Harrison: Next generation will never use physical media

Thursday, 4 December 2008 10:39 GMT By Patrick Garratt


Speaking to Edge at Atari Live in London this week, company boss Phil Harrison has predicted that the upcoming generation will never use a disc. For anything.

“There’s a generation of kids being born today and probably already alive who I’m pretty confident will never buy a physical media product,” he said.

“They will never buy a DVD, they will never buy a CD, and they will never buy a game in a box.”

Harrison’s boss, David Gardner, has already said that 90 percent of Atari’s products will be online “within five years”.


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  1. JPickford

    He’s right.

    #1 6 years ago
  2. DrDamn

    Yep – bring it on I say.

    #2 6 years ago
  3. Blerk

    I agree. CDs are practically dead already.

    #3 6 years ago

    Yeah, ‘cos Phil KNOWS what he’s talking about!

    I mean… heh… who’d have that that rumble was “last-gen” before Phil told us all!

    #4 6 years ago
  5. JPickford

    Argue the point rather than attack the person. He’s spouted a lot of Sony propaganda in the past but he’s right about this. And a lot of other stuff.

    #5 6 years ago
  6. Truk


    edit: Meant for G1GAHURTZ, obviously.

    #6 6 years ago
  7. Shatner

    There’s a difference though, between “using” and “buying”.

    The headline to this article is misquoting its subject.

    I’m certain that, in future generations, people will “buy” less physical media than they do already. They’ll probably steal more of it instead.

    #7 6 years ago
  8. Truk



    #8 6 years ago

    No, he is right, I’m sure.

    I was reading the other day that one of the major music labels digital distribution sales had outsold it’s physical media sales for the first time, so I’d say that downloads replacing CD’s/DVD’s/Blu-ray is a lot closer than most people think.

    However I just get this feeling that it’s just a lot of PR stuff said purely for the reason that Atari wants to go download only to try and save itself from going under. Same old Phil, same old PR face.

    #9 6 years ago
  10. Doomsayer

    So whats the news here? Heard they might be using some ultra secret new technology called – Downloads. Boring !

    #10 6 years ago
  11. Shatner


    Was your “Bruce”? comment referring to Bruce Everiss?

    #11 6 years ago
  12. Truk


    #12 6 years ago
  13. Shatner

    Well, even *I* think he does go on about piracy a bit too much. And quoting himself so frequently doesn’t actually add weight to his statements. Regardless, he’s a knowledgeable and experienced chap and what he says makes a lot of sense most of the time.

    He’s gay for the Microsoft cock though. He loves it.

    #13 6 years ago
  14. Truk

    It was just a joke.

    He’s certainly experienced. Can’t say I always agree with him. Such is life.

    #14 6 years ago
  15. ecu

    Argue the point rather than attack the person. He’s spouted a lot of Sony propaganda in the past but he’s right about this. And a lot of other stuff.

    And he went back on what he said about rumble. He admitted that he only said it because he had to try and put a positive spin on their situation. Fair play to the bloke, I got a lot of respect for him after that interview.

    #15 6 years ago
  16. morriss

    I was staring lovingly at the Star Trek: Next Generation 49 Disc DVD Box Set the other day, imagining that Commander William T. Riker has just laid in co-ordinates to beam me to the Enterprise so we could…..oh wait, where was I? Yes. I was looking at the Box Set and I thought, “Now who wants to own all these by simply having them on a HDD somewhere? Not me. I want the media in my hands…” Then I went back to imagining again.

    #16 6 years ago
  17. brennan40

    I like downloads, but Physical media isn’t going anywhere.
    Unless companies like to lose money. There’s a huge market out there that doesn’t have access to high speed internet.

    Game files are also increasing in size, so if connectivity is an issue for a majority of the user base, serving the minority isn’t really viable.

    Having options never hurt. well, in most cases heh.

    #17 6 years ago
  18. sennasnit

    I’m with morriss, i too have ST:TNG full collection(silver pods) i LIKE to own the products not just an icon on my 20 TB HDD, just like i LIKE to own games in boxes, ah that new instruction manual smell, i never read them, just smell them.

    #18 6 years ago


    Riker’s already taken morriss.

