Saints Row 3 maker THQ predicts future consoles will drop discs altogether for cloud gaming.
THQ CEO Brian Farrell told an audience at Cloud Gaming USA (reported by GamesIndustry.biz) this would result in cheaper consoles, thus driving more mass-market adoption.
Farrell said ditching disc drives would save developers and publishers cash, since there would be "no physical goods cost for game makers, no inventory, no markdowns, and all the money spent by the consumer would go to the developer or publisher".
A cloud-only gaming future would also help publishers such as THQ build stronger relationships with gamers. "Our games are always on and our players are always connected… We have the opportunity to interact with players in new ways that can be reactive to their desires, play habits, and buying habits."
The upshot would be more emphasis on post-launch content - the idea that many publishers have to turn games into a service. This has already begun on the current generation: Saints Row: The Third will have more than 40 weeks of DLC, Farrell said, "which will grow and change the experience as the consumer engages with the game."
"We intend to create an online digital ecosystem with the consumer that keeps them interested for almost a year, perhaps even longer," Farrell said. "And we expect most of our large console games going forward will extend the base experience with DLC packs. Things like online in-game storage, and consumables and other online items that will go on for at least a year post-release."
While Farrell did not comment on the next generation of home consoles directly, his thoughts tally with those of Blitz Games Studio chief executive officer Philip Oliver, who told Eurogamer last year he would be surprised if the next Xbox and PlayStation supported physical media.
"Let's be honest, a lot of us have 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?"
However, Farrell's comments contradict those of ex-Sony Computer Entertainment boss Kaz Hirai, who in August 2010 insisted that a digital-only future was 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."