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Will Game Cartridges Make a Comeback?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the as-long-as-we-don't-have-to-blow-on-the-contacts dept.

Data Storage 277

sk8pmp writes "With the cost of solid state memory going down, will we see the return of the game cartridge? Or will digital distribution reign supreme and transition our entertainment into the cloud? This editorial explores the beginnings of the cartridge vs. disc battle of the '90s and theorizes a second one in the future. '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!'"

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277 comments

Disc shaped plastic cartridges? (0)

tlambert (566799) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132354)

Disc shaped plastic cartridges?

You mean those DVD thingies?

-- Terry

Re:Disc shaped plastic cartridges? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132402)

Optical media is very slow.

Re:Disc shaped plastic cartridges? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132408)

No, no, no, the ever-popular UMDs!

Re:Disc shaped plastic cartridges? (2, Informative)

bugi (8479) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132822)

No, but it sure would be nice to replace DVDs with flash drives. The disks I get from netflix are often unreadable. Recently, I went through seven replacements for a particular disk and eventually just gave up.

Re:Disc shaped plastic cartridges? (2, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132926)

We encouter this problem a lot. The majority of the Netflix we get (6 at a time, represent!) are either historical documentaries narrated by people with British accents, silent movies, or anime. I'd say roughly one out of every six discs we receive need to be given a ride in the Skip Dr [amazon.com] . I can understand the anime and documentaries being scratched, since they are likely also gotten by people with kids...but the silent movies?!?!?! Who the fuck enjoys silent movies, but treats the medium they are contained on like crap? ::fist shake::

Re:Disc shaped plastic cartridges? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32133032)

People who try to put them into their film projectors? ;)

I dunno (5, Funny)

jmknsd (1184359) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132386)

Blowing into a USB port just isn't the same.

Don't blow (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132470)

Blowing is a horribly inefficient way to clean cartridges. It's not much better than just pulling out the cartridge and reseating it, and over time, the humidity in your breath can make the problem worse by attracting more dust. If your console's cartridges don't have those idiotic tiny plastic teeth *cough*DS*cough*, use rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab [pineight.com] instead. It's fairly close to the method used in the official NES cleaning kit.

Re:Don't blow (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132682)

What is this NES you speak of?

The only way to clean your Atari 2600 cartridges is to blow in them. Wiping is for butts.

Re:Don't blow (3, Informative)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132790)

Practical experience reigns of theoretical in this case. As 25-35 year old can tell you, you could pull and reseat NES cartridges till the cows came home and they wouldn't work. A blow from the side though (and usually a 2nd cartridge wedged into the unit to hold the loaded one against the contacts tighter) would get it going in a jiffy.

Seems the NES was the only system with this problem though (no doubt due to their goofy front-load spring-loaded design). SNES, Genesis, N64, etc worked every time you tossed a cartridge in.

Re:Don't blow (2, Informative)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132856)

Seems the NES was the only system with this problem though (no doubt due to their goofy front-load spring-loaded design). SNES, Genesis, N64, etc worked every time you tossed a cartridge in.

As I recall, the top-loading NES [wikipedia.org] didn't have a problem either.

Re:Don't blow (2, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132984)

Not every time. Once you get pissed off because someone beat you to choosing Oddjob, and in your Soda-fueled rage you kick the SNES into the TV, it no longer worked, and you had to reseat the cartridges a lot.

That didn't happen to all you guys?

Re:Don't blow (2, Informative)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#32133012)

That's because the problem in those cases were not the cartridge but the connector in the console [gamespy.com] .

Re:I dunno (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132610)

Blowing into a USB port just isn't the same.

Actually, and I know this is really important(!), but blowing into a cartridge is one of the worst things you can do. Moisture from your breath, metal contacts and all that.

I read a method years ago about Atari engineers using a piece of white card for cleaning contacts by rubbing. It even had its own part number! Can't find it in a quick big brother google search though :|

Anyway - use a piece of white card! cleans contacts and doesn't shorten overall lifespan. I've used it for a good number of years now with great results. ...now back to something else

Re:I dunno (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132968)

Having an electrical engineer for a step dad, I always used super-pure isopropyl alcohol. Nowadays, for the odd N64 cart that needs cleaning, I generally use this stuff [crazypc.com] . It's not the same brand as I used back in the day, but ::shrug:: it works just as well. When I pick up an old cart at a flea market or garage sale, I put a small bit of that on a Q-Tip and vigorously rub the contacts on the cart.