    You’ll have to fight Troi for him!


    #19 6 years ago
  20. morriss

    Sennasnit: I don’t have it. I was staring lovingly at it on I wish I did have it. I wish “Will” Riker would beam me up more, though. :)

    #20 6 years ago
  21. JesteR

    Yes of course i pay for downloads if i can get torrents for free. How can they be so cheap? What about cool special editions? What about collectors? What about if i want to sell my game? What about file sizes? What about new Blu Ray storage capacity? If they will be downloads only i will download…. but not legal anymore. Dont get me wrong. I buy a lot of games but i want have a disc. Also what do you do on chrismas? A download as a present? How loving….

    #21 6 years ago

    Yeah, and old people still want VHS and vinyl!

    #22 6 years ago
  23. DrDamn

    There are ways around the lack of high speed internet. Bringing your HDD / Solid state console storage into a shop and having the game transferred on to it is a not too stupid possibility.

    #23 6 years ago
  24. DrDamn

    “What about if i want to sell my game?”

    Well that’s kind of the point – they don’t want you to do that :)

    #24 6 years ago
  25. GordonR

    But….but what about Blu-Ray?


    #25 6 years ago
  26. Smartypants

    Yes, I look forward to downloading 50GB games in the next-gen. Should be great!

    #26 6 years ago
  27. brennan40

    Wouldn’t HDDs/SSDs qualify as physical media?
    I can see games returning to “cartridges” with advancements in the SSD sector and the decreasing cost per gigabyte on regular HDDs and whatnot.

    And don’t mean to fight you down on a point heh. sorry if it seems that way. I do like your idea, but
    1)leaving your house to obtain a copy defeats the purpose of having media online.
    2) Finding those outlets outside regions like the EU + US may be difficult for some.

    #27 6 years ago
  28. Psychotext

    Smartypants, if I’m not rocking with a 100mb connection in 2012 then something has gone horribly wrong.

    (Given that 222mb is already available through DOCSIS 3.0 in some countries)

    #28 6 years ago
  29. Esha

    I can’t blame morriss for that, after all, Riker was truly a hirsute man of action and he didn’t feel as amazingly fake as Kirk did.

    Now I really need need to stop making posts like this, because that’s the second one in as many days.

    On topic — the man’s probably right. It’s fear of piracy that’ll likely lead to content distributed via online services, where said content is leased and can be controlled by the company doing the leasing. It’s a logical step forward as far as good business is concerned, and it’s also good business practice when considering how impatient we’ve all become (no, this isn’t a cheap shot, I’m including myself in this). It’s so much quicker to snag something online than to go to a shop and buy it … well, on a half decent connection it is, anyway.

    Is anyone still on dial-up?


    Where was I?

    Oh yes!

    JesteR makes a few good points, too, let’s take a look at those.

    1. What about special editions?

    This could be handled the same way that Codemasters handled Lord of the Rings Online. Basically, give customers vouchers with which they can redeem gifts. What I’m getting at is that in the future, we may see something like this …

    - Game, instant download.
    - Soundtrack, unrestricted OGG format.
    - Hardcover art-book, voucher.
    - Funky little poseable toy, voucher.
    - Free beer if [developers] are ever in town, voucher.

    The customer would likely have to enter their vouchers (or just one collective one) and their address to have their goodies delivered. This means that the customer gets a special edition, and the developer/publisher gets all the money of that special edition without ever having to go through the trouble of using a middle-man (a shop).

    2. How can they be cheap?

    If companies start providing their own online stores, and new download services start cropping up, then they’re likely all going to start fighting over the best price or niftiest free goodies (in order to sell more).

    Impulse is but one start-up, but they’re still getting their legs at the moment. Right now, it’s only really Steam that has the monopoly, and that’s why we don’t see many price drops (on the PC, at least). The system is in its infancy. When the system grows and competition sets in, we’ll see more price-fights. And soon consoles will likely have multiple content providers, too.

    3. What about if i want to sell my game?

    You’re buggered. If they say that second-hand games are bad and they hold the reigns, then you’re not going to be able to sell your games.

