Physical media is a “dead body handcuffed to” next-gen – Codies founder

Thursday, 1st August 2013 23:42 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Codemasters founder David Darling is disappointed by Microsoft’s decision to back down on its original Xbox One licensing policies, which he believes will allow Apple and Google to take over living rooms from traditional consoles.

“It was interesting how the market did pull back with Microsoft. I don’t think Microsoft sold it in the right way – they weren’t strong enough,” the former Codemasters boss said of Microsoft’s plans to pull back from physical media, while speaking with GamesIndustry.

“I don’t think they should have had a physical drive on Xbox One – it’s like having a dead body handcuffed to you. It’s dragging along this dead body and it’s going to slow them down. They’ve let the market pull them back but I think that was a mistake.”

The “mistake”, as Darling sees it, is in letting physical media remain the dominant paradigm, keeping game costs high, and reducing Microsoft’s chances of staying relevant against Apple and Google.

“They’ve given Apple and Google a chance to get into the living room – they’ll come along with new machines and take over the market,” he said.

“Apple has already announced a gaming controller so they’ve got developers starting to think how they can make games for that controller. If they release this new machine with a new App Store then suddenly they’ll have a device in the living room which can steal the market away from Xbox One and PS4.

“It was only a few years ago that people were saying that the iPhone wasn’t a threat to traditional handhelds, but Apple has taken over what you could call the ‘pocket’ market from things like PS Vita and 3DS. The same thing could happen in the home.”

Darling warned that Apple and Google are both dangerous foes; they innovate and move quickly.

“There’s a lot of potential in what those two companies can do in the living room with their technology,” he said, adding, “The price of console games has to drop otherwise they will not be competitive with Apple and Google.”

Physical media is on its way out, Darling added.

“The industry will definitely move in that direction, and I think it will move very quickly. It’s a bit like flipping a coin – at some stage it will just flip.

“It will change in six months and everybody will wonder why it never changed before. There’s no point in distributing physical media when the internet exists.”

Darling isn’t the only one to decry physical media; Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Désilets said “nobody cares” about it, while Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski warned that the industry will suffer as a result.



  1. _LarZen_

    Watching the live stream with the legend John Carmack live right now and he is saying the same thing. Physical media is going to die sooner then later and MS should not have taken the 180.

    As a digital user for years now I of course agree.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. CraZed

    This guy is an idiot… The main reason those companies haven’t been able to own the living room is because the consoles offer something they don’t… Physical media and digital content.

    Offering consumers a choice is a strength not a weakness. Not to bash his work, but he is speaking directly from his biased position as a for-profit game developer. Digital is here and is a big part of the future of content distribution, but to attempt to do what MS tried to do was suicide and the XB1 pre-order numbers showed that. He and the others that complained about MSs reversal are ignoring the evidence. MS was smart to ditch the DRM stuff and it shows. The preorders picked up afterwards and are going strong.

    I also like how he lauds Apple’s iPhone ignoring the fact that it is losing market share monthly to Android and WP. Sure no one single hand held device sells better than the iPhone yet but it is coming and Google is looking to build another android device…. which at this point hasn’t proven to be near on par with consoles (OUYA, Gamestick, Gamepop, Nvidia SHIELD etc.)

    Physical media is not on the way out… Even today when MP3s are easier than ever to purchase millions of people are still buying CDs. DVDs are still being sold and BluRays are killing it. Heck Sony and Panasonic are partnering for a newer higher density 300GB disc.

    There is not enough security in digital media for the masses of consumers. When services like UV and Flixster etc. all have sunset dates on the digital purchases people will buy them on a disc which not only offers them permanent ownership but superior audio and picture fidelity.

    Get real.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Beta

    Until internet speeds worldwide are much better, and the isp’s remove download limits, then it would be stupid to launch with no physical drive at all as Darling suggests.

    That would be cutting out the market that can’t get good enough internet to download several gigs of data on a regular basis.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. DSB

    Digital is the future, but that doesn’t make Microsofts model any less flawed. We’re clearly not in a place right now where always online is attractive.

    As soon as someones modem starts flashing red, you have an upset customer who can’t play games, and that’s simply not good enough.

