Frontier's Braben reckons physical games will go away in two or three years

Frontier's Braben reckons physical games will go away in two or three years

The CEO and founder of Elite Dangerous studio Frontier Developments David Braben OBE reckons that time is up for the physical games market.

Speaking at the GamesIndustry Investment Summit Online, the exec said that within the next few years, boxed games will "more or less" be a thing of the past. Digital sales have increased in both the UK and US thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"We've seen an acceleration in the transition from physical to digital," he said.

"That is a good thing. It's probably two to three years before physical more or less goes away, and it's probably accelerated that timescale a bit."

Though the portion of games sales made digitally has increased hugely over the last console generation, there is likely to be a floor on how low they will go. For one, physical games will still be popular in places where there is poor internet coverage which will limit people's ability to download titles. Digital titles are also – generally – much more expensive than their boxed counterparts. Physical games are also popular when it comes to kids games as this demographic obviously won't have their own credit cards. 

Braben also said that the games industry has benefitted from the coronavirus pandemic. Many consumers bought consoles ahead of the lockdown around the world in order to have a bit of entertainment, with the Frontier boss observing that this could increase the medium's audience long time.

"There's evidence that once people become gamers, they're more likely to stay gamers," he said.

This echoed remarks made by Xbox boss Phil Spencer, who said at the end of April that the lockdown has brought a large number of people to games

Frontier has recently landed two major IP wins. In March, the UK studio was awarded the F1 license for management titles, while two months later it scored the keys to Games Workshop's Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.