Physical VS Digital Game Purchases
January 13, 2015

It's quite obvious that developers and publishers prefer digital sales, almost entirely because they continue to sell retail games at $59.99 to the consumer, but the consumer has nothing to show for it aside from less space on their hard drive. With no manufacturing cost for discs, covers, cases, distribution, and so on, it is clear that digital is the best way to support the companies, as they get a much higher return on each sale. Working electronics retail has shown me the mark up on these product and many publishers(if not all) don't pack and ship to stores themselves, so there is cost for distributors, after all is done the developer only gets somewhere around $25-$35 for each $60 game sold, varying depending on the publishers cut of coarse.

With all that being said it's pretty clear that the future of gaming is likely going to be digital. I'm stuck in the past like many, clinging to the physical, not only because of the trill of the hunt while on the prowl, the nostalgia, or the true sense of ownership(being able to actually HOLD that game you just bought feels far more satisfying), but because of space limitation that accompanies the game consoles we are given. Microsoft hard drive upgrades on Xbox 360 are doable, though annoying, and Sony with the PS3 a bit more on the annoying side and also voiding warranty, luckily that generation wasn't pushing digital as hard as many may have expected.

The Xbox One and Playstation 4 both launched with 500GB hard drives and with the knowledge that ALL games would have a mandatory install, most over 40GB. This is stupid, not only are they making a nice push this time for digital(free digital upgrade here and there, tons of add on content, lots of indie or digital only release games), but it voids warranty on Xbox One to upgrade the hard drive, and surprisingly not for the Playstation 4. Microsoft dropped an idea they should have kept and Sony picked up what they should have with the Playstation 3.

All these annoyances are also joined by everyone's favorite thing about digital, licensing. If you delete a digital game you bought to make room for a new game and it is pulled from the network because one company decides not to renew their agreement, kiss your prior purchase good by.

No matter what you buy digitally, you do not own it, it simply being shared, it can even be argued that it is simply a paid file sharing service, not unlike Lime Wire or Kazza.

All that being said, I will continue to purchase new games in whatever way they are released, as well as collecting the classics I grew up with. It saddens me that the new generation of children/gamers will not be able to similar experiences we did growing up, getting a new game(rental or otherwise), and rushing home to play it with your friend next to you, trading off after each life and so on.

Welcome to the digital revolution!

Most recent blog posts from Brandon Thissell...

honestgamer honestgamer - January 13, 2015 (10:10 AM)
A lot of games that are pulled from the various online stores can still be downloaded later, provided you purchased the titles while they were available on the digital market. Licensed games often aren't an issue, as I understand it. However, there certainly are exceptions... most of them on Nintendo's Virtual Console.
TomatoMan TomatoMan - January 13, 2015 (11:43 AM)
Ah OK, well, that chances things a little, though I personally wouldn't expect these companies to host the product(whether accessible for purchase or re-download for those who already have)for an extended period without licensing agreements in place. That's just me though.
Germ Germ - January 13, 2015 (12:16 PM)
My opinion on digital radically changed when a flood wiped out my SNES and Dreamcast systems and collections, along with a sizable comic book stash. I think digital lockers, like steam and PSN certainly have their own risks, but I still like them. I even read most books and many comics digitally now too. I guess my point is that physical copies represent a form of risk as well.
pickhut pickhut - January 13, 2015 (10:35 PM)
Both have their pros and cons, and I can understand why some would go more for digital if they're trying to save physical space. Personally, even though I've been on a digital kick lately (my last four reviews were for download-only games), I'm still very much a physical copy person. Maybe I'm being stubborn or showing my age, but I still prefer actually being able to own something I can actually touch and keep on a shelve or something. Whenever I want a game, and there happens to be options for either, I always go for the physical, unless I can't afford it due to price gouging or need the game right now.

The biggest advantage digital has over physical, in my eyes, is for preserving or rereleasing older games that are extremely hard to get. Not to mention that, physical copies of games, especially older ones bought used, degrade over time under certain circumstances.

I know there will be a day when everything goes digital, but it hasn't happened yet, so I'll keep buying physical copies.
zigfried zigfried - January 13, 2015 (11:04 PM)
Everything will go digital when the price is so low that no one can rationalize buying physical copies. That hasn't happened in the music industry, and that *definitely* hasn't happened in the movie industry.

