DSi, and others, herald a glorious end to physical media

Don’t be fooled by the cameras and whatnot. The recently launched Nintendo DSi is all about downloads. The oft-rumored PSP2, which I’m 99.9% sure will lack a UMD drive or physical media drive of any kind, will be completely DLC-driven when it arrives this holiday season (and it will have plenty of Hannah Montana too!). The proverbial tide has already changed.

But back to Nintendo. I find it wonderfully ironic that the famously stubborn video game hardware company that shunned CD-ROMs for expensive N6 cartidges in the 90s could very well be one of the companies at the forefront of the DLC revolution in 2010. Note I said “one of,” as there are plenty of services, like Steam and Xbox Live, that have already proven to me the future is here, and actually passed us some time ago.

Further irony is found in the fact that, as you’ll see in the next year or so, many of the developers that jumped (rightly) headfirst into CD-ROM and DVD formats in the late 90s and early 00’s will desperately cling to physical media formats and shun DLC, much in the same way audiophiles said the mp3 could never replace the venerable (and tangible) CD. Whether the DLC format’s “quality” is inferior or superior to its forebear is irrelevant. Convenience and cost will inevitably trump your desire to have a collection of stuff on a bookshelf.

Update: More evidence here. The iPhone, a completely DLC-driven gaming and communications device, has play sessions that nearly equal or surpass those of the PSP and Nintendo DS.