Blitz predicts digital-only PS4/Xbox 720

"Why would they want physical media?"

As shops prepare to open stores at midnight to sell Call of Duty: Black Ops and gamers around the world are anxiously for the likes of Fallout: New Vegas and Vanquish to pop through their letterboxes, one developer close to the hardware manufacturers has predicted that the next round of consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo will ditch physical media entirely.

Indeed Blitz Games Studio chief executive officer Philip Oliver would be surprised if the PlayStation 4, Xbox 720 and Wii HD if that's what they're called played discs at all.

"Let's be honest, a lot of us have got smart phones mostly iPhones certainly in this office there are iPhones," he told Eurogamer. "I can't remember the last time I went into a shop to buy an iPhone game, and I haven't missed it. In fact I've got lots of iPhone games and I'm quite happy.

"With the current generation of consoles, the best games come in physical form. But the next range of consoles that will be out in the next five years, why would any of those need physical media? Why would they want physical media?"

Why indeed. According to Oliver, the benefit of going exclusively digital far outweighs the benefit of sticking with physical discs.

"If you've got it physically and you trade it, the hardware manufacturer just lost out, big time," he said.

"When they produce their next console - let's call it Sony Next, it could be any platform holder Next if they make it only a digital store, they absolutely control everything. Pricing, their margins, you can't trade it second hand.

"Their logistics and overheads come down considerably. The cost of manufacture of the original console comes down considerably. The reliability goes through the roof because there are no moving parts. Why would they not?

"It would surprise me if any of the next round of consoles has physical media.

"What we know about that's coming launching next year is still physical media. But beyond that I just don't see the point.

"If you were designing a machine right now, why would you want physical media? It would be crazy."

Blitz Games Studios is currently working on a raft of multiplatform titles, including Kinect launch games The Biggest Loser and Yoostar 2, and the just-announced Kinect game Fantastic Pets for THQ, due March 2011.

Oliver's comments contradict those from Sony Computer Entertainment boss Kaz Hirai, who in August insisted that a digital future is over 10 years away.

"We do business in parts of the world where network infrastructure isn't as robust as one would hope," Hirai said.

"There's always going to be requirement for a business of our size and scope to have a physical medium.

"To think everything will be downloaded in two years, three years or even 10 years from now is taking it a little bit to the extreme."

Oliver, though, reckons digital-only consoles will benefit the consumer as well as the companies that make them.

"Once you've got something and you've turned it digital and you've stuck it on the net, it's there forever," he said. "Whereas if I only had a videotape or a disc box, if I lose it or break it, that's it. It's over.

"In some ways it's more secure being digital. I own it more because I've always got access to it.

"Photographs I can access my digital photographs way easier than I can access my physical ones. I wouldn't even know where they are.

"It's completely generational. I've got kids and they have no value in discs and physical things."

Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have refused to comment directly on their plans for their next home consoles.

Sony and Microsoft have been keen to push motion-sensing add-ons PS Move and Kinect, respectively, while Nintendo points towards its glasses-free 3D handheld the 3DS.

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