No Right Answer: Best Video Game Format - Physical vs. Digital

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Best Video Game Format - Physical vs. Digital

Is it out with the old and in with the new, or will gamers always want something to put on their shelves and stare longingly at? Dan and Kyle weight the pros and cons of disc vs code.

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I can't remember the last time a game on my PC made me to insert a disk. Having a pretty big hard drive makes the transition to digital pretty painless, plus I can usually get a pretty good discount from Steam or Greenman Gaming (Tomb Raider for 30 bucks at launch? Yes please!).

Still, if a game comes with a bunch of cool stuff like maps or art, like the Witcher 2 did, then I can be swayed to get a physical copy.

So this was interesting, I thought it was pretty cut-and-dried in favor of digital.

But I'm a PC guy, I don't play many console games anymore (last console game was GTA5 PS3). So all of Kyle's points are kinda moot - there's no trading, there's no secondary market, etc, etc. And the judge was pretty clearly seeing things from the console perspective.

The counterpoint is Steam (and similar digital marketplaces). All the benefits of "seeing the box art", plus added multimedia experiences (trailers etc) right there ready for you. The barrier to entry is lower (don't even have to leave the house - just press "buy", and the game is installing 30 seconds later), so digital is waaay more convenient. And outside of certain always-on DRM games (looking at you, SimCity2013), you can play your digital games even if you don't have an internet connect.

Plus games purchased through GOG don't even have DRM!

Mcoffey:
Still, if a game comes with a bunch of cool stuff like maps or art, like the Witcher 2 did, then I can be swayed to get a physical copy.

Yeah, the only thing that can get me to buy the physical copy of a PC game is some badass map, statue, or trinket.

Well, for a Simmer like myself, I definitely wants a physical copy of my games. Not only because I can share the expansions pack I don't need to play with my friends. When the next generation of the game comes out, I can sell all of them and use the money to buy an expansion to that generation or maybe the new generation from start. Try to do that with a digital copy.

As for books. To find a book to read in a e-book store or borrow a e-book from a library requires you to already know which book you want to read. Otherwise you wont find it. Compare that to going to a book store or a library and just roam around. That way you might find books you didn't even knew existed. I guess the same thing can be said about games. To download a game, you need to know which game you want. But roaming in the store might make you discover titles you didn't knew existed.

(Simmer = someone who play "The Sims")

Problems with this debate.

Most digital games don't use an entered code anymore. Saying, the code doesn't work, is almost a non applicable scenario anymore. Does it still happen? Yes, but the word is rarely.

Further more, not enough credit was given to the failed system problem. It is costly to repair a system to be able to replay your games, some systems, especially compatibility with some games, are extremely hard to find.

Digital on PC however such as with a service like steam? Gotta say you won't ever lack for finding parts for a PC or a new PC.

Finally ownership of a game, has, and always will be a lie.

As for box art selling the games, interesting point. Counter Point. Box art selling games is also a huge reason for the Industries problems right now. It sold bad games, and left a bad taste in gamers mouths. So that free advertising is actually a short sighted outlook.

Also look at the layout of Video Game Stores like Gamestop. Such a layout is not an impossibility for the digital age, and you will be able to see that Box art as well. Free advertising has moved to the future. If the Industry is still relying on "Box art advertising" to sell a game they have failed, because advertising these days come from reviews online of people who play the game before you.

But here, I suppose the answer to physical versus digital comes down to one boiling question for which age you are actually in.

How often do you blindly purchase a game, and if you do not blindly purchase a game, did you find out information about the game via a physical format, such as a magazine or piece of paper, or a digital format such as the Internet, Youtube, or even the escapist?

Wanting a physical copy is psychological, as opposed to straight up beneficial.

I side with physical purely on the merits of being able to lend and borrow. For me, this mitigates the risk of playing an unreasonable price for a mediocre game.

While I appreciate the idea that digitally distributed games ought to be cheaper, in our imperfect world I don't see this ever happening. I'll be happy to be proven wrong about this, but I'm not holding my breath.

The one thing I do love about digital distribution, though, is the expanded library of games. I wouldn't ever expect to encounter a copy of Syndicate or Planescape: Torment in the wild, but if I'm ever so inclined to wax nostalgic I'd probably find it in a couple clicks on GoG.

As someone in a tiny ass apartment. Screw having boxes taking up space.

I didn't even consider the fragility of the disks which is going to be a big deal for me in the near future since my room mate's having a baby and I'm the go-to baby sitter for the family.

