Will Cartridges Come Back? Is Disc Media Dead?

By on May 5, 2010

Many old time gamers remember the first battle between Sony and Nintendo. Sony, still licking its wounds from Nintendo opting not to use its CD based add on for the Super Nintendo, decided to take the prototype and develop their own system. The Sony PlayStation was released in 1995 in the US. Nintendo, not to be outdone by its new opponent, released the Nintendo 64 in 1996, just over a full year after Sony entered the market.

3D was the name of the game and both consoles had great titles to show off their new technology. There was however, one main difference between the two approaches. Some would even say it was the defining characteristic of the 32 and 64 bit generations. The Nintendo 64 used a solid state memory system in cartridges, like its previous consoles. Sony however, used a disc based system: the compact disc. The battle between speed and space was born. And ultimately, space won out and all consoles, save for future Nintendo handhelds, used the disc based media.

One thing the solid state memory always had over disc based media was read speed. The Nintendo 64 had blazing fast load speeds but suffered greatly with low capacity. Anyone who has sat and watched a loading screen is one of many fallout victims of Sony’s win.

Today, current generation consoles mainly use the disc based system. The Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii use DVDs with up to 9 gigs of space and the Sony PlayStation 3 uses Blu Ray discs with up to 50 gigs of space. Some games can be downloaded to your console hard drive but a majority of games are delivered to you on 4.7 inch round discs of plastic.

The industry seems to be trending toward digital downloads and some doomsayers are predicting the death of physical game products in the future. But with the cost of solid state memory getting cheaper and cheaper and posting faster and faster read/write speeds, I predict a different future:

The Return of the Cartridge.

It’s already possible to carry up to 256 gigs (I’m serious, it’s not cost effective but it is possible) of space in your pocket in the form of a USB thumb drive and with USB 3.0 on the horizon, the speed limit is about to increase exponentially. Costs are getting cheaper and cheaper and manufacturing cost was a deciding factor in the disc’s rise to power.

Imagine if you could marry the vast spaces of discs with the blazing fast speeds of solid state memory. Can you say no more load times? You pop the game into the top of the console so the game is sticking out the top like in ye olden times and you could see the sweet artwork on the front of the cartridge. The nostalgia is killing me!

One could easily argue that all entertainment consumption is trending toward digital downloads. iTunes has revolutionized the way we consume our music and all but killed the CD industry. Record execs can blame piracy all they want but until they accept the fact that the public consumes our music differently now, they will soon be standing in line at the clearance racks. E-books are growing in sales and personal e-book readers are becoming a common sight. Netflix and digital movie rentals are rivaling DVD sales. In fact, you would have to be pretty stubborn to not see the significant impact that digital downloads have had on the entertainment industry.

So why would I say that cartridges are the future? It’s probably just a personal belief but I think that buyers want to have a physical connection with their product. The completion of a download progress bar is nowhere near as satisfying as ripping open a shrink wrapped case and flipping through the instruction booklet in your car. The scroll list of your library doesn’t have the visual impact as a shelf lined with the beautiful artwork of game cases. You don’t get the same emotional connection with a download. You don’t feel the same sense of ownership.

Or, I’m nostalgic. And wrong. And eventually I’ll die off along with the cartridge and the disc and the remaining human race will download their entertainment into the empty spaces of their brains and they can do nothing but sit on their couches, drooling, the baby crying, but having fun. I fear that tomorrow’s children will not be able to experience the thrill of picking something off the shelf and running to their parents, begging them to buy it and the sheer joy that comes when they finally say yes. Can you experience the same thrills when you press the “purchase” button? Will you get the same joy when the game joins a list of other games you own?

I don’t know about you, but it won’t happen for me.

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About David Scarpitta

I am a critical guy, and love to review and give my professional opinion on just about anything. Though have a love for tech/gaming and music alongside the cinema. You can catch me consulting and developing the net any day of the week.
  • Doomraker

    Another good point is that without disks that means no more spinning which also means that you won’t have scratches on them to stop you from playing. Also the Xbox 360 won’t die from drive tray errors.

  • n/a

    > Doomraker

    Unless someone messes up like the original NES and the pins rust.

