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Should consoles go all digital?

To download or not to download, that is the question...

We've been downloading games, movies and music for years now but somehow the idea of video game consoles without physical media is still difficult to parse. After all, sticking in a disc or cartridge is as habitual to gamers as holding a controller or pressing buttons.

Devices like the iPhone, iPad and PS Vita are taking baby steps into the world of digital-only gaming, but the idea of a having a new Xbox or PlayStation without a disc drive still feels like a leap we're not yet ready to make.

But with every passing week circumstances shift to suggest a discless gaming world would not only serve us better, but could very well happen soon, and in light of recent events we thought it would be interesting to bring up the issue again.

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Arguably the biggest case for consoles delivering games exclusively through digital channels is the instability of brick and mortar retailers. While things finally seem to be looking up for GAME, which looks like it will be acquired by Comet owner OpCapita, it may be a case of delaying the inevitable.

GAME's woes meant it was unable to stock some of this month's biggest titles, including blockbusters like EA and BioWare's Mass Effect 3. According to analysts the absence could cost game £2.5million, but luckily the strength of the Mass Effect IP minimised the impact on sales, in its debut week Mass Effect 3 managed to shift more than the combined week one sales of both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.

However, not all games can be expected to show the same kind of resilience. We're betting Asura's Wrath certainly suffered from not being on GAME's shelves.

So you've got to imagine publishers are paying attention to the fluctuating health of retail and factoring it in to its decision.

Earlier this year Swedish developer Paradox Interactive's boss Fredrik Wester said he thinks the next generation will be the last before consoles go all-digital, and went as far as to say he'd be 'surprised if we see another generation after that'.

Developers seem quite keen on it too, especially since it could deal a blow to the used game market. Obsidian's Chris Avellone recently said: "I hope digital distribution stabs the used game market in the heart."

For the immediate future it looks like both Microsoft and Sony aren't done with physical media. According to reports Microsoft has been telling its partners its next-generation console will "offer compatibility with some sort of interchangeable solid-state card storage."

Meanwhile Sony's Kaz Hirai has said the PlayStation 4 is likely to be a disc-based system since "relying solely on networks to deliver content is unfortunately just not possible."

But we're interested in how you feel about going all-digital. Do you think the platform holders should ditch discs in favour of digital, why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.

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