As video games continue to evolve as entertainment, so do the devices they are played on. We’ve moved past the days of cartridges that you blow into, which have been replaced by flash memory, hard drives, and Blu-ray discs. As a video game collector, or someone who just accumulates games (like me), is it better to go the digital route, or stick with physical releases?
This is a topic I think about every time I look through my collection. I have just shy of a 50/50 split between physical and digital titles, which are all spread across several consoles. It’s a bit of a pain trying to figure out where each game is stored, but that’s a first world problem gripe for another day.
In general, I tend to pick up more physical releases than digital ones – I’m not counting Games With Gold or PlayStation Plus titles here. Walking into a store, seeing a title that catches my eye, and then slamming my cash down on the counter – to swiping a credit card – is a satisfying feeling. There’s just one problem with this, though: I live in South Africa, which has a pretty high crime rate. The reason I tend to ponder on the new age battle of physical versus digital releases is that I’m worried my games will be stolen one day. If that ever happens (and I do have insurance), will I be able to find those same titles again?
The more towards a digital video game purchase
This is where I start to lean towards digital purchases. If all of my games and consoles are pinched out of my flat/house/loft/car, I just need to replace the consoles and re-download the titles. It’s a pretty simple and easy task, which is compounded by the fact that my save games are uploaded to their respective servers nightly. On the other hand, only having a 2Mbps ADSL line at present means that games take an eternity to download. Seriously, an update for The Elder Scrolls Online had to be run over four days.
Apart from a slow internet line, as a consumer, you have to wait for the item to be on sale (if you’re on a budget), and not every older game is available digitally. I mean, I own a copy of the SEGA Mega Drive Collection on PS3, which you cannot purchase digitally for the console at all. It’s a real shame that companies tend to ignore their older catalogue.
The step back into physical discs
Which brings me to the point of physical discs: I can stroll into the nearest Cash Converters or BT Games and pick up a few pre-played games on the cheap, and older generation ones at that. Sure, these stores don’t carry SNES or N64 titles, but I’m still happy with picking up Xbox 360 and PS3 games.
From an aesthetics standpoint, displaying a shelf full of gorgeous video game cases is completely satisfying. It’s also easier showing them to friends who want to come over and play a game – they can pick out something without me knowing the digital title off by heart.
There’s no clear winner. Yet.
That’s right, right now there’s no clear winner. Even with brand new titles, like Persona 5 and Final Fantasy XV, I purchased them physically in order to get a sweet steel book case. Sure, I don’t look at these often enough, but even just knowing they’re on my shelf is satisfying. Then again, I can boot up the PS4 and play six different Kingdom Hearts or six different Halo titles on Xbox One without swapping out any discs.
It’s a tough decision.