The first Q-tip usually has at least one end that looks completely black. It's crazy how much gunk can get caked onto the contacts.

They never went out of style (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132404)

I don't see how cartridges ever went out of style. Nintendo DS games come on cartridges. PSN on PSP downloads games to a Memory Stick PRO Duo. Wii downloads games to SD. And there are even still new NES games coming out, like Sivak's Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril and ProgAce's Bio Force Ape vs. Dur Butter.

Re:They never went out of style (4, Insightful)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132738)

I don't see how cartridges ever went out of style. Nintendo DS games come on cartridges. PSN on PSP downloads games to a Memory Stick PRO Duo. Wii downloads games to SD.

Of course, these are all platforms where either (1) media size is critical or (2) writability is critical. Also small game sizes helps. The fact is that memory cards are much more expensive per GB than Blu-ray discs, and therefore unless there's a *major* advantage to offset this cost BD is quite clearly the way forward for any new game system. And except for handheld devices and downloadable content, I don't see it.

Re:They never went out of style (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132896)

and therefore unless there's a *major* advantage to offset this cost BD is quite clearly the way forward for any new game system.

That's what I thought until I rented MGS4 to play on a friend's PS3. If I wanted to wait 10 hours while a game "installed", then I'd buy a real PC and at least be able to run Linux on that.

Re:They never went out of style (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132816)

Because CDs wear out faster than cartridges. Since cartridges don't scratch up as easily weather you want to play the game a hundred times or a thousand times you pay the same amount. While with CDs when the CD gets so scratched up you can't use it any more you either deal with not playing the game any more or you go and buy another copy. With CDs companies can charge less per disc and sell to more people but if you really love the game you end up paying a little more to play a little longer.

Re:They never went out of style (4, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132834)

And there are even still new NES games coming out, like Sivak's Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril and ProgAce's Bio Force Ape vs. Dur Butter.

Apparently you're confusing "went out of style" with "completely ceased to exist".

Just because I can find a green leisure suit on an internet site somewhere doesn't mean I will still look normal walking down the street in it.

Re:They never went out of style (2, Funny)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132976)

And there are even still new NES games coming out, like Sivak's Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril and ProgAce's Bio Force Ape vs. Dur Butter.

Apparently you're confusing "went out of style" with "completely ceased to exist".

Just because I can find a green leisure suit on an internet site somewhere doesn't mean I will still look normal walking down the street in it.

Well, what dya know! [google.com]

Net... (2)

alfredos (1694270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132424)

I'd bet for net delivery (DRM or not)

Re:Net... (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132708)

Not if most ISPs start charging by the GB...

Re:Net... (2, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132722)

Actually, they feel the net has an outdated look and feel to it. Plans next year are to upgrade to the intermesh.

Re:Net... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132956)

I'd bet for net delivery (DRM or not)

Your customers on a satellite, 3G, or down-under Internet connection can't transfer more than 5 GB per month. So if you go download-only like the PSP Go, you may have to limit a lot of games' download size like Wii Shop Channel does (WiiWare games are no bigger than about 43 MB).

Can it really be cheaper than a plastic disc? (1)

Orga (1720130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132432)

I think the plastic disc is about as cheap as one is going to get when you talk about something to transfer data on.

Re:Can it really be cheaper than a plastic disc? (4, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132884)

Doesn't necessarily have to be. Discs are dirt cheap, but solid state is getting cheaper too. The original reason CD's took over was because they held a lot more than solid state and they were a LOT cheaper. Cartridges were faster and more durable, but that wasn't enough.

Today, solid state still has faster and more durable, and they've actually exceeded plastic disks in capacity. About all that's left is raw cost, but the difference is shrinking. If it gets small enough, it's not unrealistic to expect that the optical disc could fall out of favor.