On another note, HA, backwards compatibility and genuine ownership of physical media. As if companies aside from Nintendo are that consumer friendly. Remember, both Sony and Microsoft planned on putting DRM to physical copies.

Edit: I will also admit to a bit of bias against physical media due to my recent hunt for Yakuza 3 and 4 being nothing but pain and high costs.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people are willing to give up their rights in favor of conveyance.

Not everyone wants to lose their games when a server goes down or a contract with some company goes away.

Physical media insures consumer rights.

I'm sorry so many people are blind to this.

I recently shoved in a disc, because I wanted to play an old game. Then I realized, that it was probably over a year ago that I did that the last time...

It used to bother me, not to have a physical disc, but considering how many of the damn things I have lying around everywhere... I'm glad that this is a thing now. I just hope that there'll be a consumer law forcing companies to give you ownership of the product and having a set time that they have to offer people the download, say 50 years. Maybe there's a better way to do that, but at any rate there has to be better rights for the consumer on this issue.

Tanis:
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people are willing to give up their rights in favor of conveyance.

Not everyone wants to lose their games when a server goes down or a contract with some company goes away.

Physical media insures consumer rights.

I'm sorry so many people are blind to this.

But when those servers go down or the contracts end, many many people would feel absolutely no guilt in less scrupulous methods of retrieving the game again if they wanted it back. Assuming the server being down cut them off from what's on their hard drive anyway.

Your argument also comes with the misunderstanding that you have actual ownership just because you have the disk when companies have thrown millions of dollars into legislation to get the law to say otherwise. You think you own it more than if you had a download, but you don't as far as the publisher and the laws backing them are concerned.

My problem with digital is my slow internet connection. It could take hours to download a game, whereas driving 10 minutes to the store, picking the game up, and driving back home to play it is much more convenient.

I kind of go both ways on this topic. If it's on my PC then I prefer Digital over Disc every single time. I use my computer for most things and so I have it on all day long or at least in sleep mode where it is easy to access. So it's so much easier to just open up my Steam library, shuffle through and say, "Yeah, I really want to play that game right now" and I don't have to hassle with a disc or anything. Also since I have hundreds of games on Steam and a couple on Origin I don't have to worry about them getting lost. I'm probably going to be selling my computer here in a few months because I'll be going out of country for a while, so when I get back and pick up my new computer I KNOW for a fact that I will have access to all my games.

However if it's a console I prefer to have a disc for several reasons. First is backwards compatibility. My Wii U plays all my Wii games, my 360 plays most of my Xbox games, and my Wii plays all my Gamecube games. It's nice to know that when my Wii finally dies I can still play my Wii games on my Wii U. And my 360 is really nice to have around because I don't own an Xbox anymore, but I can still play those games. Another thing is that it is harder to guarantee an internet connection with a console. It's nice to have the hard disc there in case I can't download the game. Also consoles tend to be temperamental and low on storage capacity, compared to PCs at least, if my console dies on me I still have my games. This is especially nice since sometimes it's very hard to get digital stuff from one console to another, at least with Nintendo it is, so I much prefer having the discs around.

The best way I've seen it done and I think the way it should be done in the future is how Firaxis did XCOM Enemy Unknown, in that the physical copy of the game for PC was only a collectors editions with added physical goodies beyond the digital edition.

I think this gives people a good choice as if you are a collector like me you can say "do I just want the game?" : go digital, or "do I want an actual hardbook of the concept art with maybe a cool figurine for my shelf?" : go physical.

I think this collector or not at all idea is great because it gives incentive to buy a physical copy instead of saying "why would I buy a physical copy when I can get the same thing online without all the hassle"

That way we can keep both alive as both have their merits.

Yes digital on pc is fine, but when it comes to consoles i dont think digital is or ever will be the future. Whos to say in 5-10 years sony and/or microsoft dont decide to end online services for the ps3 and 360? What will happen to all the digital games.

Kyle should have been awarded a point at 03:30. Digital is here to stay, I get it. And it does have some advantages.

...But it could never give you the Catherine Delux Edition...

Part of the immersion for me is being able to touch and see where the game is coming from. Even though the data on the disc or the cart is identical to the data being streamed or downloaded or otherwise accessed, being able to hold it solidifies it more me and makes it more concrete. Whatever the advantages are of digital distribution, I just can't see them as offering the customer more than a physical copy could.

I've noticed I'm more ambivilant to the story if I get a digital copy. I even tried an expiriment on myself where I bought a digital and then a physical version of the same game. I played 15 minutes of each - digital first - in two rounds, to see which one I felt more invested and interested in. After the second round I stuck with the physical one. It was an interesting experiment.