    Sony and Microsoft really only have themselves to blame. They’re chained to the same corpse they’ve been dragging around for the better part of the decade while everybody else was roaring past.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. NocturnalB

    I will buy physical media until it is no longer sold. Physical media has always trumped digital in both video and audio quality by a lot and will keep doing so for a long time. I don’t care for the quality of my HD game/movie/music to go down simply because my net speed isn’t top notch.

    Gaming publishers and devs can complain all they want but the all-digital age isn’t going to happen until the ISP’s make it happen.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. Christopher Jack

    Bullshit. No one is forcing publishers to continue selling games on disks, they do so because it continues to sell. We the consumer will decide when physical media dies and Microsoft’s 180 is only proof that the time is not now. Removing the disk tray now will only negatively impact overall sales- not everyone is ready to go digital only and although not everyone will ever be ready, it’s clear that the majority agree for now.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. DSB

    @6 Publishers have virtually no incentive to sell discs to anyone. It nets them a profit of tops 40% (an unlikely maximum – 20% is more likely) off the sale, whereas they get 70% through digital.

    Digital obviously takes care of used games in the process, so I don’t see why anyone would look at that and say “I’d love to throw away 30-50% of my earnings to pay for trucks, plastic and shelf space at Gamestop”.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. Christopher Jack

    @7, I didn’t say that profit margins weren’t better. Also if they had no incentive to sell disks they wouldn’t sell them.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. DSB

    @8 It’s because they’re forced to. Sony and Microsoft own both of the major consoles on the market, so they had the privilege of completely ignoring what was going on in the world around them.

    They’re making money off their license either way, so it seems they felt they didn’t have to care. But publishers are the ones who are paying the price for that.

    Publishers had the choice of saying goodbye to 20%, or dealing with it.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. Malmer

    Nothing stops MS nad/or Sony to release a console without bluray later down the road when the market is more ready for it.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. Phoenixblight

    Physical is 60% of the games sold once they start bringing in a infrastructure that does exactly what the PC market does you will see it dip even more.You will see it with what the PS4 and Xbox One are now offering with Day 1 digital release and play as you download. There is little to no reason to go to a store unless they are offering it for less.

    MS was attempting to force the digital environment and went about it all wrong and their horrible PR didn’t help either.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. Christopher Jack

    @9, Again, they’re not forced to release disks on the consoles, they could just sell them on the store but they CHOOSE not to. The obvious exception are smaller games which cannot sell enough physical copies to turn a profit. Having a disk tray doesn’t mean that publishers are forced to release physical games. I have one on my PC & the only time I buy a retail PC game is when I find a significant special which is quite rare considering how much savings can be found digitally.

    If a publisher can turn a profit selling physical games, it means 2 things: 1) People are still buying physical games. 2) Publishers will continue selling physical games. When #1 stops happening #2 will too. Removing the physical equation isn’t enough to move everyone who buys physical into the digital realm.

    @11, Pretty much. Exactly what irritated me when MS fans boasted about Xbone originally being like Steam. Steam has embraced the digital only future in a way that appeases everyone. Except retailers.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. sebastien rivas

    I have nothing against digital media but I must say I prefer physical and on top of it with a manual.

    Now digital or physical will have very little impact into traditional next gen consoles and anything google/apple would like to market.
    The reason is simple digital media can already be purchased on console. Perhaps it is not the case for all titles but MS/Sony already know what card to play.
    Now on the other hand, it is true that lenghty deving project and cost is a real hurdle to keep price attractive.
    This is an issue I elevated a couple of weeks ago whereas it takes too much time and manpower to create AAA. It does not come from lack of creativity or anything of that sort but I must say DCC software (max/Maya/Softimage…) and game engine from scratch and also editing game engines have a very long way to go to compete with length of 1 man job game in term of time, effort versus cost and so price tag.
    Again I suggest Autodesk and major editing game engine to push boundaries so game content and gameplay creation flaws better and faster. That does not mean better integration between software but let’s face it. There are sides of DCC assets that could be cut down dramatically if software were written for 3D gaming industry alone . I would also suggest major 3D editing game engine companies to do the same especially at coding level to achieve more flawless editing.
    Lots of work at hand, it is possible but doing nothing thinking everything is fine. I am not scared of google/Apple taking over the world of gaming but again these 2 very basic level of DCC and game engine (scratch/Editing) will not do any good to traditional 3D gaming industry if too little is achieved.