  • http://www.digitalbodycount.com Baljot

    While I think that the digital distribution model is great (just look at Steam) it’s ineffective for places where the ISP still puts restrictions and caps on the amount you can download per month (yes these places still exist). There were a couple of times where I’ve bought a game from Steam and had to wait til after the 10th to actually download it.
    It also sucks on the 360, where storage is prohibitively expensive – 52 cents/GB?! Bitch please.

  • james slashdot

    No. Cartridges will not make a comeback. In fact disc and cartridges are dead.

    The future is digital distribution a la Steam.

    Sony’s already realized this with the PSP Go: you can not buy or rent a game for the PSP Go at any store, every game is downloaded from the Playstation Store, giving Sony more control over pricing and virtually eliminates hacking. Since the PSP Go is the latest console out (if you don’t count the “hey we made the screen 0.3 larger” DS) it’s a good sign all the consoles will follow suit just like the original PSP added a navigation menu that the Playstation 2 and Xbox did not have at the time but the Playstation 3 and Xbox360 did include.

    Customers do not want a physical connection with their product. Look at the success of iPods and the iPhone, people download music, movies, games and applications all without receiving a physical product.

    Your argument, while well written and it was a joy to reminisce, is flawed.

  • Topgun

    @james I think that your reply is a little flawed. This is a very well written article. Yes, you can look at ipod’s etc. However there is a big difference between spending 99 cents on a song, and 60 bucks on a game. I am from the cartridge generation. I remember as a kid getting that new Nintendo game under the Christmas tree. Somehow, I don’t think digital downloads will completely replace that feeling.
    I am not biased I do use Steam/EA Downloader etc for a lot of games. But still, sometimes you just want to hold it.

  • http://www.dasreviews.com OldSkoolFool

    This is at James Slashdot. As being on both sides of the fence as retail/gamer/reviewer I will say that we have a long ways to go as “Digital Distribution” being the end all. First is guys like me (and there are others as well, case in point being the author of this article) that WILL PAY FOR QUALITY PRODUCTS AT A FAIR PRICE! Now that’s not to say that DL content isn’t a total no-brainer for keeping older released titles alive but when it comes to that AAA game that I want and I am “collecting” it, then I want something tangible! It also has value. There is no increased saleable value in selling my IPod with 10K songs on it! If someone bought my Ipod and it had the songs on it, they would probably be like “whatever” listen to a few tracks and then erase it.

    I think in a tough economy like this, people have distanced themselves from an emotional connection to save $$$$ however I still see many (for that particular product) that will pay for a tangible product that they see real value in.

    And as your comment about PSP Go is concerned..it pales in comparison to any previously released PSP’s and other handheld consoles and is really considered a flop by most analysts including myself. And you can attribute that to “nothing but DLC” content. Because sometimes. it’s just not that convenient not to mention the same price as a packaged product.

  • Colby

    A 10 dollar cd is different than a 60 video game. And the PSP is not paving the way for anything. The PSP sucks.

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  • fearghoul

    baljout, this is why the FCC needs to step in and regulate broadband. once that is done, we won’t have problems with ISPs deliberately screwing consumers over.

    digital downloads are basically the future. it’s the most cost effective method to deliver games.

  • zethreal

    @James Slashdot

    Sony is forcing people to use digital downloads so that they can CONTROL what is sold. They aren’t doing it because people want them to, they’re doing it so that people can’t resell games after they no longer want them.

    Digital downloads are coming out so the game companies can FORCE people to buy NEW games, not buy used. They merely want to kill off a whole market because they want to make sure they get more money.

    Personally, I will not buy digital downloads, as that means I only have access to them as long as they *want* me to have access to them. 25 years down the road, will I be able to access my “downloadable content”? probably not… will I still be able to access my cartridges or disks? Unless I break them, yes…

  • http://www.heftelstudios.com Kawika

    I hope we see cartridges make a comeback. I hated the transition to discs (and the load times that resulted).

  • james slashdot

    I understand where OldSkoolFool is coming from, but this is the same argument from 2001 when everyone said iTunes would fail, that customers want a physical CD.