And a digital copy costing the same a amount as a physical copy is just spitting in the customer's face.

Edit: double post. Sorry.

God damnit Dan, not one mention of Steam or GoG...
I mean, Steam is my go to place for digital. Also, getting a great game half-off is wonderful. (When was the last time a never used before physical been half-off?)

Firefilm:
Best Video Game Format - Physical vs. Digital

Is it out with the old and in with the new, or will gamers always want something to put on their shelves and stare longingly at? Dan and Kyle weight the pros and cons of disc vs code.

Watch Video

The digital distribution market place is like a strip club. There is security at the door, sometimes you pay a cover, it's full of things you can't touch (some of them have viruses), and none of it could ever be as satisfying as holding your real girlfriend.

Aptspire:
God damnit Dan, not one mention of Steam or GoG...
I mean, Steam is my go to place for digital. Also, getting a great game half-off is wonderful. (When was the last time a never used before physical been half-off?)

No, you are right. You are absolutely right. I admit not using a powerful weapon in my corner, and I humbly fall on my sword. (Dan falls on cardboard sword, it bends in half, he hits his head on a coffee table) AAAAAAAAAAAAAREYOUHAPPYNOWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Three words for digital...

Shopping without pants.

Welcome to the modern world.

Also physical copy or not you don't own the game. You can still browse a digital store and see the box art. Digital games don't use codes anymore, but physical games still do sometimes. And if you buy your digital games from a good distributer they don't add drm so you don't have to worry about the server going down any more than if you have a psychical copy.

Tanis:
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people are willing to give up their rights in favor of conveyance.
Not everyone wants to lose their games when a server goes down or a contract with some company goes away.
Physical media insures consumer rights.
I'm sorry so many people are blind to this.

Thats an argument against services such as steam or origin not digital distribution. There are lots of digital distributors that sell DRM free games that are frequently easier to back up and reinstall than physical copies. There are also services like GamersGame that don't add any DRM to the games so any DRM on games they sell is there whether its digital or physical. Physical media ensures nothing especially since most physical copies of big budget games wont run without their DRM.

vagabondwillsmile:
(some of them have viruses)

Thats piracy not digital distribution.

This was a heated discussion in 2011-2012 when PC gaming was "dying" and people questioned whether it's worth giving away the convenience of physical copies for the digital format. I was in the later camp since I buying physical copies is a no no for me, especially when I can go to steam and buy 10 good games for my PC, rather than 1 of those games for the same price.
And the 7th console generation wasn't as big in my country due to how bloody expensive a PS3 was and it couldn't be hacked(srsly, want hardware sales Sony? make these things moddable, you'll be making much more profit from many many countries rather than only relying on Japan and the west to buy your premium products).

As a non-PC gamer...

*le gasp*

Why can't both physical and digital copies coexist? I mean, they're still the same ass price and, if the game came with both options and you loose one of those options somehow, you have the other option as backup... I mean, sure you can still have your "just digital" or "just physical" option, but can't we still have a "just both" option?

...What's that? I'm getting too old for this shit and should just accept the fact that digital will become the one true format of gaming and anything else, in terms of "quality" entertainment??

NEVER!!!!

I'm all in favour of digital if... it follows the GoG model. That is, you get the game and get to burn it on disk or save it on USB. If it's like Steam, PSN, XBLA (or iTunes with songs) I'm very much against it. So much against it, that I refuse to buy games on those services.
I've made this point before, and I'll make it again, on those services you're essentially not buying a game, but borrowing it indefinitely. If the service goes down you're pretty much S.O.L. unless you've anticipated it and ensured offline play. Unlike physical copies where you're guaranteed to continue playing it as long as you have a device that can read those games.

Unfortunately with digital while it does save the companies money a lot of them (like EA) still sell the digital copies for full retail price. Personally I do enjoy having a physical copy if just for that peace of mind knowing that come with having it. The biggest problem with going digital is that rather than owning a game we really are just paying to rent/get permission to play these games, and at any time the servers could go down or the company decides they don't want to pay for maintain them anymore...POOF...you can't play a game you paid good money for at all.

There are several things that Kyle could/should have mentioned, that are points in favor of physical game copies (or at least nullify some claimed advantages of digital ones)...

- Online digital game sites will eventually close. Whether it's GOG, Steam, Groupees, or some other site that you download your copy from, something will happen that will cause the site to close for good at some point. And when they do, the the ability to download the digital games you bought from them is gone. And this leads me to...

