With the continually evolving gaming industry, and a dizzying range of devices and platforms beyond the conventional big three of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, there are plenty of people who wonder whether the era of the dedicated game console is coming to a gradual end. Time will tell, but analyst firm International Data Corporation has now released a report that reiterates a continuing role and level of success not just for games consoles, but for game discs and physical media.

The report's focus is on home consoles — the predicted fates of 3DS and Vita against smartphones and tablets perhaps saved for another day — with the Nintendo headline being an estimate that the company will successfully "find an audience" and ship 50 million consoles by the end of 2016. We're sure that Satoru Iwata and colleagues would be happy enough with that figure if it comes to pass.

In terms of the fate of game discs and physical retail titles, while the impact of download options is expected to cause a 3% overall drop in sales year on year until 2016, it's predicted that physical products will still be the main revenue earner in the industry for years to come. Lewis Ward, research manager of IDC's Gaming service, said the following:

The console ecosystem is in a state of flux since these platforms need to support an ever-growing array of non-gaming features and services at the same time that game distribution and monetization is moving in a digital direction. At the same time, it doesn't appear that alternative platforms - set-top boxes from cable companies, Web-connected smart TVs, and so on - are positioned to materially disrupt the trajectory of the 'big 3' console OEMs in 2013 or 2014. Discs will remain the console game revenue mainstay for years to come.

2011 and 2012 were tough for many console game disc developers and publishers. With the advent of eighth-generation consoles, starting with the Wii U, historical norms strongly imply that game disc revenue will stop bleeding in 2013 and rise substantively in 2014.

Such is the proliferation of new system ideas such as mini-PCs specifically ready to run Steam on TVs, or consoles set to do the same with the Android market's games, those "historical norms" will certainly be tested. Still, they're positive words for Nintendo and its console rivals to digest; IDC must know what it's talking about, as the 67 page report has a price tag of $4500.

So, what do you think about these comments on potential Wii U sales and the continuing prominence of physical retail games?

[via gamesindustry.biz]