That said, the disadvantage that BOTH of them have (namely being a physical item requiring shipment) will IMHO cause both to fail compared to downloaded content.

Re:Can it really be cheaper than a plastic disc? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132908)

The prices of DVD-R (~0.046/GB) at least are getting pretty damn close to the prices of HDDs (~0.065/GB), especially when you factor in the cost of the DVD drive. With Bluray it might look a little different, but should still be quite close. Optical media just hasn't increased in space as much as other technologies.

Now of course solid state is a whole different business and prices are still more then an order of magnitude away from the price of HDDs.

50gb BR disc : 3$ - 16gb USB key : 30$ (3, Informative)

AwaxSlashdot (600672) | more than 4 years ago | (#32133028)

Pressing a BluRay disc costs less than 3$ per disc (price for just 1000). Such a disc can hold 25 to 50 GB. A DVD is around 1$ and holds 5 to 9 GB.
A 16GB USB key is at 30$ and 8GB is 15$ on Amazon. I know this is rewritable but a ROM version won't cut its cost by 90%.

So we won't see SSD replacing discs on data heavy console games anytime soon.

Maybe in Australia (1)

PotatoFarmer (1250696) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132438)

Sounds like cartridges would be a good thing in AU, if this article [slashdot.org] is any indication of where property rights are going with respect to software.

No. (5, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132460)

Downloadable content is the future, not bits permanently etched into chips or optical disks.

Re:No. (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132720)

Consider the following:

That eSata drive also has wireless capabilities that can download new media off wifi while its sitting there not being used/played.

This eSata drive is part of a subscription model that delivers an endless series of games to you. When you are tired of the game thats on there, simply press a button and it starts downloading a new game.

This eSata drive also has dongle-like capabilities which prevent you from operating the game without it, which keeps the honest people honest, just like other forms of DRM.

Welcome to the future. Sorry I had to break it to ya.

Re:No. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132794)

You mean downloadable content that you can't borrow, lend, trade, sell? I'd rather have my games on physical media.

Also having a 60 GB download limit per month limits what you can download/buy.

Re:No. (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132860)

You can always borrow/lend/trade your entire console. And if you are playing a game for which the download is free but you pay for access to the server (e.g. WoW), then the ability to borrow/lend/trade/sell the game itself is irrelevant. You can always borrow/lend/trade/sell your account on the server, but I don't recommend it.

Depends (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132466)

Cart loaders make piracy insanely easy on the Nintendo DS.

If you have a system that reads from a proprietary disc format (as opposed to common one like DVD) then you make piracy a little more difficult.

Re:Depends (2, Insightful)

Knara (9377) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132536)

Eh. It only delays the inevitable. "A system that an attacker has physical access to is already compromised" doesn't just apply to computers.

Re:Depends (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132680)

Why bother locking your doors? If an burgler can walk up your car or home, they basically have full access to it!

If the next Xbox had no support for DVD discs, and games were on a proprietary write-once disc that you couldn't read, nor write to from a standard PC, it would seriously curtail piracy for that console.

Re:Depends (3, Interesting)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132772)

Many people accidentally leave their doors unlocked, garage doors open, etc. In fact, you can easily open anyone's garage at any time. Or break their large bay windows.

But you don't see people being robbed all the time due to these facts.

Locked doors are little more than security theater for our own minds. If someone *really* wants to rob you, they will.

Re:Depends (1)

El Gigante de Justic (994299) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132808)

I'd be surprised if Microsoft would be willing to drop any Blu-ray or DVD playback support from the next gen X-Box. Even if games were in a proprietary format, someone would find a workaround.

Dreamcast used a proprietary 1.2 GB Disc format, but piracy was still pretty rampant because the system also read CDs (for music playback). Many games didn't fill the full 1.2 GB so they were easily ported to CD-ROM. Other games were made to fit on CD-Rom by dedicated pirates who would compress video or audio files to fit them on the disc.