    What might happen though is that some services, as part of the aforementioned competition, may allow “cessation of license” with a partial refund. For example, if you return the game within a year, you get 40 per cent of the money back, but your access to the game (playing online, downloading, launching) will be rescinded.

    Whether anything like this will actually happen though … who can say? But it’s possible.

    I think mostly though, the idea of second-hand gaming is going to fall into obscurity.

    4. What about file sizes?

    Hard disk sizes available for consoles are just getting bigger and bigger, soon we may see 500GiB drives shipping with consoles as a standard. And with the bandwidth available today, it’s pretty speedy to download up to 6GiB even, providing the servers are good (and they’re going to have to be). Using Steam as a model though, the bandwidth they have at their disposal is incredible, and I imagine it’d be like that for all services (or they’d lose out).

    For the average PC gamer, it’s probably easier and quicker to buy a 4-6GiB game online, then download it. It’s less hassle than going to the store and it’s quicker than buying it online and waiting for it to be delivered. And as for space concerns, it’s probably going to be the same as the PC: Tough luck, delete something and redownload it later. But as I said, with ever-growing drive capacity, that’s not going to be so much of a problem.

    5. Blu Ray storage capacity?

    I support Sony (as much as I can, usually when they’re not embarrassing themselves … which is becoming more and more common of late), and even I know that there aren’t that many games which actually use it. Take a look at what’s taken advantage of on average considering the BRD’s capacity, even with exclusive games. Possibly the only title that really made use of it was Metal Gear Solid.

    That game looked absolutely bloody incredible and put all similar games to complete shame, graphically. But how many games go to that extent? Not many. Possibly only MGS4, and MGS4 may be the only exception throughout the PS3′s life. I hope not, but still …

    Devil’s advocate. Ha, ha, ha.

    Anyway, I don’t particularly like download systems, speaking from a personal standpoint. There’s DRM to consider, and games are going to cost more until competition sets in, it’s going to be cheaper to buy boxed games online for a long time, I’ll imagine. I’d say this chap is looking at the far future, not the next-gen but perhaps two generations of consoles detached. Plus, I like actually owning my games, instead of just renting them from a company. When these download services kick in, I won’t actually own anything I pay for … and that doesn’t sit well with me at all. Not to mention that it’s amazingly unethical to just cut the humble shopkeeper out of the bargain like that, forcing them to look into online solutions if they even still want to compete …

    So I don’t really like download systems, and I still prefer to buy them online. But looking at it from a business standpoint, i.e.: what’s going to make them more money, I’d have to say that download systems like this are really inevitable. But it’ll be a long time before they’re ubiquitous.

    And if anyone actually read all this … good grief, are you mad?

    #29 6 years ago
  30. Esha


    I’ve actually seen that date mentioned so much over the past year that it’s beginning to get a little scary. One does wonder if perhaps those Mayans were onto something …

    Well, here’s looking forward to the grand ascent of humanity to something better / total and utter armageddon, then.

    #30 6 years ago
  31. Quiiick

    Quote: “Also what do you do on chrismas? A download as a present? How loving….”

    Good point!

    #31 6 years ago
  32. Quiiick

    … I will buy discs as long as I can.

    And I also skipped all the DLC add-ons which showed up so massively this year.
    I want 100% of a game on disc! I haven’t even once selected one of the “free” bikes in Paradise City! ;)

    #32 6 years ago
  33. Esha

    That’s only true if it’s a console release where the patches are supplied by one supplier alone (a la Steam), but let’s compare that with the PC model …

    [Console/Steam] Patched content leased solely from one provider, content that they alone have the rights to distribute, and can pull the plug on at any time legally.

    [PC hard-copy] Patches which are freely distributed, and will likely get mirrored around the Internet. These are not leased, and once they’re downloaded they can be backed up, burned to disc, and in all the cases I’ve seen, no one will have the ability to revoke the ownership of that patch (unless the patch was obtained from a content leaser who includes DRM in the very patch installers themselves).

    That’s why I still largely consider the PC to be the superiour platform, even after all this time. The way consoles handle patches still doesn’t sit well with me, since the patches can’t be backed up and the plug could be pulled on them at any time.

