Giant Bomb News

233 Comments

Our Relationship With Physical Media Is About to Change

But that doesn't mean it's becoming less important. If anything, the opposite might be true.

When I buy a video game in a box these days, it's because of one reason: this game means enough to me that I want it taking up precious space in my apartment. I want it to exist outside of a hard drive. That feels real.

The death of physical media is coming, and not limited to games. It will impact every medium, and nothing can stop it. But death is such a hyperbolic term. It makes a good headline, it might underscore the broader trend, but it's also untrue. It's simply changing.

There might be a day when physical media ceases to exist, but I doubt it. What's released, however, might become more selective, targeting collectors and the nostalgic. Physical will become a premium that specific consumers pay for, and the rest move on. How do you explain the rising sales of vinyl music?

In the coming years, most of us will redefine our relationship with physical media. It's going to become more important. What we physically own will come to represent us in a brand-new way. It's no longer about access. The same way posters, action figures, and other accents are strategically placed in our apartments to materially represent our interests and values, physical media is joining that club.

The launch of EA Access, a new subscription service from the company that loves angering people with new subscription services, might be the company's most interesting offer yet. It doesn't offer anything I'd be willing to pay for, but as a thought experiment, it's fascinating. For a monthly ($4.99) or annual ($29.99) fee, subscribers gain access to The Vault, a selection of EA games currently limited to Battlefield 4, Peggle 2, FIFA 14, and Madden NFL 25. It's slim pickings at the moment, given EA's immense back catalog, but the The Vault's currently limited to what EA's published on Xbox One. That means no Dungeon Keeper or Wing Commander.

While I'd love a Netflix for games, we're years away from that, and individual publishers are probably not our best route there. Who wants to subscribe to a Universal Pictures subscription service? It's more likely EA Access provides a template for broader services, ones Sony is currently experimenting with through PlayStation Now. Only a few publishers could get away with charging individual subscriptions. The only one might be Nintendo. It's easier to imagine paying for a subscription with a rotating lineup (i.e. Netflix/PlayStation Now), and spending more to play what you want, when you want (i.e. PlayStation Network/iTunes).

I don't own many video games anymore, but that depends on our definition of ownership. Even though I've purchased numerous games on Steam, Xbox Live, and PSN, I don't own them. I've purchased a license to play them, a license that won't necessarily last forever, and nothing guarantees my previous purchases will work when the next wave of hardware arrives. That's been more and more true as hardware's grown more complex.

With the exception of media no longer working on new hardware, a situation more frequent for games, this paragraph could be rephrased to reflect the vast majority of my purchases today.

  • I don't own many movies anymore because I'm streaming on Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes.
  • I don't own many books anymore because I'm buying digitally from Amazon and iTunes.
  • I don't own many albums anymore because I'm streaming on Spotify and Pandora.

Each of these services are riddled with DRM, but it doesn't bother me. I get what I want at really great prices.

Here's a look at the shelf above my TV.

There's one other shelf in my home that has a stack of boxes. It's mostly horror and TV.

Both of those shelves are really important to me. It represents so much about me and my wife. There's limited space, which means what's there has importance. It's not the newest purchase, it's not a random selection, they're my favorites. If you look through that shelf, you can glean an idea of my tastes and values, and get a small understanding of who I am. Over time, that's where physical media is going: representing personality.

Puppet Master, Upright Citizens Brigade, Friday the 13th, X-Files, Futurama. That's me.

Catherine, BioShock, Prince of Persia (2008!!), Klonoa, Mirror's Edge, Dark Souls. That's me.

It's not a perfect system, of course. There are scads of digital games, books, and movies that I "own" not represented. Sometimes, I mull printing out box art, so games like Super Meat Boy or Journey can join them.

When I originally moved to San Francisco, most of my games were removed from cases, shoved into a binder, and thrown under a couch. Know how many times I opened up that binder? Probably twice. This wasn't a back catalog, it was diary of abandoned purchases, one I trimmed every time my wife and I moved. As we'd pack boxes, I'd look through our shelves, comb through the binder, and toss what I hadn't seen, played, or listened to. If I really wanted to play that copy of Viva Pinata that I'd been telling myself I'd eventually play, I'll buy it again.

