Will it be game over for game discs within the next decade?

One game developer says we might be talking about buying games at retail "nostalgically" within the next 10 years.

Is this the future of game purchasing?
Is this the future of game purchasing? Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Are you still going to GameStop or Best Buy to pick up the latest video games? At least one developer thinks you better get your fill now because you won't have that opportunity in the coming years.

Speaking this week at the BAFTA Question Time event, the CEO of online-game developer Jagex said that a decade from now, we'll all remember when physical games were sold at retail, but we won't be buying them.

"I think, 10 years out from now, we'll be talking about [physical] retail nostalgically, as a museum piece," Mark Gerhard said, according to GamesIndustry.biz, which sponsored the event. "I don't think there's much there that would give it a second life."

Gerhard added that a big problem with physical retail is that companies like GameStop take a large chunk of the profit. This is making it increasingly difficult for developers to turn a profit on their titles as the cost of game development has continued to grow.

As a casual game developer, Gerhard has a vested interest in seeing physical retail die. The sooner games are available solely in digital form, the sooner his company can capitalize on a much broader market.

He's by no means alone in thinking physical game retail will eventually kick the bucket. Electronic Arts offers an online game-distribution platform known as Origin that's designed to cut out physical retail and deliver titles directly to gamers. In an interview with CNET earlier this month, EA Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore said his company is transitioning from one that relies on retailers to one that targets consumers directly.

"Our platform will directly go after the consumer," Moore said. "We don't see ourselves as different than Amazon...or Apple."

Moore's statements were echoed by his colleague , EA Sports Vice President Andrew Wilson, in an interview last year with Eurogamer, in which he said he believes there will soon be a day when we stop shopping at places like GameStop.

"There will come a day where I think that people will stop going into [U.K. game retailer] Game and GameStop," Wilson told Eurogamer. "And I use those purely as examples of retail. It's important for retailers and us to understand what the consumer wants in the future."

In an interview in 2010, Sony's Kazuo Hirai, who will be taking over the consumer electronics giant in April, said that he thought it was " extreme " to say game discs would no longer be necessary in 10 years, adding that "there's always going to be a requirement" for physical discs.

Although one might expect GameStop to stand in full support of that, the company seems to be sitting on the fence . The retailer is still heavily invested in physical games, but last year revealed that it expects its digital game sales to grow at a 50 percent compound annual growth rate over the next several years.

Still, in an interview with IGN a couple years ago, GameStop's digital business manager, Shawn Freeman, said any idea that physical game retail will die off anytime soon is just plain ridiculous.

"We still see a lot of growth on that side, and will require, I still think, physical delivery for quite a while as that technology continues to outstrip advances in bandwidth in storage," Freeman said.

 

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