Physical vs Digital Games: Who Takes the Leaderboard?

As someone who has been part of the gaming community for the past 15 years, buying games and collecting titles has been a big hobby of mine. Whether it be going to my local GameStop to purchase Halo 3 back in 2007 for my Xbox 360, or downloading Rocket League during the summer of 2015 for my gaming PC, the way I have gathered my games has never been a real problem or limitation in my experience.

What are digital downloads, and why has it been a popular method of purchasing video games in the last decade?

Digital distribution of video games has been around since the early 80s, but it was only widely available once bandwidth capabilities became better in the early 00s, that digital downloads became a dominant figure in selling games.

There are numerous ways in which people can download their games. These platforms include Steam, Xbox Live Marketplace, Origin, PlayStation Store and many more that provide their digital content for consoles or PCs.

There doesn’t seem to be a huge majority on what the consumer would prefer, but to those who despise digital downloads, a big argument seems to rise from that community.

This preference for physical copies of video games seems to originate most of the time with the older generation that grew up around the time the NES, Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, Xbox and PlayStation were popular. This preference widely differs with those who are born after the year 2000. As technology advances and the huge leap into digital media has become an everyday part of the average person’s life, digital downloads of video games are much popular within this demographic.

Despite my love for both forms of content, I have most recently purchased digital copies of my video games in bigger quantities in the past two years. What is the reason for me leaning more towards this method compared to my younger years when physical purchases dominated my interest? There’s some points that have to be made to answer these questions.

Physical copies of video games establish how important it is to own a game. You get to actually hold the product you own in your very hand. You are able to easily lend the game to a friend and sell it back to your local store once you are done with it.

Digital copies of video games act differently, but surprisingly has a lot of similarities when it comes to the statements above. With digital games, you must be logged in in order to play them, or are restricted to one console where the game was originally purchased, unless a whole system transfer is made, like on the Xbox 360. The only way to share your game as of now is through the method of Steam Family Share or the inconvenience of giving your log in information to your friend or relative. The positive side to this is that each game you purchase is yours to keep forever.

If you consider yourself a PC gamer, you do not have to worry if you lose your digitally purchased games on Steam or Origin, they are all there online ready to download onto any PC you switch to. The condition of the game will never diminish since it’s in an online cloud library and not on a disc. Let’s say that if for some reason you must abandon video gaming for the next five years for some unforeseen circumstance, it will still be there when you get back and you can pick up from where you left off. That’s the magic of it all.

Storage space whether physical or digital doesn’t seem to be a big problem when it comes to this situation. If you are able to take care of your games and keep them in good condition, then there’s no worries. Digital games are stored in the hard drives of our PCs and game consoles. You won’t have to worry about losing your copy of Fallout 4 that you purchased the other week, or if your game will run in smooth conditions, because it will just be in your hard drive! Unless you happen to fry your hard drive, which shouldn’t happen if you take care of your PC.

Now we have come down to the buying experience of video games. There are good things about both the physical and digital side of gaming. Midnight releases of video games are always fun and something every gamer should take part in at least once in their life.

On the other hand, I have had the usual interest in a game at three in the morning. Please don’t ask. No store is open in my area at that time, and I was probably way too tired to function a four-wheeled vehicle in the middle of the night. Downloading the game and having it on my computer or console was much more enjoyable in the comfort of my own house.

The price of video games has been at a constant high for the last few years with a whopping $60 price tag on each new release, even $80 if you consider buying Downloadable Content (DLC) for the game. This is one situation where digital games reigns in the marketplace: sales.

Games online can show up for very low prices through sales from Steam’s Summer and Winter game sales, PlayStation Plus which allows you to obtain one or two free games selected by PlayStation forever for just $60 a year and Xbox Live Marketplace every now and then. In the last few months, I have used Humble Bundle which allow you to pay for as much as you want for each set of monthly games, and that money is used to support multiple charity organizations in the country. I have been able to snag myself Mirror’s Edge and Skyrim for just five bucks each in the past.

You could say this is just the penny-pincher side of me trying to save a couple of dollars.

In the end, it’s up to you what you believe is the best option for your situation. I love to buy physical copies of games when it’s a title that I care about, have been anticipating for a long while and would love to keep on my shelf for display. All of my Elder Scrolls and Assassin’s Creed games will remain happily on my shelf. Other than that, give me all of the online digital sales and I will grow my now 550 plus Steam library!

There is one comment

  1. Cryptic

    It's an odd thing with physical and digital.
    There is no real reason to own physical copies if you think about it. With PC there is no such thing as physical its 100% digital. With consoles the purpose the disk serves is as a DRM check. When you put a disk into your console it installs the game onto the drive. Confirming that having a physical copy is really an illusion.

    As the minimalist way of thinking takes off I believe digital will have an increase in use. Currently sales are around 70% physical and 30% digital. Now when we think of sales being honest we only think of the U.S., but there are other countries that do not have the internet infrastructure; forcing use of physical copies. So I believe digital sales will increase in first world countries. The only reason I believe they are sticking around as much is that the older generations do still share games. This seems to begin to be a dying practice.

Leave a Reply