Bring Back the Box: What We Have Lost With Digital Distribution

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Bring Back the Box: What We Have Lost With Digital Distribution

With digital distribution growing more and more prominent each year, there are some who fear the experience of owning real, in-your-hands video game could be on the way out. Companies like IndieBox hope to stop that from happening.

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This article makes me moist. All but the latest of Blizzard games included manuals that were almost 100 pages long, filled to the bring with short stories, lore, and concept art. "Screw playing my new game, I have to read this stuff first!" Even though the newer Blizz stuff lost the manuals, their collectors editions give so much value anyways. Full physical game soundtracks, 50 page concept art books, trinkets and key chains... it's pretty great. I wish people would put some of this stuff back into the basic boxes, though. Now all physical copies contain is a warning that you have to pay more money to access content on the disc that is gated off.

Boxes also, while they take more space, certainly look a lot nicer than a row of CD spines, which when on their sides are virtually indistinguishable from each other. My one bit of nerd cred is still owning the original boxes for Dark Forces and TIE Fighter on my shelf.

From my experience a lot of the reasons aside from cheap prices for games people are moving digital is because the stores themselves are a barrier to buying physical copies. I could go to Walmart and buy a console game, but they don't carry a lot of PC titles. Then there is EB Games where I was treated so poorly I moved to digital distribution and haven't looked back when I was called stupid, a corporate shill, and a moron because I didn't want to save $5 by buying the game used. The reason is that I wanted to buy it new so I would get the Project $10 code and during this they were trying to convince me the used copy came with that as well.

"Right now, there's a slippery slope with digital distribution," said Carter. "When a person won't pay five dollars for a game because they know it'll be on sale for one dollar the next week, they're saying that game isn't worth five dollars - that their time can be better spent elsewhere."

Because often times, that's true.

The decline of my spending on games in large part correlated with the feeling I was no longer getting value for my dollar. The increase in spending I've done in the last couple of years is because these sales allow me to feel I'm getting good value for my money. Though it's rare I will personally hold out on a five dollar game to see it reduced to a dollar.

"With the physical game, there's a palpable memory tied to that game even before you open it up," explained Carter. "Tearing off the shrink wrap, opening the box, flipping through the manual - for me, those were iconic elements of my gaming."

And in my day, we had to walk fifteen miles. Uphill. Both ways. Through the snow. Barefoot.

Ignoring the fact that even your peers don't all feel that way, it just sounds like "this is the way it was for me, so this is the way it should be."

"What happened to the days where a game came with a cool poster or map of the game? Because of how much I used my Final Fantasy VI map, my mom laminated it for me. There's so much value there that by drifting away from that, contemporary gaming companies are really missing out on an opportunity to connect with their customers."

I think it's folly to even pretend we're "drifting away" from that. Most games didn't come with maps or goodies, and I had games as a kid (NES days) that had little or no manual. Basically, we're wired towards confirmation bias and we remember the goodies that came with the games we liked and treat that as though it was the standard. The reality was far less kind. You had games where you needed to get Nintendo Power if you wanted the map--or sometimes even instructions on how to do certain things in-game.

In conclusion: what does bringing back the box really mean? Not much. It's nice that there are games which will now feature some extra stuff with them, but even if digital went away tomorrow it wouldn't herald the return of such practices. Especially since they largely didn't exist.

This sounds more like a PR piece than anything else.

For collectors willing to pay a premium, fine. Bring back the box. But I'm done with boxes and trinkets and maps and codewheels and artwork forever. There really aren't very many compelling reasons, at least from my perspective as someone who isn't a collector, to make something that is merely a bunch of bits and then lock those bits onto a physical thing and then manufacture thousands of that thing and then ship those thousands of things across the globe. That's a lot of wasted energy and time and money for something you can just pipe down over an ultra-fast data network.

I used to be completely against digital gaming.

But then I started playing on PC, started getting "AAA" games for $20, I didn't have to fish around for the disk and didn't have to deal with GameStop or have my game arrive late because the mail is slow.

All those manuals, maps, and boxes are mostly cheaply made junk that just end up cluttering my space or going into the trash.