- You still have to make backups of your digital games. So unless you're the type of person who doesn't care about backing up your games, or you've got a really big external harddrive that can hold every digital game you've bought, you'll still have discs being stored somewhere. So saving space with digital games isn't quite as strong an argument as it initially seems.

- Game companies talked about how much cheaper it would be to sell digital games. Yes, cheaper for them, not so much for us consumers. The new digital games still cost anywhere from $50-$70 for the regular/collector's edition, so the consumer saves nothing once the game's released. There's no price difference between physical and digital. If anything, you actually get less with the digital version, because there's no box, box art, CD art, printed manual, etc. that usually come with the physical copy.

Sometimes you can get a break, like when an online retailer gives a pre-order discount. But once the game's out, it's $50-$70 for either version when it's a new release.

- Piracy is just as easy with digital games (perhaps easier in ways?). Even Steam's set up has been worked around these days, so digital really earned no points in that area.

- If a given site is having issues and can't be accessed, you can't download your digital games, or even sometimes play them if you already have them installed (I'm looking at you Blizzard and EA). You rarely run into that issue with physical copies if you go back about five or six years.

- Bandwidth caps are becoming an unfortunate thing these days with some ISPs, and downloading a pair of 30-plus GB games isn't always possible. That's not an issue when you're installing from physical discs (unless of course, the physical discs still use something like Steamworks, and need a big patch from Steam to be downloaded).

There are my thoughts on some points that weren't brought up in the video. I have Steam, a GOG account, and whatnot, and a fair number of digital games. So I'm not anti-digital or anything. But there are traits that favor physical game copies over digital ones, and thus still give the physical side a solid edge IMO.

yeah physical might win on consoles but on PC digital reings supreme, cheap games, more games, better updated games, almost everything is better when it comes to digital

Physical won this one. Two arguments for digital are moot:

Argument: physical copies have to download updates.
Moot because: Digital downloads do the exact same thing AND have to download the game itself. If the patch download is 10 minutes, the digital version is normal download time + 10 minutes. The physical copy has no download time + 10 minutes.

Argument: Uploading the game is coming over to digital.
Moot because: It is not. You still own the physical copy of the game and have all the benefits of it like trading and collecting.

Thats a 3-5 in favor of physical if you ask me.

Oh man that was hard to watch without audibly groaning at some of the arguments being presented.

I thought about typing out some long winded post detailing why digital is just a better format. But really, I thought I'd take the easier, more poignant route.

You see, there are two devices that completely undermine roughly 90% of the argument for physical.

Say whatever you want about digital, but the notion that buying digital somehow precludes the ability to own a physical copy of the game is, and has always been, utter bullshit.

Doesn't help that many of the arguments in favor of physical often turn a very revisionist eye towards 'how things used to be back in the day'.

If I have to hear the word "Bro" again I'm going to punch somebody!

I think for most PC players it's a digital world all the way, but for those of us on the consoles there's still additional value in physical copies - trading, resale, heck even showing off your library of games on a shelf in your gaming area is a plus for physical copies for the console folks.

Then again - right now in this moment I'm wishing I was one of the hardcore digital folks, because my PS3 laser isn't working and so all my physical copies of games are just mocking me on their self singing a very crude "You can't play me!" sing-song... or that part might just be in my head >.>

Dollabillyall:
Physical won this one. Two arguments for digital are moot:

Argument: physical copies have to download updates.
Moot because: Digital downloads do the exact same thing AND have to download the game itself. If the patch download is 10 minutes, the digital version is normal download time + 10 minutes. The physical copy has no download time + 10 minutes.

Argument: Uploading the game is coming over to digital.
Moot because: It is not. You still own the physical copy of the game and have all the benefits of it like trading and collecting.

Thats a 3-5 in favor of physical if you ask me.

not really, for instance if you find a physical copy of the orange box and want to play TF2, you have to download 7 years of updates, on the other hand, you can download the game via steam and have your version up to date from the get go

even

vxicepickxv:
Three words for digital...

Shopping without pants.

And really, hasn't that always been the dream.Before home media people went to theaters Now? Watch movies without pants. Before home delivery people had to go to restaurants. Now? Dinner with no pants (just put on pants long enough to answer the door though). The only way this has been going backwards is communication. When we used to use phones, no pants. You skype your parents? Maybe wear some pants.

My favorite thing about digital copies is that I don't have to move discs around. If I'm tired of playing a game but feel like playing another, I can just go back to my library and play another one without having to move anything besides my hands (and my view on the Wii U).

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