Optical discs have been under fire since the outset of this current video gamer generation. Digital media has continually infiltrated the gaming sphere, with more companies distributing content through Internet-based channels. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have all created dedicated online storefronts for customers to download select games. When Microsoft first announced the successor to its Xbox 360 console, the tech giant stated that games could only be played if the system was connected to a user's online profile. Although there were some advantages to this proposed process, many gamers cried foul over the need to have a constant Internet connection in order to run games stored on physical media. In response to the ensuing backlash, Microsoft changed its position on the matter, reverting to the tried-and-true formula of enabling games to be played offline.
The gaming population has continued to show their preference for physical over connected or digital media. This is understandable as actually holding a physical disc or cart offers a much stronger sense of ownership then simply being given the right to access a gaming company's digital content. The NPD Group recently released a study on the habits of the "core gaming" customer subset, GameSpot reported. In this instance, a core gamer is defined as someone who plays at least five hours each week on a dedicated gaming console, PC or Mac. Researchers found that nearly three-fourths of core gamers prefer owning physical copies of video games over digital media, assuming that each was offered at the same price.
Blu-ray continues to hold sway with gamers
Video game manufacturers along with virtually any other organization that deals with both physical and digital content should take note of the report's results. Gamers – and likely consumers in general – still hold a strong preference for physical media, despite the assertions of some industry observers that digital is the way of the future. Digital media remains a relatively new concept for many individuals, and they are unlikely to simply ditch physical products altogether in favor of an unknown quantity. Ignoring the demand for concrete gaming discs could drive away potential platform adopters and ultimately cut into a company's bottom line.
"Core gamers are an important part of the games industry and understanding their behavior is critical to anyone invested in the games space – especially considering the launch of the new consoles and the continued evolution of digital gaming," said NPD Group analyst Liam Callahan.
Blu-ray offers durability, reliability
Consumers of various types of media, including video games, movies and music, have repeatedly raised concerns about their ability to access digital content down the road. The proliferation of digital rights management technology has been a major driver of these fears, with many people wondering if there's anything stopping a company from cutting off an individual's access to something he or she legitimately purchased years earlier. With physical drives, these concerns simply do not exist. There's nothing stopping people from pulling out their old ColecoVision systems and firing up a game of Donkey Kong.
Furthermore, optical media such as Blu-ray discs are much more durable than consumers might realize, ensuring that they continue to work properly for years. They are incredibly resilient against environmental factors that could otherwise warp or erode other digital components. In addition, platforms like an industrial optical drive often support cross-format usage, meaning various types of discs can run on the same hardware. This reduces not only the amount of equipment that a consumer or business user must purchase and store, but the headaches that one might encounter by accounting for every format used on a regular basis.
That level of performance of reliability has emboldened Panasonic and Sony to continue throwing their support behind Blu-ray and optical media in general. The companies announced in July 2013 that they had formed a partnership to further develop this technology and create more advanced discs capable of storing more data.
"Optical discs have excellent properties to protect them against the environment, such as dust-resistance and water-resistance, and can also withstand changes in temperature and humidity when stored," the companies stated. "They also allow inter-generational compatibility between different formats, ensuring that data can continue to be read even as formats evolve. This makes them a robust medium for long-term storage of content."
Looking to the future of Blu-ray
Blu-ray discs have recently emerged as ideal data archiving solutions, with companies such as Facebook and Amazon.com developing massive storage systems based on the format. Optical discs offer an inexpensive, scalable and reliable method of saving important records for the long haul. Blu-ray, in particular, is likely to see its use for data archiving applications increase further as organizations across every industry see their amount of incoming information rise dramatically over the coming years. That data needs to stored somewhere for later use, and Blu-ray discs offer the most efficient and cost-effective way to do so.
Despite the increasing use of digital media, Blu-ray isn't going anywhere. For consumers and business users alike, the format still has a great deal to offer in terms of reliability and performance. Gamers continue to demand that their consoles run on affordable physical media, meaning that for the foreseeable future, Blu-ray will reign as the standard format for these machines. With major tech companies increasingly turning to optical discs to build data archiving solutions, Blu-ray will not only be a major enterprise component in the short term, but will likely be a relevant form of media for years to come. The future is very bright indeed for Blu-ray.