This isn't everyone, of course. I'm painting with a broad brush. Lots of people like having collections. That's not me. That's OK! And there are reasons, even for me, to have small collections. I'm tired of purchasing Super Mario Bros. for every new platform Nintendo puts out, for example, so I'm happy to have a CRT with a bunch of old consoles hooked up to it. Sony and Microsoft are only going to port a handful of games from PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 onto the new platforms, so I'll need to keep them around, in case I want to play You Don't Know Jack.

I'm conveniently looking at the upside, but maybe that's because this transition already happened with books, movies, and music, while games lag behind. Specifically, it's console games. How many Steam users are upset over the death of the box? PC gaming used to be dying, now it's bigger than ever. Do you want a box or hundreds, if not thousands, of games for way cheaper? Give a little, gain a lot. It means the publishers gain more control, but consumers have benefited, too. Steam is DRM, but most are happy. The benefits of Steam have not totally trickled down to consoles, but it's coming. PlayStation Plus was the first sign, and Microsoft soon followed with Games with Gold. There will be much more of that.

Or maybe not. Maybe we'll give up control, games will be ruined, and we're all screwed. I'm an optimist!

The question is whether Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and publishers like EA can provide better reasons to choose digital. It has to be more than convenience. That's not much of a carrot anymore. EA Access provides a hint of where we're going. We'll see how quickly that happens, but we're marching (dragging?) in that direction.

In the meantime, I just looked at my shelf. Who wants a copy of Super Smash Bros. Brawl? I don't need it.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
235 Comments
Edited by TheManWithNoPlan

I'm right there with Patrick on this. It's gotten to the point for me where I only own physical copies of things that mean something to me. After purging dozens upon dozens of cases from my collection (And putting the discs in a binder) I'm more than happy to relegate my passing interactions with certain movies, shows, music and games to a digital realm. It really helps me in the long run space wise.

Edited by Wraxend

I'd happily go digital only with the new consoles if it wasn't for the fact that everything is more expensive digitally than it is physically. So a copy of Watch Dogs on the PS4 from Amazon at the moment is £41 while if I wanted the same standard version of the PSN I'll be paying £60. So until the prices are either the same or cheaper there is no incentive for me to get a digital version.

Posted by datarez

My worry is still if my games will be available in the future. With books, I still worry but hope Amazon will come around with DRM like Apple did with music. With movies I don't re-watch usually so I'm ok just renting it the first time and renting it if I ever want to see it again. But games I go back to play. Even if it's just to play it for a day.

My example is the NeoGeo Pocket Color. I was strapped for cash and had to sell mine and all my games at one point. But because of physical media and ebay I'm able to get those games again and play them. If the NGPC was a PSPgo type system and with the state of SNK today I know those servers would be turned off. So I'd be out of these games and they'd be lost. FYI BioMotor Unitron is pretty great and everyone should try it.

Some of my Atari & Nintendo collection is 30 years old and I'm totally ok with PSN's PS1 emulation. It's a good compromise for me. But I'm getting games on there with the expectation that they keep that emulation going to PS4 and that hasn't happened yet.

I love downsizing and getting rid of stuff but games aren't a place where I can do that yet.

Edited by Jensonb

So true. The only reason I'm still buying most games on disc where I can is that the digital versions are way more expensive. If not, I'd only buy my favourites in physical form, and most of those would be collectors items. That's my approach with everything else.

I own the boxed set of The West Wing, but I actually watch it on Amazon Prime Instant Video now it's there because it's more convenient. But I still want to keep the box set. I have Spotify, and I buy some music on iTunes for various reasons, but I've also started buying vinyls of albums by my favourite artists because I want them as keepsakes.

I read comics in ComiXology, but I bought the Connecting Variants of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 and Superior Spider-Man #31 to hold in my hands. By the time Forbidden Planet delivered them, I'd read both. I didn't mind a bit.

If I can only watch a movie I've a passing interest in by picking up a DVD or Blu-Ray, I usually pass. If I'm inviting something into my home like that, I want to be damn sure it's important to me.

I'm interested in the games as a service model, but subscribing to a service that only gives you EA games or Ubisoft games just sounds awful to me. And not just because the only EA franchises I can muster any interest in right now are Need for Speed and Star Wars. I love my PS Plus subscription because it gives me a library of games with outstanding variety which I can download at my leisure. This EA thing is good value if you want to play at least a couple of those games. I don't want to play any of them. The roster is far too limited to justify a subscription model in my view. If they wanted to turn the EA sports games themselves into services and charge subscription fees for them specifically, that would be a different story. I actually think there's a lot of consumer upside in that - done right, where the service is constantly iterated on and improved.

