Sony considered a download-only format for its next-generation gaming console, but ultimately rejected the idea, according to the Wall Street Journal. The notion that a traditional disc tray could be excluded from one of the most anticipated consoles indicates the growing presence of online networks in the industry.

The Japanese electronics and entertainment giant is planning a 2013 release for the gaming system, known under the codename Orbis. The prominence of consoles as a source of multi-media entertainment is rising throughout the industry, with Microsoft promising big plans for the future of its Xbox as well. Although consoles now can nearly function as computers and tablets, the elimination of hard disc sales would put added pressure on physical gaming retailers.

Sony decided against the download-only format largely because Internet connections are too inconsistent to act as a platform's sole support. It was just a week ago that the PlayStation Network was down for 16 hours, as CNet reported. Downloading large game files would also prove frustrating in areas of the world with slower Internet connections, a source close to Sony told the Wall Street Journal.

There is much at stake with the success or failure of Sony's PlayStation 4, as the company intends to use the console to deliver content to various devices using its online network. New Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai is also struggling to stop the financial bleeding in Sony's other electronics operations, WSJ also reported. And the next-generation console could provide the required push.

The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are currently neck-and-neck for the number two spot in console sales, with Nintendo's Wii dominating. This is somewhat surprising considering the Wii has been branded as a gaming system unfit for the hardcore gaming community. But it does provide the mass appeal as a home entertainment system that its competitors haven't quite mastered yet.

Although the shift to online-only consoles has not come yet, GameStop CEO Paul Raines told the Wall Street Journal it's only a matter of time.

If we all agree the technology is inevitable -- which I think it is because it's like death and taxes -- it's still going to take longer to happen than it did for music and movies, said Raines.

Whether or not downloadable games are the next step for the industry is arguable, but the video game world needs some type of boost. This is evident in the anticipation for the coming Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, the seventh, which has been somewhat lackluster compared to previous years, according to CNet. Other than more details on the Wii U to look forward to, there isn't much talk of new hardware to be showcased at the annual video game conference. Sony and Microsoft say there will not be a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox 720, and a new product is just what E3 needs to have an effect on the industry.

I don't necessarily mean hardware, writes Scott Stein of CNet. I mean a reason to get excited.

Microsoft's move-to-play technology the Kinect and Sony's motion-controlled PlayStation Move were teased for more than two years before their release. Now the Wii U is approaching that two-year mark, but there doesn't seem to be a first tease product to expect at this year's E3.

The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles are almost seven years old, which can begin to seem a little dated. It will certainly be exciting to see what the big three companies do with their next-generation consoles in the era of social media and mobile dominance. Gaming devices are quickly evolving into multi-media entertainment systems, as Microsoft indicated recently.

This year's E3 is sure to see some impressive titles from the shooter genre, such as Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, according to The Verge. But, in addition to a slew of new anticipated games, the conference will need to make some revelations that will shape the future of the gaming industry.