Re:Depends (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132726)

Long enough delay is enough. Has the PS3 been cracked open yet? (and this one even uses roughly standard media for game delivery)

Re:Depends (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132918)

The format of the disk does not really add to security. The thing that provents disk copying right now is that a writable cd itentifies itself as writable (so that your burner knows that it can write to that disk). The XBOX just looks at the inserted disk and if it is a writable disk, it throws an error. The firmware hacks for the xbox work by tricking the drive into telling the OS that *ALL* disks are pressed, read only disks.

That being said, there is no such mechanism on a USB drive that can identify a device as an original or a copy. Maybe you could sign the serial number of the stick with a private key, and have the console check the signature against the public key and if they match, allow loading of the game...

yes! (2)

Heytunk (1559837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132476)

If it means a end to scratched disks, next disk requests and load times I welcome our old overlords.

"Cartridge" is too loaded a word... (4, Interesting)

Delusion_ (56114) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132480)

...for solid-state media, for my tastes. It has connotations of low capacities and clunky housings.

But it does bring up a good question - what's the next media format? Is Blu-Ray, DVD, and CD the last family of media formats (since they can all be read by BD devices) before we go to all-online distribution? I suspect that we're done with cheap universal physical media formats in the near future.

Music stores are pretty much on their last legs, as much as it pains me to admit that. When physical game software dries up (PC or console) It has the added supposed-benefit (to the software industry) of eliminating the second-hand software market, which is something the industry has been trying to quash for what, 20 years?

Re:"Cartridge" is too loaded a word... (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132556)

Re: Music stores. It's sad, because there's something very satisfying on a tactile level when you go through bins of records/cds (CDs less after they stopped doing the long boxes :( ).

Good riddence (1)

jasonhamilton (673330) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132606)

I will be happy to see anything that looks like a CDROM go away. They are far too easily damaged. Put games on a thumbdrive for all I care. I just want reliability from media.

Re:Good riddence (2, Insightful)

Delusion_ (56114) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132770)

I never had a problem with optical discs for reliability. I really really don't understand people who can't keep CDs in good condition.

CD-Rs I can kind of understand, since the reflective surface is applied to the top and often uncoated.

Re:Good riddence (1)

jasonhamilton (673330) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132828)

Try having kids. Then try buying those kids $40 wii games.

Damn games barely last a week.

Re:Good riddence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132916)

The problem seems to be your poor parenting skills in that you can't teach your kids to respect someone else's property.

Re:Good riddence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132982)

Stop 'enabling' them to break it.

'you broke it and you do not get another one until you can get that old one to work'.

You would be AMAZED how fast they keep track of every little scratch. It is what my parents did to me. After my dad replaced 1 cart because I was being a dumb ass. 'you do not get any more because you can not take care of what you have'.

Re:"Cartridge" is too loaded a word... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132796)

Sales of physical game titles are already being replaced by sales of prepaid cards for monthly access to game servers. Prepaid iTunes download cards are also available, but I don't think that is enough to keep a music store in business.

Re:"Cartridge" is too loaded a word... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132876)

For mass distribution of 50GB worth of mass-stamped content, BluRay is pretty good and gotten a lot cheaper than when the PS3 was first introduced. I think the "big name" games will still be on discs, the question is if we'll see anything more like a real app store for consoles. Yes, yes I know there's sorta something like that today but as a mainstream way of downloading games. Perhaps even as an alternative to discs.

Re:"Cartridge" is too loaded a word... (1)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132972)

Physical gaming media will not dry up in the near future - it's been brought up here in /. If the console makers won't let retailers to carry physical games, the retailers may refuses to carry their consoles altogether. The only way I can see happening is when e-commerce (online store) is so proliferate that there's a hugely reduced need for physical retailers for electronics/computers (e.g. when everybody knows how to use liondirect, oldegg..etc.).

Support both (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132484)

If the "cartridges" are just DRMified USB drives, then there's really not much (hardware) overhead in offering that as an option in addition to optical media, as the console likely already has a USB controller.

more like SD cards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132488)

If anything, I'd expect any form of neo-cartridge to be more like SD cards.

LOL, no (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132492)

Why don't you go get a Sega 16 if you are really caught up in the nostalgia of a cartridge. I for one am fine with the way things are going (optical disks or digital downloads to embedded storage). It's fast. It's easy. There's no time wasted blowing (the console). The future is here.