    It was wrong then and it’s wrong now, and every new consumer electronic device has moved further and further away from physical media. PS3, Xbox360, Wii and PSP all have online stores to download entire games from. iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad…. seems Apple’s the only one that’s managed to do well without any physical media, but people are buying them and buying the intangible applications and games that are available for them. Although I agree PSP Go sales have not been great it is a sign of things to come and Sony claims the sales figures were what was expected as of last October:

    It’s more profitable for the companies and consumers keep buying the new stuff (except the PSP Go, but it has other problems besides lack of a UMD), so who’s going to stop them? iPad is the latest device without physical media and it’s already sold over a million, twice as fast as the original iPhone, despite the $500+ price tag and jokes that it is simply a large iPod Touch. These buyers could have bought laptops for less and had software on DVDs but they chose not to. No one cares that they can not hold or resell the $9 Final Fantasy game they download to their iPad.

  • james slashdot

    The reason the PSP Go is failing is because Sony is modeling their pricing off of physical media pricing, charging $20-$50 for a downloaded game

    If they setup their price structure like iTunes, with the majority of the games costing 1 or 2 dollars, it would sell like… iPads.

    Now I’m sorry I ever brought up the PSP Go, should have stuck with the iPad/iPod Touch.

    I see some people her saying “I will not download digital downloads”. That’s fine, you’re obviously not responsible for any of the 4 billion app downloads in less than 2 years from the App Store as of April 2010

    Obviously the rest of the world is buying intangible apps and do not care if they can not resell them or touch them or rip off a shrink wrapped case.

    But don’t you worry about your PS3 or Xbox360, because at the rate things are going we’ll all be buying the Apple iGame by 2012.

  • hardnard

    I understand the whole nostalgic thing. I don’t get the same thrill opening up today’s game discs as I did when I opened up a game cartridge. I think part of the appeal was that with a cartridge, it’s almost like there’s a tiny little world in there that I’m about to explore. And the cartridge had some weight to it. Some of the best games on Super Nintendo had the heaviest cartridges because they had more ROM chips and sometimes batteries too. And that was satisfying because it felt like you really got your money’s worth. But the disc is just a flat piece of plastic that shows your reflection back to you and is cheap to make and is easy to scratch and therefore does not provide the same sense of value.

  • Will

    The flaw with digital downloads is that current net speeds make d/l a 50gb game unfeasible. Most people’s connections would take 2-7 days to grab a game that size, and in the meantime their internet would be unusable as it downloads. Why suffer through that when there are probably 4 Gamestops in a 5 mile radius? In the future Im sure things will be different, but probably not in the next 5-10 years. That gives room for the next round of nex-gen systems to be cartridge based. As much as companies like Sony hate the used game market, they hate piracy as much or more. Cartridges are much more inconvenient for the average consumer to pirate. I could definitely see that as a selling point for cartridges.

    Also, do people really think that the iPhone/iPad audience is the same as the 360/PS3 crowd? The only thing iPhone games are competing with is Farmville on Facebook, get real.

  • Gigs

    I’ve been thinking about this lately, but I was coming at it from another angle.

    Don’t think flash RAM or CD/DVD. Think about just how much you can cram onto a silicon chip if all you needed to do was to create arrays of crossed wires that, at each crossover, are either connected or shorted. Send a voltage down one line and read all the cross lines sequentially. Think of the capacity of flash ram, with the read speed of SRAM. And because the features are simply straight conductors, they could be packed onto a chip, layered and stacked, very densely (thus very cheaply). These would basically be custom, hard-wired permanent memory. _Fast_ memory. “What wait state?” fast. Might not even need to be on silicon, as it’s just basically an array of crossed wires, so “two dollars per gigabyte” cheap is potentially feasible.

    Now imagine a consortium of industry players led by Intel and Microsoft promoting a new, open hardware standard. On the motherboard you have, say 4 regular DRAM slots, plus 4 (or 8) new SROM slots. Each SROM would be mapped to an 8 or 16 GB address space in memory and would be read just like regular memory. The socket would be easy for consumers to use, perhaps like a long Compact Flash card with 200+ pins, or similar to the newer CPU sockets but long and thin.

