Nintendo Was Right.
The Xbox Brooklin Creates Powerful Discussion with the Future of the Video Game Industry
Recently, I had the privilege to join a stimulating conversation on the "GAME CLOSET" podcast. Our central topic of discussion was the Xbox Brooklyn All Digital (BAD) console, a name that pretty much spells out my feelings about its concept. Why would the idea of an entirely digital gaming platform seem so antithetical to the spirit of gaming?
The conversation led us to ponder Microsoft's aggressive push towards an all-digital future, particularly its drive to migrate users to Game Pass and away from traditional physical media. But as we delved deeper, an epiphany struck: perhaps we've been barking up the wrong tree. The core issue might not be the digital versus physical debate but rather the choices these companies make about storage solutions. It appears that Microsoft and Sony may be opting for the path of least resistance - and expenditure - by choosing cheaper storage options. While this may seem cost-effective for gamers now, it's poised to be an expensive problem down the line. Video linked below for those interested.
Nintendo’s Visionary Move with Game Packaging: Why Microsoft and Sony Should Have Taken Notes
After that podcast discussion, it got me thinking... and that can be dangerous lol.
In an age where digital gaming has taken precedence over physical copies, Nintendo stands as a beacon, embracing an old-school approach to video game packaging. The Japanese gaming giant may have gotten it right, showing Microsoft and Sony that there's still immense value in placing physical game ownership into the hands of customers. Based off Microsoft's latest leaks to send everyone digital in an attempt for world GamePass domination, it exposed their lack of foresight.
The Evolution of Storage Media
Video game storage has evolved dramatically over the years. From cartridges to CDs, DVDs, and now Blu-ray discs, every evolution brought with it the promise of larger capacities and faster load times. However, it seems we might have reached a plateau with Blu-ray discs, which currently have a maximum capacity of 128 GB (in their BDXL variant).
Meanwhile, Nintendo Switch cartridges can currently store up to 64 GB. At first glance, this seems inferior to the Blu-ray discs that Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox have been banking on.
...But here's where it gets interesting.
The Potential of Cartridges
While it's true that the current Nintendo Switch cartridges can hold up to 64 GB, technology has rapidly evolved in the realm of portable storage. Take Micro SD cards, for instance, which can now accommodate a whopping 1 TB of data. There are even rumors of manufacturers pushing the envelope to achieve a 2 TB capacity.
Given this trajectory, it's evident that cartridges could soon eclipse discs in terms of storage capacity. Yes, cost is a significant factor here. A few years ago, a 1 TB Micro SD card commanded a price of over $200. But today, you can find them for less than $80.
The Hidden Costs of Going Digital
Microsoft and Sony seem to be steering away from physical media, favoring digital downloads. At first, this might seem like a move to save consumers money, but the implications run deeper. Many new game releases on these platforms require day-one updates, sometimes larger than the Blu-ray's maximum capacity. This not only demands high-speed internet but also eats up significant storage on the console itself.
Moreover, there's the issue of game preservation. With digital games, once a title is delisted or servers are shut down, the game might be lost forever. But a physical copy, especially one that holds the entire game, ensures that the title will remain playable for generations.
A Question of Value
So, here's the question we need to grapple with: Would you be willing to pay a premium, say $130-$150, for a large physical game cartridge that ensures the game's longevity and entire content without the need for cumbersome downloads? Or, do you align with Microsoft and Sony's vision of a digital future, which might save a few bucks upfront but might cost more in the long run (no way to trade/sell/share/own/etc.)?
Nintendo's perceived technological "inferiority" has often played to its advantage in the fiercely competitive gaming market. Unlike Microsoft and Sony, who are embroiled in an incessant tug-of-war to outdo each other with grandiose graphics and colossal game sizes, Nintendo has strategically skirted these demands. By focusing on unique gameplay experiences and not being beholden to massive game sizes, they've carved out a distinct niche. This approach ensures less strain on storage and a streamlined gaming experience. Furthermore, while pushing the technological envelope has its merits, Nintendo's model raises an essential question: Is incessant tech advancement truly sustainable for the gaming industry's longevity? Sometimes, simplicity and innovation, rather than sheer power, can lead the way.
Nintendo's approach underscores the value of tangible, physical game ownership. While it's unclear what the future holds for gaming, perhaps Microsoft and Sony could take a leaf out of Nintendo's book. After all, in an increasingly digital age, there's something profoundly satisfying about holding a game in your hand, knowing it's yours to keep forever. Unfortunately, the leaked Microsoft documents point to a more... Greedy approach. Attempting to migrate ALL gamers to digital "ownership", and subsequently to GamePass rentals, Microsoft, and Sony to a similar extent, seem to only see value in crushing their own customer base. Yes, it's more affordable up front, but in the long run you will own nothing and ...be happy?