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Cartridges, could they be viable again?


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With the digital future of download only gaming on the horizon, some are fearful of what it entails and we're often drawn back to physical media for various reasons.

The thing is, buying a DVD box with a disc in it doesn't really appeal as much as a bespoke game shaped box with a weighty cartridge and manual.

I know it would never happen, but is a return to cartridges now actually viable? I assume they were mainly left behind for storage reasons but you could surely get more out of them than discs now. You can get 64gb on a USB stick fairly cheaply, Could a future cartridge basically just be a massive bespoke USB stick with some added stuff or whatever?

I dunno, I'd like to see it, I'm bored of games on discs and downloading isn't very satisfying, I want fuck off chunks of plastic back.

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Well they are still used for Vita and 3DS games. But compared to disc, and download, they are just too costly.

I used to love buying N64 games I must admit. You were buying a proper weighty physical product with full colour instruction manuals etc. and it felt special.

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I'd like to think so, but optical media's cheapness to manufacture is seen as more important than its downsides (e.g. mandatory installs due to slow seek times, flimsy).

It's not hard to imagine hard-disk seek times being a performance bottleneck in the not-so-distant future, although that'll probably just lead to a switch to SSDs rather than a return to cartridges.

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I love solid tech, and would welcome a move back to solid state data storage for games. No need for it to be clunky, Vita and 3DS game cards are small and a lot of data can be stored on a small cartridge. It would mean fewer moving parts in consoles, which should help reliability, although it seems a given these days that a console needs fans for cooling so it is unlikely that we would see a return to the awesome build quality of machines from the 90s which still seem to work today.

That said, one of the major advantages which the PSX had over the N64 was the move to CD-ROM. In addition to the significantly cheaper media, the shorter times for producing software meant that games could be shipped quicker when the code had been finalised.

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The Vita's combination of obscenely expensive storage and large games means it would the last bastion of the cartridge if anyone was still making AAA games for it. Though they aren't really carts, just memory cards I suppose.

I suppose could I see it happening for the Xbox 2/PS5- by that point there might not be n optical medium that has enough storage and it would be a way for people with crap internet to get games, and they could tie the cards to consoles to achieve the no trade in future MS wanted to do with the Xbone.

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it is unlikely that we would see a return to the awesome build quality of machines from the 70s, 80s and 90s which still seem to work today.

Fixed. Some of those old machines are like tanks. I've never encountered a dead Atari 2600. Lots of old machines are problematic though - sound components in Game Gears, flaky PSUs on C64s, burnt out out ZX Spectrum keyboard membranes etc.

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The value and advantages of owning of physicial media basically needs to be taught to newer generations, not just in regards to games but books and music, too.

That won't happen and will be seen as a niche viewpoint of course. It'll be a sad day when humankind wakes up, still consumes but owns, in reality, nothing. Only the Internet and/or electricity being cut off for any length of time can make people see what they're investing into with 'all digital' I'm afraid.

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Until your account gets banned through no fault of your own and you end up owning fuck all.

This is hardly a widespread problem. Many games wouldn't exist at all if it wasn't for digital downloads, so the benefits definitely outweigh the negatives.
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Well it hasn't in the years or so I've been buying digitally across numerous formats. Perhaps I just got lucky.

But the point remains. The indie game revolution which has been building slowly for the last ten years, now a core part of the console/pc/mobile business, would not have happened had they relied on physical media. So games such as Binding of Isaac, Fez etc. wouldn't even exist.

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I've been locked out of my Steam collection a few times, and it is pretty damned frustrating. Sure, the benefits of digital purchases are there, but to completely ignore the negatives is silly. If given a choice between a small nicely designed package with a USB cartridge and err, nothing, I'd definitely take the cart.

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I've been locked out of my Steam collection a few times, and it is pretty damned frustrating. Sure, the benefits of digital purchases are there, but to completely ignore the negatives is silly. If given a choice between a small nicely designed package with a USB cartridge and err, nothing, I'd definitely take the cart.

Yet if your tastes extend beyond that of AAA games you'd have nothing but those anyway...
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Well it hasn't in the years or so I've been buying digitally across numerous formats. Perhaps I just got lucky.

But the point remains. The indie game revolution which has been building slowly for the last ten years, now a core part of the console/pc/mobile business, would not have happened had they relied on physical media. So games such as Binding of Isaac, Fez etc. wouldn't even exist.

Yes, it is a very good point. XBLA was one of the best things about the last gen for me.

The possibility of items you've paid for being taken away with no recourse is definitely something that needs to be addressed though.

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That's the point I'm making, the issue is that games are so dependent on services and online that that getting knocked out is half of peoples issues with "digital".

It's not really an issue with digital, it's an issue with the games + services - it's irrelevant to the format your game is physically stored on.

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Regardless of how the content is stored, it's the content we want/pay for. That's the true value.

I'm mainly digital with everything now, and the convenience outweighs everything else.

That being said, it's still scary that at any point in time, we could lose all our purchases. It's deffo a service issue though like said above.

I've still got my original 360 to play arcade games on, and some discs left too; the fear here is more towards the 360 actually dying (like it has done three times before).

Since going mostly digital, I've found myself buying tonnes more game related merch and art books/albums. This for me has a similar longevity to itI'll fondly remember games and times through these items as much as I would with boxed/physical media.

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I should point out I realize I can't play anything without electricity period, but there's still a clear enough difference. I can look at the box/back cover, I can read the manual and admire the cartridge. I can pretend the cartridges are lego if I really, really wanted to. Same applies to other mediums.

Rubber hit the nail on the head though, It's about the services, it's about our rights when we choose to hand our money over. Anything beyond that is mostly sentimental 'I love the smell of plastic' value. The feeling of 'owning' something hasn't been refined properly when it comes to digital yet.

Otherwise why would I feel I would love to have Super Meat Boy on a physical disc (which exists, but is essentially a steam key) despite all my experience with the game since the original 360 release has been digital? I love it already, why isn't my digital support enough to feel like I own it? Is it secretly knowing the Steam key isn't enough value compared to DRM-free? That's what needs to be refined here.

I've lost half my iTunes library a few years ago thanks to my original account being AOL. Completely my fault, but it really does happen. Woosh. Hundreds of pounds gone. Simply because of password and email woes.

I wasn't fast enough to grab After Burner Climax before it got removed last month either. Same applies to Mavel vs Capcom 3, disc doesn't help as you can no longer buy the DLC.

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I think it's also far more likely that future generations will be able to access old games digitally than they ever would have before, even if it's by hacked/emulated means. I mean who is going to be bothered seeking out that rare NES cart costing hundreds, and ensure they have all the working equipment to play it on?

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People who want to play it the way it was intended on the original hardware.

Emulation is never perfect, and a flash cart is increasingly becoming the 'go to' option for all cartridge based consoles.

The only investment is the console itself.

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