    1 Side of gamers is to get better, more, and faster, and the whole without a hitch.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. Lord God King

    You can thank conservative, whiny gamers for this.

    #14 1 year ago
  15. SlayerGT

    “I don’t think they should have had a physical drive on Xbox One”

    I felt the same way. It wouldn’t have even needed messaging to fuck up. It would have spoken for itself and been crystal clear. But when Minecraft releases physically and jumps to the top of the sales charts, you understand why MS was incapable of committing. They didn’t have as much to lose with 360, making it a broadband only device when broadband wasn’t the norm. This time, they had everything to lose. The risk was too great.

    I don’t think they had faith in their supporters, the millions that subscribe to their service. You can probably figure it out why that is..

    #15 1 year ago
  16. manamana

    You can thank self-determined gamers to have freedom of choice.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. DSB

    @12 The public was never asking for digital, everybody was betting against Steam in 2004. They were convinced by determined players who wanted to innovate, but consoles never made that commitment. I don’t own a PS3, but the 360 store is a joke.

    That’s why Microsoft are in this mess now, everybody else has long since moved ahead.

    They “choose” not to because it’s not a real choice. It’s not a realistic option to put your games on Microsofts online store, because Microsofts online store hasn’t gone anywhere since 2007. But there’s absoutely no reason why they wouldn’t if it was somehow made into a modern, serious delivery system.

    It’s never going to be a question of forcefully killing physical though. That’s gonna happen automatically once you make a decent online store. Sadly, instead Sony and Microsoft have cultivated their own isolated group of neo-luddites, and now they have to suffer them.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. manamana

    @17 interestingly, I bought more digital since I’ve became a PS+ member. While still miles away from what I think digital pricing should be, the prices are sometimes better than XBL ever was. Plus you had the advantage of free games, which Microsoft also copied from PS+. I thought that XBL was never an alternative and it felt overpriced through and through.

    But PSN and XBL still don’t feel like a service or a nice online store but more of a way to a fast cash in. Steam is still the way to go, *thats* an online store, where the digital future should lead on consoles. But both companies ignored it.

    And still, many games are cheaper in the App-Store than on PSN/XBL …

    #18 1 year ago
  19. Professor Zoom

    #19 1 year ago
  20. Cort

    “Physical media is dead” said lots of well-informed people in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

    But don’t worry, keep on at it and – like the doomsayers who predict the end of the world – you’ll be right one day. And then you can crow about your remarkable prescience.

    #20 1 year ago
  21. DrDamn

    I would love a disc drive free X1 or PS4. Take it out and give me a much bigger HDD.

    #21 1 year ago
  22. mark_t50

    The one thing I don’t understand is why some people who work in the games industry seem to think they are different to other sectors, somehow deserving of special treatment (Oh we don’t want you selling second hand games!), and so set on removing the choice from the consumer.

    Music embraced Digital years ago, yet I can still go into town and buy a CD if I want.
    Movies/TV are embracing digital, yet I can still go into town and buy a Bluray or DVD boxset.
    Most people I know use Kindles, yet I can still go into town and buy a book.

    How about instead of trying to simply remove the choice from the consumer, this industry actually goes about giving people a reason to move over to digital. Start offering competitive pricing, fast and reliable stores that display meaningful content without resorting to ad bombing the customer, assurances and fair play when it comes to digital ownership etc, and most importantly, still offer a choice for those who want to stay with physical media.

    Heck, I’m all digital on PC and have been for nearly 10 years (pricing and retail bailing on PC being the main factor), yet I’m very reluctant on console. Both Sony and Microsoft have some way to go before I trust them with a very expensive digital games library. they need to start by not shutting game servers off after 1 or 2 years play. My big fear is investing in a huge digital games library that will simply disappear 10 years from now when they turn off the server.

    #22 1 year ago
  23. Professor Zoom

    Well, if people still buy discs then I see no reason why you should suddenly go to all download, besides of the ultimate game sales on Xbox Live, I despise that crap, since I then can’t be able to borrow games from my library anymore and 99% of the games I play are from my library and we pay high taxes here in Europe.

    #13 Are you kidding? The manuals are totally useless, they should stop making them, and stop making those large covers, so they can make the games cheaper and keep making digital manuals, but then again, you actually don’t need them at all, 99% of the games I play, is without reading those ugly manuals, there are already in-game tutorials.

    #23 1 year ago

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