Re:LOL, no (1)

swabeui (1291044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132804)

There's no time wasted blowing (the console).

I fear this is the nostalgia that many are looking for.

Whatever makes the most sense (5, Insightful)

adeft (1805910) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132498)

The medium switched to disks because they were cheaper to make, held more information, and worked. If cartridges take on these qualities, then there would be no reason to avoid them.

Re:Whatever makes the most sense (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132688)

The medium switched to disks because they were cheaper to make, held more information, and worked. If cartridges take on these qualities, then there would be no reason to avoid them.

Sooo... DVD-RAM?
No reason not to put spinning discs in a cartridge.

Re:Whatever makes the most sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132944)

No reason not to put spinning discs in a cartridge.

Looks like Sony thought of this [wikipedia.org] already.

Re:Whatever makes the most sense (1)

Happy Nuclear Death (911893) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132774)

Optical discs cost almost nothing to make, but the consumer has never seen the benefit. I don't recall game prices dropping substantially in the last 20 years. NES carts were usually around $40-$50, and the prices are the same or higher for today's DVD-ROM (or DVD-Wii, so to speak) games.

It's eerily parallel to the music world. CDs should have brought album prices down a lot, but it never happened.

Adjusting for inflation, prices have dropped overall, but not proportionately to the decrease in media cost.

Re:Whatever makes the most sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132854)

maybe because media costs are a tiny tiny fraction of the cost of making a game? big budget games even 10 years ago might have had a budget of a couple hundred thousand, but likely less. today we see games with budgets in the tens of millions.

Re:Whatever makes the most sense (1)

captaindomon (870655) | more than 4 years ago | (#32133008)

Yes, that's correct, the decrease in media prices has not helped the consumer at all. But it's helped the industry's margins, and ultimately they decide which format to distribute in, so I don't see much hope of us going back to cartridges when discs cost a couple of cents, and are universal in shape and size, making them cheap to package and distribute.

Lets really hope so (2, Interesting)

DontLickJesus (1141027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132502)

I imagine the best size for a cartridge game being the size of an old TurboGraphx 16 game (http://www.billandchristina.com/vgamecomp/images/collection5/ar/DSC01409%20%28Small%29.JPG via google). I think SSD drives would be well suited for this. However, small games like SD cards are lost too easy. Remember, the gamer with kids can heavily influence this particular section of the gaming industry.

Re:Lets really hope so (1)

Jer (18391) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132786)

How small is too small?

DS cartridges aren't very big, and it seems to be a fairly popular format.

Digital! Argh! (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132516)

What's not "digital" about CDs, DVDs or flash memory?

Re:Digital! Argh! (2, Funny)

adeft (1805910) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132562)

I prefer my games on a reel-to-reel you insensitive clod!

Re:Digital! Argh! (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132614)

I used to get mine on cassette tapes [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Digital! Argh! (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132660)

Which is just a miniaturized, encapsulated reel to reel.

Re:Digital! Argh! (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132696)

Yes, and much lower quality...

Re:Digital! Argh! (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132686)

I prefer my games on a reel-to-reel you insensitive clod!

That's reels of paper tape, sonny boy...

Re:Digital! Argh! (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132758)

With a laundry basket to catch it in after it's been through the reader.

Re:Digital! Argh! (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132958)

You’re confusing “distributed digitally” with “distributed in a digital format”.

Sure, a DVD is a digital format, but it was distributed in the trailers of a fleet of semis.

physical sales (1)

chibiace (898665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132530)

here in new zealand the uptake of visa debit cards at all major banks for a very low fee will mean more people buying online, which will lead to game downloads instead of going down to the store. that is unless consoles decide downloads are a bad idea or hard drive sizes stay too small.

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132544)

I would like that.

Online services... (1)

ThisIsAnonymous (1146121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132546)

Online "games on demand" services are the future. I'm not necessarily a fan of this but that is where everything is heading. It gives the Publishers/Distributors an unprecedented amount of control over the consumer and that is exactly what they want.