Posted by Nodima
Posted by micemoney

How do you explain the rising sales of vinyl music?

Hell if I know. I still don't know how people even play the music they buy on vinyl. And I know somebody who owns a vinyl record.

Wait a second, what's Valkyria Chronicles doing at the butt end of that shelf? Are you just throwing DVDs and what have you all helter-skelter across your shelf? Show some pride. Alphabetize, son!

Well, for one, buying vinyl and cassettes have become very trendy these days. That's not to knock anyone who digs tha crates, but lets call a spade a spade. Mini record players are now being sold at various clothing outlets such as Urban Outfitters. Again, nothing wrong with that. If you make beats, and love to sample, vinyl is a must.

I think the biggest difference between physical games, and music is the level of quality, or type of quality one provides. People love vinyl for the sound quality. For the cracks, pops, and warm analog moisture that you can't get from the digital stuff. As far as I know, the quality of a video game doesn't change with the format. There's no real benefit in buying physical games other than ownership, and maybe the novelty of having the case to put on a shelf. Hell, most of the fun buying physical video games back in the day was the instruction manual that came with it. Opening it up and smelling/reading the manual in the car on the way home was one of the best feelings ever. That's no longer the case these days.

Edited by PrezAbeLincoln

The day when digital copies are cheaper than the physical ones I might actually be interested in buying more games digitally. But giving me less for the same price doesn't sound good to me.

Posted by ZGoon

This is something I have been debating lately because I'm buying a PS4 soon. I would love to never have a boxed copy of a game and just buy everything digitally for the system, but I'm worried about the future of my ability to play those games. Most of my decision boils down to the fact that after 5 years I will most likely never play most games again, and if I want to play them there will be ports and remakes eventually available. So basically I will probably go all digital with PS4 unless there is something I really would like to have physically, and I don't really know what that is yet.

Posted by TehJedicake

My relationship with physical media changed a decade ago.

Edited by Hassun

My problem isn't with digital vs physical but rather what form the digital market will take.

On one hand you have GoG, on the other side you have subscription-based game 'renting' systems.

I do not want those.

Posted by Winsord
@ghostnpc said:

@winsord: similar things could be said to owning a physical copy of Parappa the Rapper and a CRT. Due to lag of input on LCD screens, you can't get the same perfect experience anywhere else than on the original setup. Not that Patrick is making that point in the article, just my observation.

That's not really the same thing, though. You could also have a digital copy of Parappa the Rapper on the PS3 and a CRT. There hasn't been a ton of control delay introduced, so the digital/physical aspect of the game has nothing to do with it, just the screen. Of course, then the trouble becomes that the PS4 doesn't support SD resolutions anymore, so you would need an older version to be able to display it in a low-latency fashion.

The other part is that that's only an issue for games up to, and including, the sixth generation of consoles (PS2 era). Anything since then has been designed with the latency in mind, so while you technically could have a "more pure" experience by playing Gears of War on a CRT, it's not the noticeable difference that existed with platformers in the NES era.

You've got a good point, but it's somewhat limited in scope. The easiest way to play retro games as they should be is with the console, on a CRT, sure, but it gets weirder for the games in the interim.

Posted by SomeJerk

Price:
Here in Europe, a digital copy of a console AAA title costs X, X can also get you two physical copies of the same game imported from Canada or the US perfectly legally.

Getting the goods:
Even in Sweden, the internet speeds don't allow for a comfortable download speed, one that beats bringing a physical copy of a game over VS logging onto your account on their machine temporarily.

EA Access:
Read the TOS. Look at the recent history of the company. We'll be right here saying we told you so when the day comes and the forum threads of disappointment appear.

Posted by RyanOehrli

I kind of like things the way they are right now. With most big, AAA games you usually get to make a choice. I could buy GTA V physically, or I could just download it straight to my PS3 if I want.

Personally, I tend to buy games in physical form. I like being able to actually touch my games and show them to my friends. It's nice seeing stuff I care about on the shelf.

The clutter thing really is an issue, though. I have nowhere to put my SEGA Genesis collection, so cartridges usually end up getting tossed onto my closet floor whenever I'm done.