    Microsoft then contracts with a fab to make these SROM modules with Windows 7 on them. Under the new architecture, the Win7 code is read directly from the SROM, and doesn’t need to be copied into RAM. Since the SROM is much, much faster than DRAM, load times are lightning fast. The OS is _already_ in memory from the instant the computer is powered on. Since every bit of the OS appears to already be in memory, permanently, none of it ever needs to be swapped to disk. Always having the same relative location on the SROM could have advantages too. Being non-writeable, it’s also not vulnerable to virus or trojan manipulation, although a mechanism for on-the-fly patching from disk would need to be present. Easily secured since the patching program could be kept on the SROM, with a hard-wired decryption key, thus only patches encoded with the other half of that key would be executed.

    From Microsoft’s (and Adobe’s, and any other maker of expensive software packages) point of view, it’s a Copyright and DRM Silver Bullet. Piracy could be nearly eliminated. Boot sector viri could be nearly eliminated. Power-on to desktop times of 10 seconds might be the new norm. Pirated software would be stuck loading from disk and executing from DRAM. Game makers would surely be delighted, and oddly enough game buyers too, since they’d be getting an improved product without onerous DRM management. Free and FOSS apps would definitely have to adapt, but in the long run they would probably embrace such a new architecture as it’d let them more easily monetize and earn money. Download your (slow) disk-based apps and OS, or buy a (profitable) SROM with Firefox, Reader, and maybe a bunch of other free apps on it. Ubuntu could easily add a dollar or two of profit to each module.

    Yes, there would have to be changes made in the way programs are compiled/stored to adapt them to the new architecture, and a host of other minor challenges. But, I really, truly believe that within a few years we’ll be seeing something just like the above. And for once, we actually will embrace our new DRM overlords.

  • http://fark.com pecosdave

    The fall of physical media is making my day, for a different reason than most of you.

    I am not a pirate. I own physical copies of every game I play, every movie I watch, and every song I listen to. I use fair use laws to make things just as convenient for me as for people who use digital distribution.

    I rip all my CD’s. Thanks to iTunes I can buy entire albums used for $1 at resale shops and online venue’s due to low demand (online venues cost more for shipping). My song from a $1 and album sounds just as good as your DRM laden $1 a song. I buy PS1 games used at the resale shops and UMD games (new and used) rip them both and put them on my PSP. I also rip some of my own DVD’s (not many) and watch them on my iPhone and PSP. If the copywrite police ever knock on my door I can show them my legal copies that I bought incredibly cheap and legally thanks to all of you digital distribution folks lower demand for my physical media.

    I have bought some digitally distributed media. Not much. I don’t have a Blu-Ray player yet, but thanks to that crappy digital copy disk (I don’t like those) I occasionally buy one of those to prepare for the future. I buy as much new as I do used, so I’m not hurting anyone, even though the manufactures complain about the resale market. Manufacturers have complained about the retail market for over 200 years, the big difference between the past and now is they’re DRM’ing crap to try to kill it. One of the oldest versions of this was a vinyl record with a warning “License to play this music not transferred with the record unless sold for at least one dollar”.

    Keep ditching your physical media for virtual, I’ll keep buying yours and making it virtual.

  • Kisai

    I think there is absolutely no chance of “cartridges” coming back as people tend to lose fingernail sized items much easier than “CD sized” ones. In fact the entire reason there is so much landfill garbage from buying games today is because of the extra packaging needed to make them fit in shelves originally designed for LP Records or VHS tapes.

    Quick nostalgia check. Do you remember when you bought a game on 5.25″ floppy disk? It came in a box 2″ thick and 12″ tall. Exactly the size needed to fit in the space of a LP on the shelp, though you could fit two of them side by side. This is also why CD’s (STILL) come on double-height display plastics when you buy them at places like Costco.

    DVD’s replaced VHS tapes on the shelves, that’s why they come in rectangular boxes. Even when games came on DVD, they were also put in these Rectangular boxes.

    Do you see music, movies, books and games being sold on individual SD-card ROM’s ? No. The amount of packaging waste would be enormous. It already is just to buy blank ones. You wind up with DVD-case sized amounts of plastic for this tiny item smaller than an inch by an inch. Plus people have a hard time reading things on labels that small.