Re:Online services... (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132838)

It will probably be the future, but not next-gen. (Probably not in the next 10 years actually.) The reason is because download speeds on average in the US are nowhere near fast enough to support such a system as the primary means of delivery for content. A significant percentage of US households still don't have broadband access at all.

Game developers are already having issues with a 9gig DVD not being enough space for modern games, so the size of them is only going to go up. There's no way the US public is ready to download 10GB+ sized games, and probably won't be for the foreseeable future. I definitely see SSD media playing a much bigger role in video game content delivery in the next gen of consoles.

Re:Online services... (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132924)

There are still too many practical problems in the way ... streaming 1080P@60 Hz at 25 msec for the majority of your customers? Not now, not soon.

Same with cartridges though, the equivalent of a BR disc worth in flash will remain too expensive for the foreseeable future to replace a disc which costs a couple of pennies to produce.

Elimination of Load Times? Unlikely (2, Insightful)

PocketPick (798123) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132554)

'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"?

Cartridges will result in somewhat lower load times, for sure, but the complete elimination? I highly doubt it - The terrains of games like Oblivion and Fallout still take massive amounts of time to render in memory, and then display on the screen...The bottleneck is not necessarily the time required to simply extract it off the DVD or Blu Ray disk it resides on.

As game creators push the limits further and further with the inevitable next generation of consoles, you'll find the limiting factor in how long it takes to get up-and-running has less and less to do with the choice of optical media vs. SSD.

Re:Elimination of Load Times? Unlikely (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132618)

So maybe the thing would be to have a cartridge with a large capacity split into multiple sections, one of which would act as directly addressable memory to hold maps, textures, and other non-changing data stored the way the host OS would expect to access it.

Re:Elimination of Load Times? Unlikely (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132704)

Yup. "No more load times" is only going to happen once solid state storage sizes are so huge that assets don't need to be compressed, and so fast that it's as efficient to access them from the storage as it is from RAM.

And given that RAM access speeds are always increasing as well, and as storage increases game assets keep increasing to fill them up, I don't see this happening any time soon.

And for small games that don't have these limits? I can download an entire iPhone or XBox Live game over my broadband connection in seconds. Why would I ever want to deal with physical cartidges!?

Re:Elimination of Load Times? Unlikely (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132970)

The terrains of games like Oblivion and Fallout still take massive amounts of time to render in memory, and then display on the screen...The bottleneck is not necessarily the time required to simply extract it off the DVD or Blu Ray disk it resides on.

You’re sure of that?

Comeback? (1)

Kirin Fenrir (1001780) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132576)

I still play cartridge games now. Who wants to play Turtles in Time co-op?

Re:Comeback? (1)

boowax (229348) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132670)

I'm in, where do you live?

Sure, if you can stamp silicone. (1)

WarlockD (623872) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132638)

It can bring down the cost of a console, but unless the cost of the cartage is close to that of a 2 layer blue ray disk, its going to be hard to convince.

Still, if we have the technology to "stamp" rom cart's maybe we got something.

Don't call it a comeback... (1)

drc003 (738548) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132650)

...physical media fro games is going nowhere at this point. As much as I like digital distribution when done right I don't believe Broadband is widespread enough to replace physical at this point. Especially when you consider some who have BB many times consider that their least important "utility" and don't always pay on time resulting in down times. It can be an also be and up and down with sketchy service in some areas as well. Going to complete digital distribution is a good way off in my opinion.

Re:Don't call it a comeback... (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132888)

But what yo mama say?

Neither (1)

Adustust (1650351) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132716)

As we move further and further into the networked aspect of gaming, most games will probably all be available through digital download. No more disks, no more cartridges, just the huge SSD inside the console. Unless you count that as a cartridge... The only downfall I could see would be not letting your friends borrow your games anymore, but you might get a letter in the mail with a court date if you keep it up!

Perfect solution (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132732)

The ideal gaming platform would be one where not just the game but most of the electronics that have traditionally been in the console are also in the cartridge. Mass production of cartridges would keep that affordable to the end user. The console would effectively just be the power supply and monitor and controller interconnects.
This approach has many benefits including:
* New games could take full advantage of new hardware and general tech advances.
* Games hardware could be custom tailored for each game.
* Owners would never need to upgrade their base console.
* Cartridges would be practically impossible to pirate cost-effectively.

