The way gamers purchase games has been changing for sometime and more gamers are downloading their games rather than walking into retailers to get physical copies. It begs to be asked “why would someone want a digital copy of a game over having a physical copy?” Well, here is some personal perspective on why digital purchases of games are the way to go. There are cons to this form of purchase but the pros in my opinion outweigh the downsides.
Many developers and publishers have gotten smarter about how they are pricing same day releases of digital releases compared to their physical releases. Perfect example is the day one digital release of Ni No Kuni that was priced slightly cheaper than the physical copy. Another thing to take into account is that many of these digital shops do not charge tax on digital purchases. Can’t forget the costs of shipping or travel to pick up a physical product that add to the cost but do not exist for digital releases. Meaning that you are getting the same product for less.
Gamers hate waiting for games to release in a store or for a store to actually have the game in stock. This also does not take into account the amount of time it takes to get to a store and back home with a desired purchase. Digital releases help take away the sting a bit with the ability to download games as soon as they are available or pre-download games that become active on their release. Gone are the days of sitting in lines or going from store to store to acquire a newly released game that may be sold out.
Not everyone has space to spare for sprawling game collections that go from wall to wall. Game cases take up a large amount of room over time and apartments, bedrooms, and closets can only hold so much. A digital game takes up no real storage space as it exists either in the cloud, on a hard drive, or on a flash storage card/drive. This is great for people, such as myself, that lack the storage to store a large amount of games. Also it means there will be no more tripping over game cases and such.
Can’t Touch This
One thing that is annoying about physical media for games is the sensitivity of the discs to scratches that were rampant on the PS one and earlier Xbox 360 consoles. Digital games are not limited to a disc and can essentially last forever as long as a copy is saved or the service to re-download exists. No more crying over broken discs or blowing in cartridges.
Multiple Disc, Not Here!
With large storage that is provided by hard drives and flash media, why are we still required to swap between multiple discs to play or install games. Being able to play games interrupted is important to maintaining the flow of a game and when at a crucial point in a story a player must swap discs it causes moments in a game to become disjointed a bit. It is also an inconvenience to have to monitor a game install to make sure the next disc is prepared to be inserted during the install. One problem I tend to run into is when in the middle of playing a game, a friend will send an invite to play another game and the current game has to be ejected and the other game has to be inserted. Digital keeps things convenient by allowing gamers to simply exit the game they are playing and quickly select the game they were invited to without having to hunt for a game disc.
Some of the best games available today are smaller digital exclusives and while some have seen retail release that required a period of waiting between releases. Developers find it financially beneficial to release games as digital only releases to keep costs down on their end and keep the price of the game down for consumers. Most retail games are becoming available on digital storefronts but no all digital games are becoming retail available except for a small minority.
Never Out of Print
Collectors may have pursuing rare games but those of us that may want to try a game that may have been missed do not care much for the hunt or monetary requirement to get these games. Atlus is the perfect example of a company that does moderate releases because it is not the kind of company that is swimming in enough money to do re-prints of games all the time. This means titles such as Digital Devil Saga 2 are not easy titles to find unless tons of money is willing to be dished out. Digital releases have begun to help alleviate this issue by making rarer games easier to purchase or making so gamers do not need to worry about getting a game immediately because eventually is will double in price.
Steam is one of the first to introduce the ability for gamers to pre-download a game that is purchased before for release. The game will not become active until release date but this allows gamers to get in on the action as soon as the clock hits midnight. This means no lines, no leaving home, and no waiting for a game to be delivered. Gamers that play shooters understand that this extra time can lead to extra bonuses and more time to get used to playing the game immediately.
Digital Storage Space
Digital games may not take up physical space but they can be limited by the amount of hard drive and memory storage space available. Many games today are very large in size and require several gigabytes of space to store. Systems such as the Vita have a very difficult time storing too many titles due to the limitations of memory storage. With more storage space comes the large price tags to expand storage capacity on all consoles and PCs.
Cannot Trade In or Sell
This is a big limitation for gamers that are interested in eventually trading in a game after completing it or those that may just want to return a game because it is not working or the game may not be what the buyer was looking for. The inability to return or sell content keeps physical games around because of the secondary market of used games. Another aspect affected by this is the inability to lend a friend a game to play and try out as many gamers are able to do with physical games. Essentially sharing is not permitted.
Not everyone can have the fastest and best internet connection around. Gamers are not patient and having to wait several hours for games to download because of internet connection speed takes away the convenience and time advantage of purchasing a digital game.
Lasts as Long as the Service
While there is no worry about a digital game being destroyed through physical means there is still the possibility that the service the game is provided through will come to an end. In a way users are bound to whatever company that hosts their game.
No Sweet Collectibles
Some games come with some really sweet collectibles that are only available to physical games. Want that Uncharted Fortune Hunter’s Edition then get ready to dole out for a physical version because all the physical goodies cannot be obtained through digital purchases. Pre-Order bonuses also fall into this territory with certain bonuses being unable to be obtained without getting the physical version of a game. Collectors should beware for these are not the droids you are looking for.
Not All Here
Digital games have many exclusive to digital titles but not all retail games are available as digital releases. Many companies have started releasing more digital versions of games on release day but many are still retail only. Those looking to get games on release or pick up a game on a whim will have to drive to a GameStop or Best Buy to get many titles. Sadly digital stores are not a one stop shop for every game available for a system.
Why is Digital is Preferred:
There are several pros and cons to digital purchases but I tend to find myself buying more games digitally for my various systems, especially my PlayStation Vita. The ease of access and knowing that if I do not have the game on me I can just login and download a game anywhere is a convenience that I personally enjoy. Space is limited for me as well and unless I have been waiting for a game, which I am most likely to pick up the digital version of some of those games as well, then I will most likely stick to a digital purchase. The next console that will probably see me switching to most if not full digital is the Nintendo 3DS due to convenience of getting the games I want at any time, though with Nintendo systems I worry about transferring between consoles.
This does not mean I will not buy retail games, but it means that I am more selective about the titles I want a physical version of. Collector’s Editions of many games and RPGs will always keep me purchasing the games I really want but the allure of digital is so difficult to go against. Digital purchases are mainly conveniences and savings for me personally that will vary among other people. Gamers will consume their purchases differently but with Steam and digital stores are changing the way purchases are being made.