    The future is Digital Downloads. What may happen is that a “game storage device” and “online license manager” may be developed based on DRM and Flash ROM in conjunction with current “app stores” so that instead of storing all your DLC on the game console, ipad, or insecure PC/Mac, it’s stored directly on this device. Should in the future the DLC network go extinct, you can still play games/content stored on this device, as it’s married to the device, and not a physical PC/Console. This bypasses the “insecure”, possibly jailbroken or malware infested PC by not permitting writing to the device unless it connects to the DLC network. If the device is stolen, it can be flagged as such on the DLC network, allowing the games to be downloaded again to a new device, while rendering the old device unusable.

  • Supersixty

    Too bad that that courts in Australia have now ruled that you do not own software that you download. You have the right to use a single copy and nothing else. Legally if you sell your system to someone else you’d have to delete all software downloaded onto it if you lived in Australia. Stay tuned to see if a similar suit is launched in US.

    Personally I think that the game suppliers will begin to look at new ways to protect their IP other than encryption and DRM. Moving back to a proprietary distribution package like the Nintendo Game Cube for may be a consideration.

    Also note that broadband suppliers have now been given the right implement a “user pay” plan which could become quite costly for some. So the cost to download a digital movie/game or even streaming TV may level the playing field between renting or buying a game or movie at a store. And there is also a real possibility that there may be surcharges added to Internet service that would go to copyright organizations similar to the surcharge that the Canadian Government added to blank CD’s.

    George Orwell was right. 1984 is just around the corner.

  • RichSad

    Of course SOME DAY all the content will be delivered over some wireless cloud, but in the meantime there are serious restrictions on the amount of bandwidth available. It is totally possible that in order to deliver really rich games a generation of game console (or PC) will use something like Flash memory in the form of an SD card or something. As a software architect, I would try to determine what parts of the game could be distributed in large chunks and then use Internet connectivity to update the storyline/scenes/interact with community. We are a long way off from sufficient bandwidth into the average consumer’s home to make physical distribution obsolete. As a business person, you want to aim for the future but also deliver cost efficient solutions today that provide great user experiences. In my experience, meeting those goals always means some kind of compromise.

  • TedTedTed

    The hardware required to read a cartridge would cost almost nothing compared to a blu-ray (or similar) reader.. A cart could be faster than a hard drive….. Like the SSD.

    I could see cartridges making a comeback for a short time if the conditions are right. Everything is headed for digital distribution but that is further away than most people want to admit. Bandwidth is not there, people forget how many rural people there are with no broadband at all, or towns where there is only one cable company only providing 3mbit or similar packages.

    If conditions are right I could one maybe two generations of consoles using carts again.. Mainly I could see Nintendo using them for a generation, and the portables using them.. But digital distribution is close and getting closer all the time….

    digital distribution is already here for me.. I pirate everything possible and it is so much simpler than dealing with waiting for it to come out, finding it, driving there, dealing with the stores, etc.. Modded 360, PSP, iPod touch, Wii, DivX players, computers hooked to TV to just play what I download.. I hope others keep paying for stuff I just dont see the point anymore though.. If they start selling .XviD.avi or .720p.mkv files I’ll reconsider.. till then ;)

  • todd

    Cartridges will not come back within the foreseeable future. Solid state memory has a long way to go to be cheaper to manufacture than a DVD.

    @james slashdot

    People do want physical media. But they also want convenience. The reason ITMS and Steam are so popular are because they are convenient and because they never run out of stock. ITMS also has a killer selection. I can’t go down to the local independent music store (if I could find an independent music store) and be assured of finding what I want. However, a great many people never buy from ITMS, they buy CD’s and rip their own music. ITMS would have never gotten off the ground if the music companies had the guts to put machines in the music shops that would manufacture music CD’s on demand, full albums or individual songs, with access to their entire music catalogs.