It's not like digital books vs real books, because video games are digital regardless of if you have a easily broken disk or not.

Zachary Amaranth:

This sounds more like a PR piece than anything else.

I was thinking the same thing.

misg:

I was thinking the same thing.

Oh, good. It wasn't just me imagining things then.

Cingle:
For collectors willing to pay a premium, fine.

I think this is more or less my stance.

And I will add that occasionally, I am the collector willing to pay a premium. But 99% of the time (completely made up number that may not be 100% accurate), I'm not.

Not only don't I want to pay extra for stuff I don't want, I don't want to pay the same amount for stuff I'll probably have to chuck. It's waste, waste I don't need.

It will suck a bit, 5-10 years down the road, I wont have a nice box on my favorite games bookshelf.

That is literally the only downside I could think of when it comes to going pure digital.

After getting the Tales of Symphonia HD Collectors Edition, I'm done. Nothing can top what you get with that; A Steel Book, an Art Book, a novel, four figures, the FULL OST, and a nice box to go with it. It's just easy to sit at my desk at work go "oh shit this game came out", then hope on my phone buy it and (hopefully) it will be ready when I'm home. Plus now I don't have to deal with dipshits jacking up the price of a game if it becomes hard to find.

I have no love of physical stuff. Physical stuff takes up space, creates clutter, is susceptible to wear and tear, and costs more (or at least should). I don't feel my love and appreciation or sense of ownership is lessened just because of the form my content takes, whether that be bits or atoms. It seems almost fetishistic the way I hear some people talk about the wonders of being able to feel something in their hand. It's just a piece of plastic. If you want to handle a piece of plastic I'm sure there's a bottle in your recycling you can fondle.

I'll admit there aren't a whole lot of good options for buying things digital right now, with DRM and digital storefronts and all that BS. But those are manufactured problems people are imposing, not inherent ones.

The indie box stuff and the sale centric nature are very good points that I actually haven't thought of about what we have lost with Digital. What I was more worried about is the amount of control over those games.

When I have a physical copy I have complete control over it, I can play it when and were I want as long as I have it in my hands. That means I can bring it to friends house, give it to my friend and if i am not satisfied i can return it. Those things are possible with digital but not without jumping through too many hoops.

Another thing that people do not even talk about is the fact there are digital games you cannot get anymore, at all. the Marvel games, Xbox Marble Blast, flappy bird (for a while) and dozens of other games are delisted from the stores because of licensing issues that I have no control over. What happens when say Capcom goes under, will their massive library go with them, probably.

valium:
It will suck a bit, 5-10 years down the road, I wont have a nice box on my favorite games bookshelf.

That is literally the only downside I could think of when it comes to going pure digital.

Actually their are a myriad of licencing issues that can and have arisen the are completely sidestepped with physical. Many games can be delisted and not bought because a licence expired or a certain company went under. While this prevents new physical versions of the game from coming they do not affect copies in circulation other than making them more valuable. I can't get a digital version of a Marvel vs. Capcom game but I can find one in a second hand store.

Man, no love for the box here at all...? Yeesh.
Personally, I'm on board with this, I love the idea. That isn't to say I'd want a box for every game, but I remember the novella-length manual for MechCommander (with several glossy full-color pages of available Mechs in the center), the poster-sized maps of Vvardenfell, Mournhold, and Solstheim that came with my Morrowind / Tribunal / Bloodmoon boxes - yes, I bought them separately, when companies still made legit expansions - and the boxes themselves covered in screenshots, artwork, descriptions and blurbs. The box itself was trying to sell you the game, saying "Hey, this thing in your hand? Buy it!"

When you compare that to now, where games come in cheap DVD cases whose cover work is 50% PC requirements, legal disclaimers, online requirements, and other fine print, and within is nothing more than a couple sheets of paper urging you to buy moar DLC... yeah, it feels like companies stopped trying. It says to me, "We don't care enough about our game to even package it right," and if they don't care, why I should I?