For that reason (as well as being able to get some games way cheaper if they're bought off of PSN/eShop) I also try to buy games in a digital form from time to time.

Edited by Johanz

"How many Steam users are upset over the death of the box? PC gaming used to be dying, now it's bigger than ever. Do you want a box or hundreds, if not thousands, of games for way cheaper?"

Patrick Klepek

I'd argue that PC games were not dying before. They have pretty much chugged away as they always have and MMOs being huge mostly all the time. The sudden surge of F2P stuff like DOTA has just increased momentum a bit. Its just that most PC games just wasnt as big sellers as console games, so many people hailed that "PC is dead" and so on. Digital games sure have helped push PC games far and wide, stuff like DOTA, Minecraft and so on.

But I'm a steam user and the death of the box is a thing that saddens me the most about games. Not just because the days or sharing and lending games are soon coming to an end but also all the hurdles and hassles that come with digital games are here to stay. Games are locked to one account. And the reason that people don't buy many boxed games anymore is just that they are a DVD case with nothing inside and the disc needs you to install steam and latch the key onto your account and then the DVD just becomes useless. That's not what I want when I buy a physical copy.

I bought a fresh copy of L4D2 from Swedens biggest games retailer and the key was in use. My brother who had also bought a copy at the same time got the same error. We both contacted Steam support and his key got reset really quickly. Even though I provided the same info (photos of the game case, CD, key, receipt) Steam support told me that I cant reset keys for used games. I was totally blown away, it was a new game, still in its wrappers and everything! I begged and pleaded and support gave way and resetted they key, but they gave me a final warning that they will never reset keys for a used game for me ever again. It's the worst support I have ever encountered and no one seemed to listen to my words or review the support ticket my brother had. This is why I buy less physical stuff. I'm afraid its just gonna tell me to install it on steam and bam, the key might be in use and then I can't play that game, ever.

A CD or downloadable installer, install wherever and how many times you want. That's a future that I'd like to see, super consumer friendly and you can lend and resell games, lock out access if you resell a digital game... But steam doesn't really offer that so I'm not on board yet. The best thing out there is GOG.com, since you get an installer and you can do whatever you want with it. Plus, no need for any background client or somesuch.

Currently, digital games offer no real advantaged over physical. Less so, even. The only advantage is that you don't need to put something into your comp to install it. Digital games are often locked to one account, require an external client, DRM and so on. With a physical copy, that isn't bound to some weird service, in theory you can lend that copy, resell it and remove the DRM (unlawfully, but easily if you wish).

Now this became quite a long comment but in short: right now digital offers very little over physical and it's mostly troublesome and a means for companies to hinder used games. Digital sales and bundles are a positive thing but often you have to install these games via a client or lock them some account.Consumers should be a bit more critical towards digital games now that every publisher is trying to seize control over what you can and cannot do in digital games. We need to be critical so we don't get bullied into a paradigm shift of anti-consumerism that we can't back out of because it has become the norm.

Posted by Dr_Perscitus

@hailinel:

Me too. Fuck the inevitable digital future.

In the UK, 'digital future' basically translates as 'costs more'. Both PSN and XBOX prices are a joke for digital games - especially as they age. Plus there is no convenience as most places are stuck with crappy internet. Although to be honest, with the sizes of some of these next-gen game patches I might as well have bought them digital, angrily looking at you Sniper Elite 3 and Dead Rising 3.

Whilst I understand that steam offers a more cost friendly approach, I don't have a PC worth shit and the initial investment in a decent rig doesn't seem worth the offset of slightly cheaper prices.

Posted by Red_Piano

As someone who hasn't bought a physical disc in years, I couldn't care less.

Edited by Demoskinos

I'm done with physical media. It just doesn't interest me anymore what interests me now is having a device and having that full of digital media. Being able to access all of my PS4/Vita or PC games at a click of a button is great.

I don't play very many games twice and I never trade in games either so buying digitally just works better for me. The less physical stuff I own the better. Well except for my Hatsune Miku figures...

Posted by DedBeet

Not really unexpected to me that games are following the same trajectory that music did. While I still buy the occasional DVD or Blu-Ray, I have mostly done away with buying physical copies of media. I love having all my books on my e-reader, all my music on my computer/cloud, and all my games on my console/laptop/cloud. While I accept that these are things I may lose access to in the future, not having the clutter in my house is worth it to me. Also, I find that, while I love re-watching movies or re-reading books, I rarely re-play a video game so losing access once I've finished a game is less of a problem for me.