  • HockeyJockey

    I would like to say that cartridges used in NES, SNES, N64 etc. were actually made in the golden age of video games. It was amazing because, although the graphics were not on the verge of utter perfection, the controls were not complicated, (4 arrows, 2 buttons, start/select) the story was excellent! The software was not complicated, but the story was, like look at Ocarina of Time (N64), sure, people have extravagantly pointy noses and ladders are flat like paper, but if it was re-made with the exact same controls and story and general looks, but with better graphics to fit in today’s world, it would be the best video game of the year, if not decade! I mean come on, look at poor old mario party wii, they do not have a single good ‘minigame’ in that mess of graphics. DOWN WITH THE LOADING SCREEN! LONG LIVE THE CARTRIDGE!

    Digital distribution would only be good in -th world countries, where every cubic foot has faster than lightning broadband. I live in the boonies, where the very fastest my internet went was 10 seconds to load 10 pictures of cats with really dumb captions. I can’t even stream fast enough to watch the whole flash animation while it loads.

    These are the reasons, if i was in a store with only PSP Gos or some form of digital distribution hadware, and an older form of portable gaming system, like Gameboy color, i would take the game boy. At least i can play a video game on it, even if pixelated.

  • Botched

    I think the one thing that most people overlook when it comes to digital distribution and cloud computing is that a lot of people still do not have broadband. I live in an area where we can either use satellite internet or dial-up. There are a lot of area’s in the US that do not have cable or DSL available to them and are stuck with smaller options like dial-up or satellite. Because of this and other factors I prefer to actually have a package to rip open and a game CD or cartridge to use. If we can get actual broadband up here I might change my tune about all this but until that happens I will stick to buying the discs and cartridges.

    Great article by the way, the nostalgia of having a cartridge hits me every time.


  • blah

    @Kisai “Do you see music, movies, books and games being sold on individual SD-card ROM’s ? No. ”

    Actually the answer is yes. Disney and Nintendo would be great examples of this. Disney themselves sell an SD card with content on them from “High School Musical” Go to the nearest Target and you shall find them.

    Nintendo’s DS uses a propietary SD card technology, albeit a very limited one, but still very similar to SD cards. So I think that you should do some research on this before flapping off at the mouth.

    Also digital is clearly not the way to go considering the mess that Sony just perpetrated with the PS3. Sorry but as much as I would like to think digital is the “wave of the future” they still have alot of things to prove to me before they can do that. Seriously if I turn on my home console, that resides in my home, and the PSN can crash my system? That’s taking it too far.

  • http://fark.com pecosdave

    If anyone is interested, I found that early 20th century publishers attempt at controlling the resale market.


    The difference between that and the BS Sony and Capcom are pulling with Final Fight: Double Impact is they actually have a technological means to control the resale market where as the LP guys only had a bogus illegal rule that didn’t have to be followed.

  • Floydicus

    @ james slashdot

    sorry to burst your bubble, but do you know the real reason why the ipad has sold so many units, why the ipod/ipod touch/iphone are so popular? its because they are marketed to the point that people feel that they need it, and with how impressionable people are these days, to not have one makes you a loser, and who likes being a loser?

    i say this with a strong loathing for the iphone and the fact that it fails as a phone and that most people own one because it is a huge advantage to just carry that around with all the different apps you need for you job instead of carrying a cellphone, pda, and other various electronic devices. i see the giant selling point of the ipad being the fact that its just a giant touch screen (which is the wave of the future right now), and the ipods selling so well because they have been around the longest and have made a name for themselves over the zunes and other music players.

    the psp go has its downfall in the fact that it is unhackable and that you have to buy your games from sony, which is a big pain in the side to homebrew gamers and modders like myself who like to get our moneys worth out of our toys, and the inability to use the hardware and software freely to do other things like play roms of other games along with using it for its intended purpose as well. sony is trying to put an end to something that cant be stopped, and so far it is showing in their sales. you can post what you want about how they have their expected sales for this month or whatever, but its still failing.

    to get back to topic, it would be great to go back to cartridge gaming, i still use my n64 and my super nintendo more than my ps2, and with how cheap solid state is getting i think that if regulated properly, game prices may actually go down. the space issue is not a problem, look at the quality of games that come out for the ds that run on a cartridge, there are still a great deal of people out there that get joy in ripping the shrink wrap off of a game box and reading the instruction booklet, or even the fact of having a physical product in their hands. it does not really matter to me if i can re-sell my games or not, i just like having an actual object in their hands.