    (Proofread and edited for better flow and comprehension.)

    #33 6 years ago

    I personally prefer DL’ing games and content.

    I never look at my boxes other than when I’m taking the game out, or searching around for a 48 hour free LIVE trial voucher or something. Other than that, they spend all of their time stuffed in a drawer, as I have one of those 100 CD wallet thingy’s to keep the discs in.

    #34 6 years ago
  35. JonFE

    “Yeah, and old people still want VHS and vinyl!”

    You’d better take that back mister – I ain’t *that* old but I won’t trade my lovely vinyls for some shiny disks :-|

    #35 6 years ago
  36. frod

    anything that gets my postman out of the delivery stream is a good thing.

    #36 6 years ago

    @ JonFE:


    Sorry, no offence to all those people who still use vinyl (and/or VHS).

    I suppose I was (in a clumsy way) trying to make the point that the poeple who like boxed products and a disc to hold will probably be seen as ‘old fashioned’ when the younger iTunes generation get older.

    #37 6 years ago
  38. Robo_1

    At most you’ll be able to buy the console with or without a disc drive, with the disc drive one also supporting backwards compatibility.

    The industry would be committing commercial suicide to totally abandon physical media as early as 2012. No way are ISP’s in every country going to abandon download caps within 3 years, and the buying public still greatly favour buying physical media (

    I’m sure it’s coming, but no way is it 3 years off. I can well see every game being released simultaneously via DL and physical media, but solely on DL, no chance.

    #38 6 years ago
  39. JonFE


    No worries – I do love vinyl and may choose it over CD occasionally, but I wasn’t offended in any way – I was merely jesting.

    Actually, I do agree that some people will get boxed products no matter what, while others will never bother. That’s choice for you, the spice of life :-D

    #39 6 years ago
  40. DrDamn

    “Wouldn’t HDDs/SSDs qualify as physical media?”

    No – what I mean is you bring your console’s storage device to the store and have it put on by the retailer. No need for an internet connection but all the benefits of an accessible game collection. It wouldn’t count as physical media as they aren’t selling you the game on it, they are selling you the game and you are having it put on a device you already own.

    “1)leaving your house to obtain a copy defeats the purpose of having media online.”

    This is only for people who can’t or don’t want to download. It also serves a purpose of softening the blow for retailers who they need to keep sweet until the preferred method of delivery (online) is realistic for the majority of the market.

    “2) Finding those outlets outside regions like the EU + US may be difficult for some.”

    The vast majority of the market where there is one is covered by the retail sector and that is who would provide this service.

    #40 6 years ago
  41. Gamoc

    I disagree. I like having physical objects when I buy things, for numerous reasons (please don’t ask what they are, I’m too lazy to type them out).

    #41 6 years ago

    @ Gamoc:

    What are your reasons then?

    Here are some of mine:

    I don’t like having loads of pointless packaging around the house. I buy a game to play it, not to fantasise over the pictures on the box! I very rarely ever read the instructions either.

    I don’t like having to always change discs every time I want to play a different game. If someone invites me to play COD4 while I’m playing Gears 2, I’d rather not have to spend time removing a disc, finding a disc, putting a new disc in, then waiting for it to register, before loading up. I’d rather just load it up like a PC game.

    I don’t like disc seek/load times. I grew up on Nintendo cart’s, so I know what it’s like to have console games that load instantly. I can still remember an N64 advert in a magazine (probably CVG) telling me to wait for it rather than get a PlayStation that used “s-l-o-w CD’s”.

    I’d rather have a silent console than one that whirrRRRRRSSSSS every time I do something new on a game.

    I don’t like having to wait for the postman when I order/pre-order games. I’d rather DL them the second that they got released.

    #42 6 years ago
  43. DrDamn

    /agrees with G1GAHURTZ

    Bloody hell that’s agreeing with Mortiferius and G1GA in the space of a few weeks.

    /goes to lie down

    #43 6 years ago
  44. morriss

    Will Riker likes a boxed product.

    #44 6 years ago
  45. Gamoc


    1) There’s something about physically having the game that I prefer to downloading.