That being said, I also strongly believe that losing our rights to physical media is ultimately a bad thing and should be fought. I have no desire for Activision/EA/Some-other-publisher to control what games I can have access to.

Edited by webdrivertorso

The real upside in going digital is its practical advantages- the ability to store all of your stuff in a drive/server/cloud makes things so convenient, accessible, and migration-friendly. Moving to a new place is much, much easier when you're not having to lug around boxes of game boxes, books, magazines, vinyls/cds, etc.. Better still, the change to digital does some good for the environment- I wonder if there are numbers out there detailing how much we're saving by reducing our dependence on physical manufacturing.

I think Patrick is spot-on that there's a dwindling purpose in owning a physical 'collection,' as it becomes less of a need and more of a desire. However it's important to note that digital actually highlights the importance of the physical. By their nature, digital formats are rather intangible, free-floating in a state of impermanence. The nature of digital makes its scarcity a non-issue, but that's a part of what makes the physical so much more appealing. Other things, like the feeling of physically owning something rather than having it as a piece of stored data, gives physical ownership an advantage over digital in ways beyond sentimental value.

However looking at this from a broader perspective, comparing digital/virtual with the physical might be a bit of a misguided objective. Similar in how the advent of photography and digital reproduction altered our understanding of contemporary painting and other visual ephemera, digital technology is essentially reshaping our understanding of the physical, not removing it completely (at least not yet!). Rather than comparing the two, if we looked deeper at this complex relationship between the physical/virtual, we might gather more insight into what both of these things really mean for us.

Posted by spraynardtatum

It really rubs me the wrong way how digital is treated and being defined currently when the beauty of digital is that the rules can evolve and change. We shouldn't be okay with giving up ownership for convenience. That is a give and take that was defined by the companies themselves and is obviously not the only solution. If I pay $60 for a game and then download that game onto my computer/console/phone it should then be mine. I've paid for the product, it is in my possession, I've performed the transaction on my own, and the publisher didn't even need to manufacture anything. But the fine print says that it doesn't belong to me, it belongs to the seller still.

I think we've allowed this discussion between physical and digital to become something where the consumer has to deal with ridiculous ultimatums that are only there because some asshole designed it that way. I don't know if that makes sense but giving away ownership is not at all ideal.

Posted by MrPlatitude

Great article, I think you've hit on the nose here. A lot of my stuff like books and music is just digital now, and eventually maybe I will do that with movies and games. Its just that the quality of an iTunes movie's picture and sound are not quite on par as a well produced Blu-ray disc. When that catches up, maybe I will switch completely.

Really happy to Scott Pilgram in your movie collection.

Posted by Make_Me_Mad

@patrickklepek As someone not living close to a big city, access to a decent Internet connection is extremely rare; right now I'm paying upwards of 60 dollars a month for a whopping 1 Mb/s worth of online speed. A shift away from physical goods spells nothing but trouble, from here. A more optimistic person might say that it'll encourage providers not to shit all over rural areas, but I'm willing to bet it's just going to mean more of a hassle and a hell of a lot more waiting on downloads.

Edited by Mister_V

I hope I never have to buy physical media ever again. I find the notion that a bunch of plastic boxes on a shelf somehow defines who you are really sad.

Each to their own i guess.

Posted by ripelivejam

the burgeoning audiophile in me can't stand to get rid of CDs. pardon my ignorance, but i just haven't seen a good digital solution that offers lossless music.

Posted by Afroofdoom

Physical media has been pointless detritus since we made the move to wholly digital mediums like CDs and LaserDiscs for films and music, and even earlier with games running from cartridges.

The data is the data is the data. And shady corporations will be shady corporations, trying to destroy your consumer rights whether their product comes in a box or not.

Unless you are a collector, a niche hobby for only the most dedicated obsessives, there is no reason to not embrace our inevitable all digital future.

Edited by Dark_Lord_Spam
@theorz said:

I don't know really know where videogames are heading, but man I love that you have a box set of evil bong movies.

You know that he inspired and named Evil Bong 3-D: The Wrath of Bong, right?

Online
Posted by johnham

Vinyl has a demonstrable advantage, in terms of quality, over digital sources. CDs are also inferior to Vinyl and that's why you're not seeing a CD renaissance; the physical nature of the media isn't the key selling point, at all.