  • http://www.satori.org Mark DeLoura

    Two other reasons the industry moved away from cartridges: manufacturing time and cost. Back in the day, it could take 45 days to produce a run of cartridges, versus two weeks for discs. So if you were a publisher and didn’t guess your day-one sales correctly, you were either stuck with a ton of extra carts or had empty shelves for weeks and weeks.

    Similarly, cost to produce carts was substantially higher. Combine your need to guess your cart production run size correctly with the fact that they cost more to produce, and you have a recipe for much higher risk on the part of publishers. As soon as disc-based consoles started having significant audience sizes, it made a lot of sense to move over to the disc format.

  • james

    @Floydicus “ipods selling so well because they have been around the longest”

    Since when? Creative beat Apple by 3 years with the Diamond Rio released in 1998. I should know, I had a Rio in 1998. Yes it was only 32 megabyte so it only held about 32 minutes of CD quality audio, but it sure beat transcoding mp3s to wav then burning to CDRW and carrying a bulky CD player while running.

    First iPod didn’t come out until 2001, and it was about triple the price of similar mp3 players.

    So you want to know the real reason iPods won? Shuffle, playlists and ranking: until iPods no mp3 players had that. They had the same thing CD players had, continuous and random, and the random was awful. Apple made playlists and the ability to rank songs right on the mp3 player, and their shuffle was so intuitive it bordered on mind-reading: google “ipod can read my mind”.

    Anyway, carts are dead and everything is moving away from discs, from games to movies, with our highspeed internet (even my parents have 30mbit/sec download) to terabyte hard drives (3tb was just announced), everything is either download or streaming. Actually I think games will probably move to streaming in the future, you’ll download the required files and can play immediately and textures required for later levels will download while you play.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if children 20 years from now ask “What’s a disc?”

  • MBytor

    @james – I applaud your knowledge and understanding in the fast moving digital world and your keeping of the bleeding edge, however I’m in agreement with a few others here – rural areas are huge, and they don’t have high speed internet. Your vision is, in fact, futuristic to the tune of at least 5 years. Yes, there are bleeding edge projects everywhere in urban areas. I work in Flint, MI and Google is looking to put in a fiber line straight through downtown for a cloud computing work force so people can work from home over lightning fast lines to reduce maintenance costs for the city. Despite all of this, even these large companies couldn’t conceive leaving an entire market of people behind consisting of, oh say, half of the US geographical area (rural areas). I live 15 minutes outside of Flint, MI and I have ONE high speed provider for the entire area. The best they offer is burst shared lines of 10MBit cap. That means you can only sustain 1MBit average on a good day. We don’t get that pay by the byte bull, but to get anything better you have to pay several hundred dollars a month for your own dedicated line, plus the cost of bringing such a line to your location.
    When it’s sensible, I do purchase digital download items. STEAM in particular is excellent in this regard, especially with the rerouting of DRM to be far less of an irritation to the end user. I use piracy as a free rental format because I’m terribly short on cash. If it’s a quality game/movie/record, I go purchase it as soon as I can. If it happens that I have it DRM free thanks to the pirating community, I just buy digital because I already have the freedom of use due to the pirated version, but am legal to have both copies once legally purchased. I am from the NES/SNES era myself, and I have always favored cartridges. Personally, I would love to see carts come back just because they were so much more durable – durable for both tough storage conditions and regular use.
    I have always found solid state devices more reliable and user friendly than any other format, be it floppies, CDs, DVD, whatever. I have many a hard drive fail on me (thanks a lot Seagate and Western Digital, for your shitty hardware), so I understand the fear behind digital purchase without tracking and one-time use items. The idea of a third party tracking hardware would be useful, except you know someone is going to be a problem. Case in point here is Ubisoft and their attempts to have constant connection required to play their games. That type of thing is impossible until cloud computing is universally available due to high speed internet availability nearly worldwide at reasonable prices (worldwide meaning the technology-active areas).
    On a side note regarding portable players of all types – I hate sony and apple for their ridiculous DRM and proprietary formats with terrible compatibility. I can see using it for their own specific things, and even the creation of new technology, but the general lack of support for the open source community by seemingly sensible businesses is horrifying. There is a lot of money to be made on open source items, it’s just in services, not physical retail. At this point, anybody who is relying on sony and such for physical retail so heavily is probably too uneducated to use it even if it were free – they’d need to purchase the services anyway. In regards to proprietary formats everywhere, people complain later, sure, once things get invasive (see: facebook controversy); but steps need to be taken sooner to prevent such things. Perfect example from a lovely comic: http://xkcd.com/743/ He is correct, we are supporting infrastructures that are designed to destroy our rights as consumers. This is ridiculous behavior and is only fueled by uninformed consumerism and the teenage and trendy markets (see: apple “macfags”, “fanboys”, and any teenage girl you see saying “like” more often than a proverbial sailor swears or a teenage boy that appears dumber than a box of rocks due to too many football blows). Personally, I bought JetAudio mp3 players due to their widespread compatibility – anything from realaudio junk audio to .flac for audio and anything from ipod formats to .mkv for video formats. Sure it doesn’t have unnecessary fancy features, but it gets the job done and it gets it done well without the inconvenience of initial changeover to proprietary software and purchasing licenses.
    I hope one day the consumer market will once again empower themselves and be educated, but until then: Alas, we have fallen short of our duty – be it not long forgotten that the end user once fueled their own needs and staved the hunger of the corporate nipple.

