disc space
Video Support Up to 1080p resolution Native 720p resolution, OS supports up to 1080p
Audio Support Analog – Stereo, Digital – 5.1 Dolby Digital & 7.1 LPCM Analog – Dolby Pro-Logic II, Digital – 5.1 Dolby Digital
Connectivity 2 USB ports, Bluetooth 2.0, 7 controllers max 5 USB ports, Kinect port, 7 max controllers (3 wired and 4 wireless)

Decision Point Two: Which console do most of your friends have?

Who are you going to share games, play online and offline, and compare scores with? Enough said.

Decision Point Three: Which genre of games do you prefer? Developers?

In most cases (FIFA, Call of Duty, Crysis 2 etc) this is an inconsequential point since developers offer their games on multiple platforms. That said you do have certain exclusive titles for each of the consoles. Gamers need to consider what sort of games they usually prefer and would enjoy playing long after getting them.

Consider

PS3

Xbox 360

Games released and reviewed in 2011

164 titles (86.6% average review score) 155 titles (86.1% average review score)
Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Titles in 2011

103/61

103/52

Motion Control Titles in 2011

13

11

Major Multiplatform Titles

Portal 2, Dead Space 2,Deus Ex: Human Revolution,L.A. Noire, Crysis 2, Portal 2, Dead Space 2,Deus Ex: Human Revolution,L.A. Noire, Dirt 3

Major Exclusive Titles

LIMBO, Killzone 3, Infamous 2,Resistance 3, Uncharted 3 Bastion, Child of Eden,Gears of War, Torchlight

Game Prices

FIFA 11 – Rs 1599
Crysis 2 – Rs 2499
Portal 2 – Rs 2499
L.A. Noire – Rs 2499
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Rs 3499
Uncharted 3 – Rs 2499
FIFA 11 – Rs 1299
Crysis 2 – Rs 1999
Portal 2 – Rs 1999
L.A.Noire – Rs 2499
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Rs 3499
Gears of War 3 – Rs 2499

Source: Link


Decision Point Four: Which controller do you prefer?

Controller preference is a very subjective choice and depends on the amount of playing time that a gamer gets on a particular console.

Decision Point Five: Console Life

With the upcoming launch of the next generation Wii U in the first half of 2012, both Microsoft and Sony will be forced to upgrade the current generation of consoles. Conservative estimates predict Xbox 360 to be replaced by the Xbox NG/720 by mid-to-end 2013 followed by the next generation PS sometime in mid 2014.

Decision Point Six: Media Player and Online Gaming

A couple of other factors that you may consider:

Factor

PS3

Xbox 360

The Disc Drive

Blu-ray. This is the optical storage medium which will supersede the DVD format globally. Can be used to watch HD media in the future.

HD-DVD. This medium lost the high definition optical disc format war to Blu-ray.

Online Gaming

Free but Sony is planning to charge gamers for additional features. Overall online gaming experience inferior to that of Xbox Live.

Microsoft charges gamers a fixed amount to access online features and gaming. Overall experience better than that of PS3.

Did that Help?

Did all this information confuse you ever further? If so, go to a retail store and try out both the consoles. Remember, if it feels right, it is right! Have fun!

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