No such distinction exists with video games; in every scenario I can call to mind, the digital and physical versions are functionally identical. Even now, if I "unplug" my PS4 from WiFi forever, I will still have access to all of my digital games (excepting PS Plus stuff), which is exactly the same as if I had a physical copy.

The only concrete advantage of games on physical media (discounting the "stuff I choose to present as part of my media canon" piece you describe), is that you can resell and share them. With Vinyl there is a meaningful improvement to the content itself which makes this comparison less-valuable (or irrelevant) IMO.

Nice article Kleppy!

Posted by darukaru

I already own too many physical objects and don't have enough space to put them. I also find it unnerving when people define themselves by their pop culture allegiances. This whole article leaves me with a weird taste in my mouth and I just can't relate. Sorry dude.

Edited by SaturdayNightSpecials

If they do stop making disks, can I get decorative faux video game cases to put on my shelves? I want to look more distinguished.

Posted by Video_Game_King

After all these replies telling me about vinyl records, I'm going to go out and buy all the computer chips and plastic I can find. That way, I'll be prepared for when people want to buy their video games on plastic carts.

Posted by KingdanglerBK

I'm all digital and haven been for years now. I only buy console games because of the resale on ebay is usually half the price. If it is a exclusive, sports game or a online shooter I will buy the physical media, But other then that I'm getting it on PC (Steam, uplay, battlenet or origin). Games will always work on a gaming PC that will always being upgrading every month/day. Also, I can do cool things on my super powered PC other then gaming!!!!!!!!!!!!

I own everything and I'm getting my oculus rift dk2 tomorrow, so I am no fanboy, but, I'm just sayinnnn...... PC And DIGITAL 4 LIFE

Edited by cassus

I would much prefer a VR version of this than an actual physical stack of shit. I think I might be done with materialism in general.. Maintenance and dusting and stuff of physical trinkets sucks. Welcome to my virtual living room. Kick your shoes off, call in a living foot stool, put your feet up. Take a gander at my games collection if you want *BeeeeuuuooowiippT!* A shelf full of late 90s PC games drops from the ceiling, at the same time some really funky disco music kicks off and three badgers in trench coats flash you.

Bullshit furniture, late 90s PC games and naughty badgers. That's me.

Posted by DwigtK

@patrickklepek: I am buying more physical media than ever, even hunting for old games to fill my shelves with. I do this because I like being able to flick through a shelf full of NES carts and find the one I want to play compared to search a list on virtual console. That being said I'll take the copy of Brawl.

Posted by toy_brain

Now that I think about it, the death of physical media in videogames is one of the factors that got me into boardgames recently.

Nowadays videogames seem almost throwaway. You download them in a few minutes, fire them up, jump straight into playing them, then once you are done you can cast them aside, forever forgotten among the hundreds of other games in that Steam Library list.

Boardgames, on the other hand, I buy a lot less of, but each purchase has a lot more thought put into it, because they come with much more commitment. There is the ritual of opening the (often huge) box, popping out all the cardboard pieces, and bagging everything up neatly, ready for the first play. There is also the manual which, unlike a videogame manual, is mandatory reading - sometimes several times over if you want to be able to explain the rules concisely to your friends.
And boy do they take up space on your shelf!

A big part of me thinks humans just NEED the physical. That if one part of our lives goes all-digital, we'll just find something else that is tactile to fill the void. I mean, one of my gaming groups is a bunch of staff members from games company that makes MOBA's, that's gotta say something!

Posted by forteexe21

I'll always buy physical copies cause they are awesome. Also, bonus points for owning Klonoa!

Online
Edited by syz

Trending towards digital continues to worry me as somebody who lives in a country where bandwidth caps are consistently going down.

I don't use Netflix because the selection in my country is garbage. I don't use Pandora because my country flat out isn't allowed to. I don't download digital games because I'm close enough to my cap every month without spending 30gigs of it on a PS4 game.

This is all as somebody who lives in a civilized country immediately north of the United States, where this digital push is originating. Even if I preferred digital to physical (which I can't say I do), it doesn't seem like it's anywhere close to being feasible.

Posted by fisk0

@video_game_king said:

How do you explain the rising sales of vinyl music?

Hell if I know. I still don't know how people even play the music they buy on vinyl. And I know somebody who owns a vinyl record.