  • HK135

    Just a thought, what about downloading to cartridges. HD’s get bigger but so do games, DRM would be tricky but not impossible, especially if the format is closed.

    • Matt

      You do know that the only thing DRM does is burden the consumer, the person who actually paid for the product?  It certainly doesn’t stop piracy, and it certainly doesn’t burden pirates because the versions of the games they download have the DRM removed for them by other, smarter pirates. 

      Pirates don’t have to mess with typing in keys to unlock multiplayer modes, but consumers do.  Pirates don’t have to connect to the internet to download the latest updates because of DRM to merely play the singleplayer mode in some games, but consumers DO. 

      DRM is useless and hasn’t even put a bulge in the frequency or difficulty of piracy and the producers of games KNOW this.  They have to know this or else they’re just fucking stupid.  They know they’re only burdening to consumer, and for what means?  Possibly they’re just being assholes?


    People want a tangible product. We went from cartridges to discs because they could hold more data and they were cheaper. Now cartridges are more reliable, cheaper, and can outperform discs so I do believe we will shift back to cartridges. Are downloaded games reliable? Yes, but universal, no. I-tunes succeeded ONLY because the files are universal and transferable.(and also people are not educated enough to get the music by other means) Look at their success this way, An Ipod can hold several thousand songs, let’s say 3000. It would cost three thousand dollars to fill it up. But these files can be used in different devices, and burned into cds. That’s why i-tunes has succeeded, not because it is downloadable media, but because you can use the files in other ways. Cartridges are exactly the same concept. Downloadable media is retarded and will fail because it is restricted to the confines of your hard drive and the console itself. If something happens to the device that holds it, there go all the files. With tangible media, you have something to show for you money. If your console messes up and you do not want a new one, you can sell all your games and get something back for all the money you put into it. If your console messes up with all your downloadable media, you get the shaft plain and simple.
    For the betterment of our lives, pray that companies do not get their way and restrict their prices and files to our singular device.

    • Matt

      iTunes is far from universal.  You can only listen/watch your DRM infested shit on devices that run the terribly buggy program, unless you are the anti-average user like me and decide to remove the DRM, reclaiming what is actually yours so you can do with the product whatever you wish because it is yours.  We don’t “rent” videos and music for specific devices when we buy them from the apple store, unlike apple wants it to be.

  • Adam Garner

    We could have movie cartridges, and music cartridges, too.

  • Cris Villicana

    In my opinion, this guy has a point. You just don’t get the same feeling when you download a game as you did with a cartridge. I still prefer playing my Nintendo 64 over modern consoles and I still buy games for it today. Flash memory always had two major advantages, no loading times and being able to save on the game itself. In my case, it’s mostly nostalgia, but I do think that flash memory might have a better advantage for games in the future.