I'm curious to see how ozbargainers feel about digital games vs physical games?
On intuition, I'd guess that the value proposition, resale, lower prices, etc. would lead most ozbargainers to buy physical games, but there's so much push-back from strongly opinionated digital game buyers on the net that I thought it'd be interesting to get peoples opinions and put up a poll.
To get it out of the way, my own thoughts are pretty extreme. I think digital game sales are terrible for the end-user:
- You have no rights of ownership,
- You have no ability to sell/resale,
- No trading,
- No sharing with friends,
- It eliminates the used game market,
- You can't guarantee that a digital storefront will remain as long as you want to play the games (e.g. the DSi ware and Wii ware store closures stopping game downloads even if you've bought them).
- and ultimately, digital games are, in my opinion, a modern form of renting/leasing.
The only argument I have ever heard for digital games is convenience, with people saying quite literally "I'm too lazy to change a disc" as their singular reason. Which has just boggled my mind for years?? I cannot imagine giving up so much of your rights and money/asset value because you're too lazy to swap a disc?
Once you buy a digital game, that money is gone forever, regardless of what you believe, you can't sell a digital game (legally). You can have a steam account with 1,000 games, but it's worth $0.00. Whereas if you had 1,000 physical playstation/nintendo/sega/xbox games, that's a few thousand dollars at least (if not tens of thousands or more).
I've also never really considered digital games to have any actual inherent value attached to them.
Perhaps it's come from growing up in the early days of the internet where piracy was common, but a digital game to me has a zero value in my mind. - What I mean by that is, basically, if I have a digital game in my library I don't care about it at all. I don't have any motivation to play it either. I have hundreds of digital games I've gotten from PS+ over the years, dozens of free steam games, and dozens of free mobile games, and I honestly don't think I've ever finished a single one - not because I don't like the games, but because they're valueless and meaningless being digital and not tangible in front of me. When I have a physical game on the shelf, seeing it sort of gives this extra motivation to get stuck into it and enjoy it. I've never had that feeling or response with a digital game before.
This all seems to be coming to a head with all the major players trying to launch their own digital storefronts (and streaming services - though that's another discussion). Sony want you locked into their digital store, microsoft want you locked into theirs, nintendo too, then on PC there's a whole bunch of digital storefronts trying to lock people into services. The only outlier is GOG.
I guess that's what it comes down to, these companies want to lock the consumer into their storefront and take back all the control and ownership rights.
We're basically reverting back to the arcade model - where the consumer owned nothing, and paid for the 'service' (50c a play).
That's why every game publisher wants to move to digital distribution, why big games have ongoing dlc and ongoing subscriptions, why microtransactions exist. It's all about taking away as much ownership from the consumer as possible and putting that power back into corporate hands.
On the other hand, with physical games: you've got a (near) permanent copy of the game that you 100% legally own. Just like you own your TV, or your car. You own your physical game. I can put my copy of Sonic 2 on Mega Drive and play it any time I want. I can hook up some third party devices and dump the ROM (legally), I can sell it 30 years later, do whatever I want with it. Or if I get luck and I bought something like Streets of Rage 3, I can make a fat profit.
Some of the negatives people talk about with physical are really just myths, common complaints seem to be disc rot (extremely rare in game discs especially PS2 onwards, blu-ray expected disc life is 100+ years as well, cartridges are basically permanent), losing/breaking your games (I mean sure it's possible, but… just be careful - though I will say a big thing a lot of people don't realise is that your games are generally insured by your home contents insurance policy so the fear of theft of a large collection doesn't really hold water), day 1 updates are another common complaint
"There's no point buying physical because games have mandatory day 1 updates"
This isn't actually true. Whilst I'll admit it's true for online multiplayer games, the vast, vast majority of singleplayer games run perfectly on version 1.0. I know quite a few Nintendo Switch games and PS4 games that are still running on their v1.0 and that will likely continue. The others are just minor fixes or QOL improvements. On the rare occasions where you get really good quality DLC or really good patches, you'll get a physical "GOTY edition" or "Complete Edition". This always happens with fighting games, or big singleplayer games.
So all in all I really don't see any reason against physical.
People buying switch games digitally is one of those that is especially curious to me. Physical games seem like a no-brainer to me for the Switch. The carts are small, they fit in all the carry cases that everyone has for their Switch, they don't install to the Switch internal storage or sd card, patches are rare for first party games and if they are present they are very small. The games load instantly off the cartridge too, so no waiting.
Yet people still buy digital Switch games. I just don't get it.
Anyway, bottom line is I guess I just can't believe that so many people would give up their ownership rights and assets just because they're too lazy to take 3 steps and change a disc or a cartridge?
Guess we'll see how the poll goes…