Wait a second, what's Valkyria Chronicles doing at the butt end of that shelf? Are you just throwing DVDs and what have you all helter-skelter across your shelf? Show some pride. Alphabetize, son!

Well, for one, buying vinyl and cassettes have become very trendy these days. That's not to knock anyone who digs tha crates, but lets call a spade a spade. Mini record players are now being sold at various clothing outlets such as Urban Outfitters. Again, nothing wrong with that. If you make beats, and love to sample, vinyl is a must.

I think the biggest difference between physical games, and music is the level of quality, or type of quality one provides. People love vinyl for the sound quality. For the cracks, pops, and warm analog moisture that you can't get from the digital stuff. As far as I know, the quality of a video game doesn't change with the format. There's no real benefit in buying physical games other than ownership, and maybe the novelty of having the case to put on a shelf. Hell, most of the fun buying physical video games back in the day was the instruction manual that came with it. Opening it up and smelling/reading the manual in the car on the way home was one of the best feelings ever. That's no longer the case these days.

Aside from the sound of a vinyl record, don't forget about the vinyl booklets, with large size artwork and that kind of stuff, and the same was true for PC games back in the big box days - when you'd get thick manuals and lots of goodies that are reserved for $200 collector's editions these days. The fact that most physical games today only feature a 3 page booklet about epilepsy and an online pass key is why you don't get a benefit from buying physical nowadays.

Posted by BigPrimeNumbers

I'm with you here as well Patrick. I'd much rather have things for cheaper, and a library instantly accessible to myself, all the while whittling down on the amount of physical paraphernalia I have to keep around. Game preservation is getting more and more important (hell, I'm a graduate student, and one guy in my lab is getting his PhD in that very specific area!). Call me an optimist, but I don't think we'll suddenly one day not be able to play our older digital games if we so desired.

Edited by Brodehouse

@video_game_king said:

After all these replies telling me about vinyl records, I'm going to go out and buy all the computer chips and plastic I can find. That way, I'll be prepared for when people want to buy their video games on plastic carts.

At this point, if someone was selling a rejiggered SNES cart with Shovel Knight on it, I think you're gonna get some buyers. That would be a thing that is cool to have, and even play. It's novel, it's an intellectual curiosity.

In fact, most Kickstarters for retro-inspired games are offering the old video game accoutrements we got used to as bonuses or incentives to buy special editions. Boxed copies, cloth maps, posters, etc. I put money into the Shadowrun Returns thing and I got t-shirts and a boxed copy and an art book and a keychain what has a USB in it. Talking games that are 'digital-first', physical media is becoming more and more like vinyl, in that you're seeing small runs being made at a premium price for the jokers who will buy it.

The fact that most physical games today only feature a 3 page booklet about epilepsy and an online pass key is why you don't get a benefit from buying physical nowadays.

I actually vastly prefer the modern lack of instruction manuals, because the instructions should be in the game, if not the game itself. The game should teach you how to play the game. I shouldn't have to go outside of the game into printed words to learn how to play a game. Tutorials for all. Or tutorials for some, novelty American flags for others.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@video_game_king said:

After all these replies telling me about vinyl records, I'm going to go out and buy all the computer chips and plastic I can find. That way, I'll be prepared for when people want to buy their video games on plastic carts.

At this point, if someone was selling a rejiggered SNES cart with Shovel Knight on it, I think you're gonna get some buyers.

Fuck that. I want to put something like Deus Ex: Human Revolution on a Genesis cart. DLC, of course, would take the form of the Sonic & Knuckles cart. My slogan? The Future Blows.

Edited by MrBubbles

I'm one of those people who still prefers to have a physical copy of as many of the games I buy as possible (which is frustratingly becoming less and less as more developers don't release a physical version for the PC). I like having a collection plus it's still faster for me to install a game off a disc than download it. Also as I'm installing from a disc I can play other stuff (even online stuff) without taking an internet performance hit which is a huge positive for someone like me who hates sitting around with nothing to do while waiting for a download to finish.

Posted by Brodehouse

@brodehouse said:

@video_game_king said:

After all these replies telling me about vinyl records, I'm going to go out and buy all the computer chips and plastic I can find. That way, I'll be prepared for when people want to buy their video games on plastic carts.

