The Beginning Of The End Of The video game Disc?

The shift of video game sales and distribution to the Internet — from discs and cartridges — may be happening sooner than we thought.

Electronic Arts’ (ERTS)┬ástudio Criterion Games said yesterday that it’s releasing the full version of racing game ‘Burnout Paradise’ for download through Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation Store sometime in the next month and a half. The game went on sale in disc format for the PS3 in January.

Few new games have made the jump from disc to download, and usually when they do, it’s in the form of an update. But if full-game downloads catch on, we could eventually see studios reducing physical distribution and putting big-name games up for sale online the same day they go on sale in stores.

One obvious loser: Game retailers like GameStop (GME), which has kept profits up during an economic slowdown because the video game market keeps growing. But if gamers can pick up a game without leaving their homes, retailers could be in trouble.

The winner? The consumer, especially if game makers cut prices to encourage downloads, which cost less to distribute. But that’s not happening yet: Burnout Paradise will cost $30 to download, the same price it sells for in stores.

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