Iʼm torn when it comes to the physical media vs digital distribution debate.
On one hand, I hate the amount of space that physical media takes up, and the environmental impact of it—especially since we now have digital distribution methods that can replace the need for it.
On the other hand, shifting from physical media often means lower quality (see: music streaming/downloads, and video streaming services), tight restrictions on what you can do with it, and access that can be revoked without any warning.
Even though I hate the amount of waste involved in the production and distribution of this unnecessary physical media, I still buy CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays, because they are often cheaper than a download, they are much higher quality, I can loan them out to friends/family, I can resell them if I did not enjoy them, my access to that content canʼt be revoked, I can still play them if my internet goes out etc.
Just look at what has happened to digital purchases on consoles:
- I bought games on the original Xbox Live Arcade; couldnʼt play them on my 360. Canʼt access them at all any more, even if I bought another original Xbox.
- Same thing goes for all of my Virtual Console purchases on the Wii, and digital games that I bought for the 3DS, now that I donʼt own either one. While those stores are still active, there is no account system where I can recover those purchases.
- Now that I no longer own an Xbox 360, I donʼt have access to any of that content either. If I bought an Xbox One, I would not have access to any of that content.
- Even when I did still own an Xbox 360, there was content which was removed from the store that I was never able to download again, and content which was rendered unusable through system updates.
- And until they made a change that allowed you to specify which was your primary console, I was locked out of my digital purchases any time my internet connection went down.
- On the PC, Games for Windows Live was announced to be shutting down (though I think they have now reversed that decision?) which would have rendered a number of games that I had purchased unplayable, including newer titles like Dark Souls.
Even physical media is starting to have these problems though. The previous generation of consoles has been quite unreliable overall, yet this generation we do not have any backwards compatibility because it was deemed to be too expensive. A stack of games is no use if you donʼt have working hardware that can play them.
As much as people would hate to admit it, emulation and hacking/piracy is going to be the only way we will be able to preserve these games in the future—just as that is starting to become the only realistic way to play a lot of older games now, whether that is because the games cost several hundred dollars on the used market, or because the only way to actually play them on a modern display requires something like the Retron 5. (which is just an emulation machine)
While I am perfectly happy with Steam as a platform right now, those games are still all DRM protected, and at some point, who knows if publishers will start revoking licenses for games, or for whatever reason the store is shut down.
This is why I use services like GOG in preference to Steam whenever possible now, as they sell 100% DRM-free content. If the store shuts down, well I still have all my games, and they will all continue working.
The fact that services like this exist, and that you can still run games from 20–30 years ago on a modern system played a big part in why I have shifted away from consoles and towards PC gaming this generation.
If my PC dies, I can buy a new one and all my games will continue to work—I wonʼt be left trying to buy a second-hand system because it has been replaced by the “PC 2” where none of my games or accessories work any more.
Frankly, I think it is disgusting that companies like Sony will charge full price for what is essentially the same thing as me loading up an old PC game and maxing out all the settings, as an alternative to providing proper backwards compatibility.
Just how much would it have been to include proper backwards compatibility in the PlayStation 4? An extra $100? Buy two of these “remasters” and itʼs paid for.
And what does this shift towards digital distribution mean for the used games/collectorʼs market?
As a child, I was given a second-hand SNES right when the PlayStation came out, along with a handful of games, and I would buy used games for it when I could find them.
When I was older, I probably wouldnʼt have played a tenth of the games that I did on the Xbox/PS2/GameCube, if there was not the option to trade in my older games for credit towards new ones. (and I did always buy new when it was a current system)
Give someone a second-hand PS4 when the next system launches and they wonʼt have anything to play on it, if the owner bought everything digitally. Anything you have spent on this digital content is essentially worthless as soon as the new system is out.
I have seen people argue that they will just hold onto their old system and use it when they want to return to them, but I think you are going to run into some storage limitations before the end of this generation, if thats your plant just put the drive into another system and play the content on it. And what if the hard drive with your games on it dies?
Digital content aside, what about physical content that required day-one patches to play?
At least on the PC theyʼre starting to get this right. New releases are still overpriced, but since there are many retailers (even people just selling Steam keys) the prices drop quickly due to competition, and there are always sales. The price you pay for a PC game is a lot more in-line with the rights that you are giving up for the sake of convenience.
We arenʼt there yet with consoles, and may never be. The games ship at parity with the MSRP (not that physical games are sold at MSRP…) and rarely ever drop in price, since there is no reason for them to.
Itʼs all quite concerning. Without physical releases, we may end up with a generation of lost games.
Maybe not this generation, but the next.
I have a question.
If you could pay 60 dollars, and then once every year Giant Bomb mailed you a disc (or bunch of discs) with all of the premium content for that year loaded on there, would you prefer that to your subscription? Right now, you're paying for the content and you don't even own it. My sub ran out (and based on Vinny+Alex and Dan+Jeff videos, I think I'm gonna re-up) and I no longer have access to a number of cherished videos. But if you had the discs, they'd be yours and no one could take them away from you. Also, you'd be able to put it on your shelf, which seems to be important.
Are you for transferring your subscription to a one-time transaction for a physical good that you can use whenever you want?
You can download DRM-free copies of the videos. You own those.
If all you do is stream, then yes, that content may disappear.
We lost a lot of unarchived streams recently when Twitch cleared out their old archives.
I think a lot of them (most? all?) made it onto YouTube if you search for “Giant Bomb Unarchived” but this is exactly the concern I have with the switch from physical media to services that only offer DRM-restricted streaming.
While it turned out to only be an issue with their servers during a move, there was a recent scare that 1up.com had disappeared, without all the old content archived. Now I personally have some of that content archived (all of the “GFW Radio” podcasts and the “Points ##” series of videos) but far from all of it—just like I have an archive of the Persona 4 Endurance run, though I donʼt have all the metadata for it (episode descriptions, for example) if something were to ever happen to this site.
I also didn't--no offense to Ben--read it.
I donʼt want to derail things here, but since you are using a Mac, you should try to use proper dashes.
An em dash is just Opt + Shift + -
At least you arenʼt using dashes with spaces though!