No (2, Interesting)

proxima (165692) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132736)

I'm already annoyed at the Netflix app for the Wii coming on disc instead of stored to the flash (word is it may be licensing issues; the app works spectacularly, by the way).

For really graphics intensive games, we'll still be seeing game sizes in the tens of gigabytes. Flash is cheap, but it isn't that cheap (nor is the cheap stuff particularly fast. SD card transfer speeds are pretty pathetic). For most games, I think there will at least be a download option, ala Steam. Instant gratification from your purchase, and it allows for smaller, cheaper games to become popular (World of Goo).

The physical disc does have a few advantages - you can bring it to a friend's house and easily re-sell it. Still, a really nice system would simply be an "export to USB drive/SD card" option which temporarily disables the game on the console and puts a valid copy on the USB key. The USB key's copy is valid for a fixed period of time. Sales could, in principle, be done via electronic transfer (though game publishers will be thrilled to cutoff the used game market if they can do it legally).

So I think we'll see the really big games continue to get distributed on optical media (it's cheap), and more games distributed both on optical media and download. Since this last generation of consoles, hard drives have gotten much, much larger and cheaper relative to average game size. The next gen consoles will almost certainly have 1-3 TB drives built into them, standard. But ROM cartridges or substantial use of flash cartridges? I'm not seeing it.

Net media format (1)

seifried (12921) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132748)

It's funny to see people thinking in terms of Media. It's like reading the old science fiction (Niven, etc.) where they constantly refer to tapes and even have the characters writing things down (they have faster than light travel but no PDAs, right). The next popular media format is already here and making rapid inroads, it's called the Internet and it's available in high speed local wired flavours (you can get a home gigabit switch for $20-40 easy) and wireless (802.11 a/b/g/n, 3G, 4G, WiMax, etc.). I'm not saying physical media will go away (try downloading 50 gigs worth of anything on less than a local gigabit network is very painful), but wireless especially will take care of most of the low end (most people I know can now email around attachments of several megabytes in size with no problems).

Batteries not included (1)

sxedog (824351) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132766)

As long as they don't come with those annoying "battery memory" thingies that went dead and then you couldn't save your game anymore. Man I hated that...

Ruined a perfectly good game of Might an Magic on my Genesis :(

I stopped reading when I saw the picture of the (1)

DigitalReverend (901909) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132778)

cardboard soap box. I can't take seriously someone who doesn't understand the euphamism and is too lazy to look it up.

Re:I stopped reading when I saw the picture of the (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132998)

cardboard soap box. I can't take seriously someone who doesn't understand the euphamism and is too lazy to look it up.

Yeah, kinda like someone who can't be bothered to spell-check euphemism.

Re:I stopped reading when I saw the picture of the (1)

sk8pmp (1177197) | more than 4 years ago | (#32133000)

cardboard soap box. I can't take seriously someone who doesn't understand the euphamism and is too lazy to look it up.

I can't take someone seriously who can't spell euphemism correctly. As for the graphic, I made it because it was simple and got the point across. And I thought it was clever.

Cload = lose your game in about about 3+ years (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132784)

As shown by Ea shutting down servers and my own experience with bioware games if you dont have a physical copy, (even if you do with always on drm) your games are doomed to stop working/ lose acess in about 3 years

I bought jade empire (and nwn dlc) about 3 years ago from the bioware store. You can still buy this game on steam and other services but the bioware store was "updated". They took down the nwn stuff when they became part of ea - no refund no way to get it if you hant got it backed up.

  They also took down jade empire SE for those of us who baught it from their own store - with no warning and no explanation since. When I baught it there was no termination clause, infact it stated I could install 3 times with no problem then contact support for additional installs. I would have been on my second install.

I have pmailed writen on the furom etc and have had no response other than Ill ask X to look into it.

The cload may be cheaper for publichers it never will be for consumers. Physical copies are te only way to go for cnosumers. But publishers and devs wil love digital, they have a way to make us buy the game again in x number of years by just cutting acess, and no second hand market.

Future won't look like the past (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132788)

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.

