Is the future digital?

Will digital downloads of games replace the traditional method of purchasing a physical copy? Of course game companies would love this, they would save on production costs and pocket even more money. After the uproar and backlash Microsoft had when announcing the Xbox One was digital only we the gamers voted a resounding no to the idea. Is it only a matter of time before we see this coming into effect? Are streaming devices like the Ouya or Steambox an insight in to the future? In this post I will explore the pros and cons of downloadable content and where it leaves us as the consumer.

Pros

  • It’s hassle free and is easier than waiting for a delivery and is more convenient than going to the shop.
  • It allows us to purchase indie content at an affordable price.
  • It’s already prevalent on PC and Steam is one of the most successful gaming platforms of all time.
  • It is guaranteed to be available, stock will never run out.
  • Despite the high prices on consoles, on the PC some of the latest games are much more affordable than physical copies.
  • The game will never get scratched and will never suffer any damage.
  • The switching of games is a lot less laborious. No need to get up and switch games from the disc drive.

Cons

  • No trade in available
  • No collectable physical content
  • You can’t lend the game out to your friends
  • Console games demand a very high price compared to physical copies
  • You could end up with a lack of space on your hard drive as games are getting bigger.
  • Once you’ve played and beat the game it’s useless unless it has any sort of replayability.
  • Game collectors can’t add to their collection.

There are arguments for each side. Personally I think in 5 years time or whenever the next cycle of consoles come on to the market is the time where physical copies will die. It is an inevitability we all want to avoid, collecting games is a personal hobby and will no longer be available in the future, which is a shame.

Will collections like this be a thing of the past?
Will collections like this be a thing of the past?

There needs to be some sort of price cut on consoles, the fact we are losing potential trade in value means the RRP of $59.99 applied to games is no longer justifiable. If that price was halved I may have a bit more interest in digital games and so may the rest of the gaming public. If this recent article is anything to go by then we may see the price fall sooner rather than later.

Overall, we as the consumer will have the final say. If opinions still haven’t changed in the next couple of years then companies will be forced to keep producing physical copies. I expect the powers above us to be doing everything they can to convince us that digital is the future, whether we choose to accept it or not is down to us.

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8 thoughts on “Is the future digital?”

  1. We’re the last of the touchy feely generation. How many kids today buy their music on CDs? It’s all digital, only a matter of time before games follow suit. And I suspect they’ll go the download and then streaming route, which makes user storage issues obsolete as well.

    At present, if you’re a Steam user, try and figure out how many digital games you own? (Or have a license to use, if you want to be pendantic).

    My biggest concern isn’t broadband infrastructure, connection speeds, bandwidth and so on, it’s whether games will continue to evolve whilst this transition occurs, or whether we’ll have a stagnant few years of cheap indie titles offering everything we’ve done before just with new skins and a new dynamic here and there.

    I think we’ll be ok.

    1. I suppose you’re right, us gamers are the last to let go. I think it could have something to do by how were once wowed by impressive box art and made decisions based on how the box looked.

      You highlight some good points about the limitation of titles available for streaming at the minute. I’m all for indie games but a lot seem bland and go for the nostalgic and retro feel which we’ve all played and done before.

  2. Digital downloads are gradually winning me over, mostly because I have troubles with storing so many physical copies. I wouldn’t want digital to kill off retail though. With a lack of competition, if digital takes over completely, you will be forced to get all your games from the same place (leaving you at their mercy with regards what price they ask for.)

    1. You could argue that a few years ago we were forced to pay whatever price stores would choose also. Maybe that’s why they skyrocketed to the price they are now. I think games have been overpriced for way to long so I welcome any price cuts that could be coming our way, whether that be digital or physical.

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