The state of physical media — whether it’s DVDs or video games — is in question as people increasingly move to streaming services. Walmart could be the next to make a move with one video game executive suggesting the retail giant could drop Xbox games soon, and potentially retreat from physical games even more in 2024.
“I’ve heard rumblings that Walmart is dropping physical Xbox games soon, and I have to imagine further cuts to physical gaming sections will be made as we get deeper into next year,” tweeted Josh Fairhurst, CEO of Limited Run Games, a video game distributor based in Apex, North Carolina.
Walmart wasn’t immediately available to comment on the tweet.
The removal of physical media is a steady trend we’re already seeing. Last week, Best Buy confirmed that it would get out of the DVD and Blu-Ray discs business entirely. Last month, one of the largest distributors of DVDs and Blu-Rays, Ingram Entertainment, said it was exiting the business just as Walmart is looking to take over management of Studio Distribution Services (SDS), which handles the distribution of physical media. Disney ceased selling physical media in Australia.
Video game discs may eventually share a similar fate. Gamers are increasingly shopping on online stores, preferring digital media over physical discs. Services like Xbox Game Pass, which offer games under a subscription service, removes the need to buy physical discs, and Microsoft sells an Xbox Series S, which doesn’t even have a disc drive. On the Xbox, top-tier games like Forza Horizon 5 and Starfield are available on Game Pass.
While Fairhurst didn’t mention Playstation or Nintendo, it’s important to note both offer their own services and ability to download or stream games. Sony also has its PlayStation Plus subscription service that offers games ranging from God of War to Mortal Kombat X.
U.K.-based trade group Digital Entertainment and Retail Association estimated that nearly 90% of games sold in 2022 were digital downloads, according to Gamerant.
So while dedicated stores like GameStop still exist, bigger retailers like Walmart and Target, who are constantly shifting their lineup of goods in their stores, may be taking another look at the future of physical games.