I know I'm part of the Old Guard here, and even I'll admit I don't have much nostalgia for blowing into NES carts, but damned if I don't want this to succeed. I understand not everyone feels like I do but hopefully there's enough of us out there to make it happen.

As a final word:

Olas:
It's just a piece of plastic. If you want to handle a piece of plastic I'm sure there's a bottle in your recycling you can fondle.

No, Olas, there's a lot more to it than just "a piece of plastic." You may not share my feelings or opinion on the subject and that's fine, but there's no need to be derogatory or condescending to people who do want to feel like they're getting the value they used to from a physical copy.

I miss my boxes too, but I'm willing to sacrifice them for the $3-$5 and convenience I'm getting in return. I'd still buy a boxed version of a great game if the price was right though.

I'm certainly not going to do that for all 600 of my Steam games.

I have to wonder how many people here are PC gamers. Trust me, it makes a difference in this discussion. I'm not a PC gamer, thought about then decided against once I realized that Wal-Mart was the only place to buy PC games. And I live by a really ghetto Wal-Mart with employees that always complaining about how badly they're treated but every time I go there I have to beat someone into submission just to get help. But I digress. Digital games works well for PC gamers due to the fact that it's harder to find physical copies of that game. That's not the same case for us console gamers. Yes, I have downloaded some games from PSN and Nintendo's Eshop but they were old hard to find games. I want to say that physical copies are better for console gamers but I guess that depends on the individual. Some (like myself) have no problem buying a used game. It's how we try new games we aren't sure about. Others don't like used games for reasons that make no sense to me. Physical copies are cheaper for us console gamers and not as hard to attain like PC games. Regardless, when the time comes when all games are digital, I will probably stop buying so many games and not be as willing to take a chance on a game. I feel like that's the thing everyone keeps missing out on. Once games go digital, developers should put a demo up but, as it is it's pretty rare for them to do so. It's just a pre-render cut scene. There's also going to have to be a return policy for games we want our money back on. Everyone always complaining about Gamestop's payout on returns, you're going to see that Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, and whoever else will be no different.

I have to wonder how many people here are PC gamers. Trust me, it makes a difference in this discussion. I'm not a PC gamer, thought about then decided against once I realized that Wal-Mart was the only place to buy PC games. And I live by a really ghetto Wal-Mart with employees that always complaining about how badly they're treated but every time I go there I have to beat someone into submission just to get help. But I digress. Digital games works well for PC gamers due to the fact that it's harder to find physical copies of that game. That's not the same case for us console gamers. Yes, I have downloaded some games from PSN and Nintendo's Eshop but they were old hard to find games. I want to say that physical copies are better for console gamers but I guess that depends on the individual. Some (like myself) have no problem buying a used game. It's how we try new games we aren't sure about. Others don't like used games for reasons that make no sense to me. Physical copies are cheaper for us console gamers and not as hard to attain like PC games. Regardless, when the time comes when all games are digital, I will probably stop buying so many games and not be as willing to take a chance on a game. I feel like that's the thing everyone keeps missing out on. Once games go digital, developers should put a demo up but, as it is it's pretty rare for them to do so. It's just a pre-render cut scene. There's also going to have to be a return policy for games we want our money back on. Everyone always complaining about Gamestop's payout on returns, you're going to see that Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, and whoever else will be no different.

Kieve:

No, Olas, there's a lot more to it than just "a piece of plastic." You may not share my feelings or opinion on the subject and that's fine, but there's no need to be derogatory or condescending to people who do want to feel like they're getting the value they used to from a physical copy.

I'm kind of with Olas. Barring any explanation, it does sound fetishistic. Or like the habit smokers get of putting something to their mouth. Or an obsessive compulsion.

With Skylanders and Disney's Infinity, boxed games aren't going anywhere soon, it's just going to be something you didn't grow up with and maybe not understand because of that; but rest assured, the young'uns aren't going to miss out on anything anytime soon.

That said, I have a pile of PS2 game cases that goes up to my knees right now, I do not miss them for my PC, all that swapping is just a bother.

