Gamers have known for years now that the transition to all-digital gaming is coming. For PC gaming, that transition has already largely taken place, with services such as Valve's Steam, OnLive, and EA's Origin. However seeing the future coming and hearing an executive at one of the largest video game publishers in the world confirm it are two different things.
This week Frank Gibeau, president of EA Labels, said in an interview with Games Industry International that EA is "going to be a 100% digital company, period." Gibeau is in charge of EA's product management and marketing for EA Sports, EA Games, Maxis, and Bioware. If anyone in the industry knows the direction gaming is headed it, it's him.
Of course, all-digital gaming will also allow EA to have more control over how gamers play their games. EA was named "worst company in America" by The Consumerist this past year for on-disc or day-one downloadable content (DLC) for its titles and for banning users from accessing their Origin-bought games. An all-digital gaming industry will mean publishers having complete control and oversight of gamers' gaming habits, and will probably mean an end to the second-hand game market.
The real turning point for gaming going completely digital is when consoles do away with their disc drives in favor of digital downloads of games. Gibeau stated that the digital shift is "in the near future," so perhaps he is hinting that the next generation of consoles will not have disc drives. There have already been rumors that the next-generation Xbox console will do away with discs. However, with Sony motivated to keep the Blu-Ray format alive, and Microsoft wanting its Xbox brand to be the center of customers' living room entertainment experience, it seems likely that at least the next generation of consoles will have Blu-Ray disc drives.