People like to draw comparisons to the music industry (which still sells physical media) but they're two very different things:

1) For music, you can download one specific song if you don't want the whole CD. Videogames don't work like that.

2) For music, the price is drastically different. $1 for a song versus $15 for a physical CD. Whereas game companies let you either buy the physical version for $60, or the digital version for... $60. The physical version usually goes down in price first, too.

3) Digital is more convenient. However, we live in a very different world from when iTunes was introduced. Amazon has existed for a while, but its growth in the last few years has been exponential. Amazon can already get a game to you on release day if you preorder, and they're planning to provide same-day deliveries in the future. They're doing whatever they can to make it convenient to receive physical goods.
- - - January 14, 2015 (02:13 AM)
For music, TV, and films, it's worth pointing out the impact streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix have had in recent years. I know quite a few people who don't buy music any longer - they just have a Spotify Premium account. And some don't bother buying DVDs or box-sets, because everything's on Netflix or Amazon Instant Video.

Obviously, streaming services are cheaper to use than buying physical or digital items, and that's a big factor in why they are so popular. But I think the interesting thing about it is people are growing less attached to the idea of ownership.
honestgamer honestgamer - January 14, 2015 (10:37 AM)
About half of the TV shows and probably an even larger percentage of the movies my wife and I watch or might want to watch are NOT available on Netflix. The service has tons of content, but we know what we like and you'd be surprised how often what we like isn't available there... or is available but then drops off the service a short time later. I still like Netflix a lot, but it's no replacement for owning the shows that really matter to you. None of the streaming services are, and due to licensing agreements and such, I doubt very much that any of them ever will be.
- - - January 14, 2015 (11:33 AM)
You rightly say that Netflix doesn't have everything.

And I don't deny the last part. That's the point I'm trying to make (and how I'm trying to tie it together with physical vs. digital). Using streaming services is very different to building a collection, but some people don't have much urge to own the stuff that matters to them. Kind of similar with digital items - you don't get that same sense of ownership as you do with a physical disc. But if that doesn't bother you and deleting stuff from your computer or console is no problem, then digital is perfect (well, except the prices).

Sure, practically everyone buys physical discs from time to time. But the type of person I'm referring to would probably only go there if it's the best and most convenient option (not on streaming services; found a discount; received as a gift), rather than due to a specific preference.

On the other hand, if you're truly passionate about something (and this applies to TV, films, and music as well), you're more likely to want to own a collection. I see both sides.
jerec jerec - January 14, 2015 (01:22 PM)
I have a few digital albums through iTunes - stuff that was much cheaper digitally or really difficult to find a physical copy of. But on the whole I much prefer to just get a CD and then rip it if I need to.

Movies & TV shows - I have a very large DVD & BluRay collection. I never use any of those digital flyers that come with movies.

Games - indie/Steam stuff aside, the full games that are available, I only buy if they happen to be on special. Given the choice of a full priced digital or physical game, I always go physical so at least I have the option of selling/trading it in later.
overdrive overdrive - January 14, 2015 (09:32 PM)
I think in general, I prefer to have an actual copy of the game instead of just a digital download. At least for modern stuff, as I have no problem throwing a ton of ROMs and Steam games (which mainly tend to be computer RPGs) on my computer.

I have a lot of games. Until someone invents an INFINITE SIZE hard drive, it's not like I could fit all of them on a system. Like, if you're talking for the current gen, a 500GB HD, with games taking 40GB...that kind of detracts from having a collection when you're deleting games in order to store new ones. Besides, I like owning hard copies of stuff. I tend to take good care of games and rarely loan anything out, so pretty much any fears I'd have would be in the "act of god" category.

I use digital for Steam and XBLA/3DS shop stuff. The only pure retail game I bought digitally was Etrian Odyssey Untold because it was on sale, I had a gift card for roughly that cost and since it was a series I hadn't played before, I figured that it'd be the way to go. If I liked it, cool, if not, I could just wipe it away and pretend it didn't exist.

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2018 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors.