Developer John Carmack says games industry will ditch discs

A major game developer has predicted the end of games on disc, saying that app stores are the way forward. John Carmack, who was the lead programmer behind Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein 3D, and Commander Keen, said that he foresees the end of traditional hard copies of games with digital downloads being the future for the gaming industry.

“Clearly, packaged goods sales are still critical on the big platforms at this stage, but that’s all going to go away sooner or later,” he said.

Let’s face it, he’s not wrong. With internet speeds increasing and more games on demand services opening it is near inevitable that box copies will become much less popular. 

In fact, disc versions often don’t include the full game, with downloadable content becoming a popular medium for game developers to increase cashflow and prevent a chunk of their material being pirated.

Carmack believes that app stores are how we will be buying our games in the future. His studio, id Software, recently released a game for Apple’s App Store called Rage HD which has given him some experience of how the app markets work.

“You know, I really, really like the app store platform as far as being able to remove obstacles to getting your product out,” he said. “You don’t have to cut deals with publishers. It’s almost completely egalitarian on there. It’s great to see all the small teams that wind up making these breakout hit games for the Apple devices.

“The fact is; on this platform, we can go ahead deal with fifteen-a-day feedback on there and directly interact with the consumers, make changes and get things out. It is the wave of the future for everything. Everybody knows that eventually [there] will be digital distribution like this – it’s only a question of time. This is the model of the future.”

Time is a big factor, as many still struggle with slow download speeds. There will also be the few with no internet access, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see a complete end of hard copies of games any time soon.

But what we are likely to see is struggling game studios moving to downloads and a large portion of games coming with downloadable content.