    2) Downloadable DRM is likely to be a bitch. For example, on PSN, you can only download a game you’ve bought on 5 systems, which is potentially awkward – I only have to buy a disc once.

    3) Download speeds. Right now, PS3 games (For example) can be around 50gb (with MGS4 almost being there). I don’t care what you say, 50gb is massive and without something like 100mbps (megabytes per second) downloading that is ridiculously impractical. That’s not mentioning the inevitable jump in game size with even-better graphics in the next generation.

    4) I like manuals and stuff – plus, they won’t be able to give special things (concept art and stuff) in special editions or at all (SOTC came with some concept art but had no special edition) or fancy boxes (like RE4′s metal box, which was awesome). I quite like that stuff.

    5) Hardrive space. Sure, we’ll have massive hardrives, but we’ll also have massive games and how many massive games we have will simply stop when we reach the limit (which will happen eventually).

    Maybe buying a game on disc but installing it all onto the hardrive (looks at 360) could work? Though that’d still involve disc changing…must be something that could be worked out. A CD changer? :D

    #45 6 years ago
  46. JonFE


    I never sell/swap my games, so their second hand value is useless for me. I do appreciate that others may feel differently, though.

    However, if publishers manage to cut off the middle man (retail chain) and offer their game software as downloads only, they will squash the second hand market AND siege control of retail prices as well. Frequent bargains (like’s recent Mega Monday) could very well become a thing of the past, like the shiny disks and their plastic wrap.

    I’m sure there are some conveniences -like those you mentioned- to the whole digital distribution scheme, but, are you sure that the price is worth it?

    #46 6 years ago
  47. Syrok

    Somebody think of the gamers in Asia, Africa, South- and Latin America! Not to mention most of those living in eastern Europe or rural areas anywhere else.

    #47 6 years ago
  48. sennasnit

    @morriss check out the lovely silver pods under my TV (picture taken last xmas before i got my PS3)
    the box sets are quite cheap now but they were 30 quid a pop when i got these..

    #48 6 years ago

    @ JonFE:

    Aah, good point there…

    But I suppose the same company rivalry that (generally) keeps the price of consoles down (eventually) could very well have the same effect on game download prices.

    There are also companies like Codies and Rockstar that have a history of releasing games at lower than usual prices, so maybe something like this might start to happen again.

    I do enjoy getting my pre-orders from GAME with £10 off and double points for my reward card though!

    #49 6 years ago
  50. airdom

    I call this Bull! CD’s/DVD’S aren’t gonna go away in the next generation for sure.

    Yeah, there’s a small chance that almost EVERYTHING will be digitally delivered (which would really blow…how do you wanna boast about your collection of videogames then?), but then wouldnt that cause a major hike in worldwide bandwith usage?

    I dunno how it goes for you euros, but over here in canada, if you want unlimited internet bandwith, your gonna have to pay extra(fucking isp’s rip us off on everything), and im already paying what…40$? for a 20gb dl limitit/10gb ul limit.

    I’d have to invest even more fucking money in my isp, which i don’t want to.

    But if games are only digitally delivered in the near-future, would they be 10$ less because of the package-less content??what would happen to Collector’s Edition games then? If game prices are lowered because there is no packaging, then i could afford to put an extra 10$ on my internet connection.

    #50 6 years ago
  51. DrDamn

    Collectors edition games will include extra in game content – like variations on guns for example – they already do. If you really wanted those concept art postcards too I’m sure they could send em to you.

    Maybe it won’t be a full switch next gen, but hopefully the majority will be available as downloads. It makes a whole load of sense to the devs/publishers/console manufacturers. So it’s going to happen.

    #51 6 years ago
  52. JesteR

    Games will not be cheaper. LOL thats just extra profit for the publisher. But why do developers need publishers anymore? Theres not need. They could just build their own store. So publisher should think twice about it. Anyway look at the Music industry. They could deliver digital only but they dont do it. Why is that? Maybe people like to go to stores to browse around? This whole digital distribution only is just bull. Both are fine because i would like to have the choice.

    #52 6 years ago
  53. airdom

    and choice is always a winner

    #53 6 years ago
  54. wz

    And you put download codes in gift boxes?

    #54 6 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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