At this point, if someone was selling a rejiggered SNES cart with Shovel Knight on it, I think you're gonna get some buyers.

Fuck that. I want to put something like Deus Ex: Human Revolution on a Genesis cart. DLC, of course, would take the form of the Sonic & Knuckles cart. My slogan? The Future Blows.

I mean... you could make a Genesis cart as a shell for a USB, and then have the game run off that.

Although I don't know if USB whatever point oh it is now has the transfer speed to effectively stream a modern game.

Posted by ShaggE

Is that the 1999 Nightmare box set I see? Patrick, my man! You know what's up. None of that half-assed Blu-Ray box set.

Edited by Jazz

Must be nice..having a decent internet speed. Those of us on 300kbs and lower are super jelly.

Posted by DayOneAdvantage

I dunno, physical media seems like it will still have a place for a very long time.

50GB games are becoming more and more frequent, while at the same time ISPs across the country are showing no signs of increasing monthly data caps to the size they need to be (or eliminating them altogether).

If anything, they are becoming more restrictive, with providers demanding to wet their beaks from streaming service companies like Netflix. It is outrageous to think that ISPs can threaten to block all access to such a company's site for all of the ISP's customers if the company doesn't pay additional money to the provider.

The ISP's customers PAY for internet access at an agreed upon price, yet ISPs are demanding to get even more in ransom from Netflix-type companies. How can anyone can expect a happy digital-only future for media with the way things are heading is beyond me.

When you factor in customer-unfriendly policies that game companies themselves promote, things get even uglier.

Ever try selling a used modern-era console that includes your purchased digital games or DLC on its HDD on Ebay or to Gamestop? Both companies have colluded with the gaming industry to shut this down.

Ebay will delete your auction within minutes if the description includes digital titles. Gamestop will only offer you their standard rate for the hardware, and their policy requires them to reformat the HDD. You cannot recoup a single penny from digital sales unless you meet someone face-to-face to conduct the sale, and even THEN if Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo finds out the account was sold second-hand, their TOS allows them to delete the account that is tied to the digital software.

Nintendo takes it even further. While it is lame that Virtual Console titles purchased on one piece of hardware will not transfer to another (such as DSi to 3DS or Wii to WiiU, or any other possible combination) even if the same content is available across multiple Nintendo products, what happens if your hardware is stolen or breaks?

Nintendo expects you to buy the content all over again for use on the replacement hardware. A customer's only recourse is to spread their sad tale across gaming sites and social media, and hope that Nintendo sees it as a PR opportunity to spread a little goodwill by making a rare exception in their individual case.

In my opinion, digital-only will happen only when the number of customers such a policy will lose is less than the amount of money a publisher "loses" from used game sales. I don't see that happening for a very long time.

Posted by Hamst3r

Vinyl...ugh. The consumer audio market is such a mess.

Posted by VictorDeLeon

Digital works mainly for music, for video games it's very far under 50% and didn't move on much these past years, mainly because video games cost a lot and you can sell it after finishing. For music what makes it popular is piracy, all these 16-18 years old never paid for any MP3 they have and they never will. Some people buy it as they can't go to the store often, or buy some tracks to know if the whole album is good.

Posted by Deckard42

I've been a steam user since the beginning, but for some reason I can't bring myself to buy the majority of my console games digitally. There are a number of benefits to purchasing digitally but I still enjoy watching my console game shelf expand every generation. I know that we're only purchasing a license but I feel more secure in my purchase of a disk, probably a holdover from before consoles were online.

I'll eventually get there though, more than likely it will happen after I graduate and have to move all this crap.

Posted by Hone_McBone

About to change? I haven't bought a physical copy of a game since 2008, my last two PCs didn't have dvd drives, I can't remember the last time I bought a music cd or movie dvd.

Having lived in several countries over the last decade my collection of games/movies/music is all digital.

Edited by MB

The only game on physical media I've bought during at least the last year at least was a copy of Fire Emblem Awakening for the 3DS because it was on sale. Since I'm going fully PC this generation, all of my games are either in my Steam library or purchased from some place like GOG and then managed through Steam. I didn't even put a disc drive in the new PC I built last month. I've got a 3TB hard drive just for games that I have about 60 or 70 games installed to with plenty of space to spare...the all-digital future is here and it's awesome. I realize that some people may be limited by internet speeds or bandwidth caps, but thankfully I'm not and it's great.

Moderator