DS games are like a microSD format, and are tiny. I don't think we'll see a return to bulky Atari or NES-style game carts.

More likely, downloadable games will be the future anyway. And they'll be rented content, tied to servers, and DRMed to the point that you in no way actually own the game unless you're actively paying for it and you are bio-authenticated.

Even if SSDs get cheap... (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132864)

Cartridges are still mostly pointless.

Consider: If Flash is cheap enough to distribute games on, it is cheap enough to build large mass storage devices into consoles with. Further, since a console is a one-time purchase, and its internal mass storage is re-usable, while a catridge's Flash has to come right out of the margins of the game, it will always be the case, no matter how cheap Flash gets, that a console can have a much larger mass storage block than a cartridge can. Simple economic reality. Unless the singularity strikes, and the numbers are "Catridge: a million bazillion petabytes, too cheap to price" and "Console: a trillion bazillion petabytes, too cheap to price" this difference will always matter.

Cartridges don't really offer any anti-piracy advantage anymore: again, because you have to fit into the margin of the game being sold, you are pretty limited in what security measures you can bake into the cartridge itself. Clones will be pouring out of China and onto ebay within moments. Any moderately robust system-level DRM is going to be in the console. And, if optical media really scare you, it is still cheaper to come up with a slight variant(Blu-Ray disks with embedded RFIDs or something) than it is to ship a cartridge. Downloads, of course, offer trivial per-download uniqueness opportunities.

Now, that said, I do suspect that the institution of playing/executing from optical media will die out in fairly short order(except for "watch once" stuff like movies. Optical media offer shitty latency, long load times, and are often pretty noisy. HDDs are faster and more capacious. SSDs are faster still, and capacity is climbing. I strongly suspect that most people would rather have a "15 minute 'install' consisting of dumping a disk image to internal storage, possibly in a compressed form that the console offers hardware accelerated decompression for, followed by fast level loads forever" to "Instant play, and 90 second level loads forever". Or, with a little cleverness, somebody could probably whip up a hybrid model: "Instant play, initially a touch slow as the disk image is dumped in the background, followed by gradually increasing speed as more and more reads take place from fixed storage, rather than optical disk".

Downloads, of course, will go to internal fixed storage(or external mass storage devices) no matter what.

Nahhh.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32132874)

Sorry to burst your bubble about the cartridge sticking out and seeing the "sweet artwork"... But if solid-state memory makes a comeback and we end up with multi-gigabyte solid-state devices for games, it's more likely going to be much smaller USB drive sized devices. If you're thinking a huge Atari 2600 or (woah) SNES or Atari 5200 cartridge, why would the company wanna waste all that plastic?

Well there is an alternative (1)

junglebeast (1497399) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132882)

Or the consoles themselves could simply have a solid state internal hard drive for buffering. It could easily be the case in 10 years that the console could be equipped with a 1 TB solid state hard drive and all games are just copied onto this when you first load it.

Awesome. More than awesome. (1)

zullnero (833754) | more than 4 years ago | (#32132950)

Ignore all the pooh poohers here...cartridges are so much better than discs in so many ways (other than storage capacity, but with solid state, disks would be up against some very stiff competition...no pun intended).

For one, you can trust clumsy 6 year olds with them. They're way more resilient than discs. For another, solid state memory is getting so fast it's like playing your game right off your hard drive, instead of spinning a platter at a ridiculous speed (and all the heat and mechanical issues that go along with that).

Look, forget all the manufacturing "issues"...those complaints are just plain stupid. How did they make cartridge games in the old days, do you think? It's a manufacturing process and they actually flashed the software into the memory on the cartridge's board. The only 2 reasons I can think of that this wouldn't catch on is that the cost of manufacturing the memory vs. manufacturing a disk is too much that the ordinary person would opt to just download or buy the disk, or if people were dead set on backward compatibility with their current systems (which with gamers, isn't apparently the biggest deal...after all, you didn't see people sticking Atari 2400 cartridges into their Nintendo 64 systems nor do you see people trying to cram CDs into their old Super Nintendo systems...gamers will throw up their hands and upgrade their collection if the new systems are compelling enough).
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