With the relative ease of installing a cheap but large hard drive on next gen consoles, the digital marketplace has slowly been gaining a foothold on the retail world for sometime now. There are two sides to this debate and Scott Posey (for digital games) and Nick Edwards (counterpoint against digital games) weigh in on the debate in today’s point/counterpoint.
Scott – Point: Digital games are better than their physical counterparts and the future will see them being the prevalent form of game purchases.
Over the past few generation of video game consoles, physical discs have been the go to way to buy your games. This was due to the fact that storage was expensive and wasn’t provided to you in the ways in which it was needed. Large gaming collections lined our walls and we relished reading our physical manuals that came with our jewel cases. With the advent of cheap storage and higher quality games, consoles have introduced much larger hard drives to allow the consumer to download games directly to their console and play without the need of physical discs. In my household, we have gone completely digital. I was never a collector of games or and I almost entirely buy my games on release day so having the ability to pre-load my game and start playing the second the street date hits is not something to take lightly. Gone are the days of waiting at midnight in a Gamestop parking lot only to have to wait another 45 minutes for the employees to ring up everyone in line. I can start playing immediately from the comfort of my own home.
A lot of people complain that digital has killed the video game collector but I completely disagree. I had a very large Xbox 360 collection of games that I would trade in when I thought I was done playing a game. Suffice to say, most of the games I would want to go back to play if I had the chance but I traded the physical games in. With digital, space isn’t an issue on the wall or in the attic. Everything is stored digitally on my hard drive and playing that launch game you forgot about is as easy as loading it up off of your hard drive. If space is ever an issue with your console, delete the game and re-install it down the road. Your saved games are saved separately and you won’t ever have to re-purchase something because of a hasty decision to trade your games in.
One thing that cannot be stressed enough is the ease at which gaming digitally is. This holiday season saw some top notch games being released and if you play as much as we do here at The Dadcade, you’ll know that one second you’re feeling Far Cry 4 and the next you’re more of a Dragon Age Inquisition type guy. If you go physical, you have to peel your butt out of your chair to make that change, find the disc, load it up in the system, and then sit back down. That poor schmuck (Nick, I’m looking at you) just wasted minutes of game time he could have been scaling the mountains of Kyrat or slaying dragons in Dragon Age. My brethren and I who went all digital just hit the home button on our Xbox One, went to our pins, and started up a new game – easy as that.
For digital media to truly take off and become the next big thing in video game distribution, console companies need to take a page out of Valve’s book. On the PC, Steam is god. Any PC gamer will tell you that the sales that Steam has is toxic to both their free time and their wallets. The console manufacturers need to create some sort of unique ecosystem that is similar. Digital media already has profound benefits over their physical counterparts but a price differential through sales would be the nail in the coffin for anyone besides the hardcore collectors who like their physical medium just fine. Once you get people buying compulsively because of sales and it’s game over. I can’t tell you how many Steam games I’ve bought and have never played, if consoles could replicate that at a profit then the digital only future I see will be here quicker than I had initially anticipated.
Nick – Counterpoint: Physical discs are still the way to go for the foreseeable future
It costs money to make a game and get it to the consumer, a lot of money in fact. So when you pay $60 for a game you know part of that money is going towards the cost of pressing the discs, game cases and artwork, booklets, packaging and shipping them to stores which is why I’m confused on the digital price points. They are in fact, still $60. Logically if it is cheaper to get the game to the buyer shouldn’t that theoretically make the game cheaper to buy? Is this some sort of convenience charge for not having to put on pants to buy a new game? If it’s cheaper to get it out there it should be cheaper to buy.
Another point against digital is the lack of trade value. We have all had that game that we were so hyped for that we won’t out and bought it first thing only to discover that it was terrible, I’m looking at you Alpha Protocol, and while it’s a bitter pill to swallow knowing that you just blew hard earned money on something that you don’t like it was always softened a bit by the fact that you could go recoup some money by trading it in. However you feel about certain stores and their policies, the resale market has been around forever. You know the excitement of finding a bargain priced copy of Chrono trigger at a garage sale? That was GameStop before it was a brick and mortar. Its not exactly like you can take your hard drive into a store and have them pull your copy of Thief off and handing you $8, you are stuck with that game till you delete it for space.
Space is another concern, within three months of having my 500gb PS4, i had a total of 50gb left on my hard drive. Now I made the decision to upgrade to 2tb, but that is another $120 sunk into my habit. Yes you can delete games and then just reinstall them later but now you’re talking time and as a dad with limited time, I’d rather just pop in a different disc than download it again and reinstall. If I want to play a game I don’t want to wait an hour to play it.
My last point against digital may just be a bit of nostalgia or hording if you’re picky. Isn’t it nice to hold an actual physical copy of the game? To be so excited that you have the shrink wrap off, thumbing through the booklet before you even make it home? To have friends over and have them marvel at your game collection? In the digital age wont you miss that and wont you miss out on seeing your kids experience that? “Come here child and visit the games website while we wait for it to download,” doesn’t sound as fun does it?