Five years from now tokens, sold bundled with figurines or plushy toys, will probably have replaced discs.
That's the opinion of Christian Svensson, senior vice president of strategic business development at Capcom ("US boss", in short).
"Retail will always have a place in our future," predicted Svensson to Gamasutra. "But five years down the road, the value proposition of retail, to publishers, will change. Retail's role will shift from planned purchase to impulse purchase, predominantly. And planned purchases will increasingly happen online, just for sheer convenience's sake.
"Five years from now, more likely than not, we'll not have plastic discs in a box, but we'll have tokens in a box, something that is gift-able and able to be bundled with other hard items like figurines or plushes - or something else that has tangible value that can't be downloaded over a wire."
His thoughts tally with a recent report about the Next Xbox not containing a disc drive.
Svensson also gave an oft-heard prediction of game sales becoming predominantly digital, as they have on PC.
"Very obviously, certainly sometime before five years from now, every game will be digital and retail day and date [same release]," he said.
"To quote my friend Paul Raines, the CEO of GameStop, they don't disagree on the inevitability of it, they disagree on the timing of it - when it's going to happen.
"I definitely think that's going to happen very, very quickly. It's going to depend a lot on what the first party [console manufacturers] do in the next generation of console hardware.
"Five years from now, more likely than not, we'll not have plastic discs in a box, but we'll have tokens in a box, something that is gift-able and able to be bundled with other hard items like figurines or plushes - or something else that has tangible value that can't be downloaded over a wire."Christian Svensson, senior VP strategic business development, Capcom
"But I'm not privy to those details today," he added, "so I couldn't possibly predict what is going to happen there."
In next-gen machines, networks will be crucial, and games will more and more be viewed as services, "less discrete products", Svensson went on to say.
"I'll tell you something I'm hoping for," he added, "I'm hoping for a much more fluid means of providing updates to consumers, being able to have a much more rapid turnaround in between when content is submitted and when content goes live to consumers, to provide a higher level of service to them. I'm hoping that the networking and the processes in the future are built with that in mind.
"I'd like to see more server-based backends that are more under publisher-developer control, rather than being forced through systems pre-defined by the first-party. That would enable experiences online that are not currently available in today's console marketplace."
Sony has worked closely with Eve Online maker CCP to make this hope a reality. With PS3 MMO Dust 514, CCP will apparently have "complete ability to service and update the games as much as needed". Sony said CCP "removed" the barriers that have prevented games like MMOs getting off the ground on consoles in the past, although Microsoft has always been the greater of the two evils here (Nintendo doesn't really factor). Dust 514 is due this year, and the alterations Sony and CCP have been working on will spread across PSN.
That's not to say Microsoft doesn't have similar plans. The Xbox maker may be distilling a relationship similar to Sony and CCP's with Undead Labs - a studio founded by MMO royalty Jeff Strain (co-founder of Guild Wars dev ArenaNet, lead programmer of World of Warcraft and instrumental in the Diablo and StarCraft franchises). Undead Labs is making an Xbox Live Arcade-exclusive zombie MMO, and has worked from the ground-up with Microsoft to ensure it works. Our hunch is that Class3, like Dust 514 on PSN, will signal a wider change to Xbox Live policy.