One of the changes we’ve seen to gaming in recent years is the rise of digital media sales. PC has had the option for quite a while but in the last two console generations the digital storefronts have become a major focus of console makers. There is a lot to he said for being able to buy what you want, when you want, without having to leave the house. Who doesn’t like having a choice to not wear pants?!
With that being said, digital downloads is one advancement that consumers need to be careful about embracing. For all the good that it does, there are some major drawbacks that have to be considered.
DRM isn’t as big an issue for physical copies
With all of the issues surrounding Denuvo and similar software, and the problem that always online connections causes for some, are always going to be an issue. It’s just a part (albeit a stupid part) of the world we live in. It’s a much smaller part of the world for owners of physical copies of games. This is more of an advantage for console players as physical copies of most PC games are hard to find at all. That being said, the issues of buggy anti piracy software are very few and far between when the game, and its verification, is on a disc.
I overheard something interesting in my loc Gamestop a few days ago. A customer ahead of me I line was picking up a game (I dont remember what) and was saying he was surprised it was so cheap. It wasn’t a recent release and was only twenty dollars are so and the customer remarked that it was still sixty dollars on the PS4 digital store. A store employee who was stocking a shelf asked if he was serious and got his phone out to look it up. Sure enough, there it was. The same exact game for triple the price. Why would this happen? Inventory. I
Stores, warehouses, and all the steps in between all have to carefully manage how much inventory they keep on hand for a number of reasons. Storage space is limited. A product for sale is something that store bought and they need to sell it to get their money back. Eventually, if something has been on a shelf for too long, the store will discount that item to get it out. Even if they dont make a profit, they want to make room for something better.
Digital stores do not have those issues. No one at Steam has to dust a shelf overflowing with ones and zeros. Microsoft doesn’t have to count how many digital copies of the latest overhyped flop they have left over after the sales dont meet expectations. They have no incentive to cut costs to move inventory. Take advantage of the laws of supply and demand when you can.
Get Your Money Back
It’s really hard to resell a digital copy of a game. Simple enough.
Sharing Is Caring
I’m blessed enough to be in a position that there are multiples of some consoles in my house (my nephew and I both own a 3ds and a switch) and I have a lot of friends that have consoles as well. This gives us a much wider availability of games because we can loan, borrow, trade, or gift them to each other. If I want to try out a game before I buy it I can call Calebrin or TheSa1tyOne and ask them to loan it to me for a few days. If my nephew wants to try a game I own he can just grab it from my room and put it back when he’s done. Even growing up, my two older brothers would give me games to try after they played them.
Physical media has a way of connecting us to others. Video games, music albums, books, and other things can created a sense of shared experience and it’s so much easier to do when a person can simply take a small thing and give it to someone that will also enjoy it. Digital content can do some if the same things, but it’s not as easy to do and you lose that connection of interaction with another person.
I Like To Collect Things
This one is purely a personal preference but I really enjoy the way a shelf full of games looks. It’s the same reason I will buy physical copies of books I never read but listened to as audiobooks. It’s not neccessary to the experience, it’s not even the most logical way to do things, but in a way it makes things seem more real. More solid.
So I’ll continue to buy games on disc or cartridge or whatever form they take next. I will keep struggling to find more shelf space. I will deal with the endless dusting that comes with a room full of knickknacks because seeing them all there makes me happy. I don’t think I’m alone.
I Actually Own Them
My last reason is, to me, the most important. This ties into some of the reasons I’m not a fan of always online games as well, but the idea that someone else can suddenly decide I can’t use something anymore is troubling to say the least. If you dig into the terms and conditions on most digital sales platforms you’ll see that you’re not actually buying the game in perpetuity. You’re buying a license and the software you get is somewhat secondary.
Even if it’s a game that doesn’t require an internet connection or other players there is a possibility that the service that allows you to play the game can lock you out of something you thought you had “bought”. I’ve mentioned it before but in 2016 the entire country of Myanmar was blocked from accessing EA Origin’s services and because of this they couldn’t play any game they had purchased from that platform. Other services that actually sell the games, unlocked and unprotected such as GOG, had no issues. Had things not changed so that EA could restore service the people of Myanmar could have been left with no options to recoup their losses.
Again, there are a lot of benefits to digital distribution. I believe that it is one of the best advancements in gaming in recent history. I own a lot of digital games myself. As the medium continues to evolve I expect that it will become the standard more and more. For now though, if I have the choice I will buy the physical copy and I reccomend anyone else does as well.
Til next time,