I don't miss physical copies, swapping discs used to be a bother, they took up a lot of space and eventually got scratched. The only good thing about it was the ability to trade my games to others by paying a small fee or buying them used, but thats all irrelevant now since i moved to PC gaming. I still have a shelf filled with CD's from the old days and i have no desire to play any of them, but i'm reluctant to throw them away because i paid money for them and i can't even give them away because nobody wants them anymore.

Zachary Amaranth:
I'm kind of with Olas. Barring any explanation, it does sound fetishistic. Or like the habit smokers get of putting something to their mouth. Or an obsessive compulsion.

There are a few explanations:


    1. The feeling of actual ownership. I will say right up front it's largely an illusion at this point, but when you download games from Steam, Origin, or uPlay, you're beholden to that service (and your login credentials) to reinstall / re-download, should you suffer a hardware or memory fault of some kind. Or if for some reason the service bans you and you lose access to those games.
    *Not typically an issue with "DRM-free" services like GOG or Humble, though in the event of hardware / software failure, you're still reliant on them existing in some form in order to reacquire your games. Which brings us to...

    2. Not relying on internet connection. Not everyone has the bandwidth (or even the access) to obtain games digitally, and while things are improving, there's still a feeling of security in having a physical copy of something you can install and play completely offline. This doesn't necessarily apply to AAA-games, who are embedded with the above services, but the topic we're discussing here in the article are Indie games, which more often than not have DRM-free versions that would be perfectly at home on a stand-alone disk.

    3. "Pokemon Syndrome," ie, gotta collect 'em all. Some people feel a measure of pride in being able to point to their vast library of disks. I guess you could term that "fetishistic" if you wished, but it's not all that different from people who pour hundreds of dollars into pimping out their car, or building an awesome PC case - there's a showing-off element to it that says "Look at all my fine stuff."

    4. The extras. This is the part I was mainly trying to express in my first post - it's less about having a physical copy of the disk, and more about the presentation. A nice, descriptive novella-sized manual. Maps of in-game worlds or locations. That kitschy key-chain or desk ornament. Even the box itself, in some cases. They all give the sense that the developer isn't just selling you on an experience of ones and zeros, bits and pixels, but on something real and tangible - an experience you'll keep even after the software has moved on and left your poor, aged, unsupported and nonfunctional game behind[1].

Now it's perfectly fair if none of these apply to you, personally, and/or you don't find benefit in any of the points given that outweigh the convenience of a hassle-free digital copy. Contrary to what the internet at large seems to think, it's perfectly acceptable to have a different opinion or perspective on something. I just see no reason to be dismissive and snide about it. I don't see anything in the article to suggest the digital option will simply disappear - this is an alternative for people who do miss the bygone days when a PC game came in a VHS-sized box and felt like you were buying a product instead of a service.

[1] I'm looking at you, MechWarrior 2

Kieve:

There are a few explanations:

Only one of those comes anywhere close to describing what Olas was talking about:

4. The extras. This is the part I was mainly trying to express in my first post - it's less about having a physical copy of the disk, and more about the presentation. A nice, descriptive novella-sized manual. Maps of in-game worlds or locations. That kitschy key-chain or desk ornament. Even the box itself, in some cases. They all give the sense that the developer isn't just selling you on an experience of ones and zeros, bits and pixels, but on something real and tangible - an experience you'll keep even after the software has moved on and left your poor, aged, unsupported and nonfunctional game behind

And it still doesn't explain the need for tactile feedback from a physical object. If you like swag, that's fine.

But then, I "own" several physical games no longer playable because of the devs, so I don't think that's the issue here either.

There are people who describe a need to feel or smell the manual or deal with the shrink wrap who, if they described this to anyone outside the gaming community, would sound needlessly obsessive. And even within the community. That's not "I like a game I can insert because I control the end content" or "because I don't want to rely on an internet connection to get MY game." That's compulsion. I'm an obsessive compulsive, and I have trouble not seeing this as the same thing (perhaps to a different severity).

Olas:
I have no love of physical stuff. Physical stuff takes up space, creates clutter, is susceptible to wear and tear, and costs more (or at least should). I don't feel my love and appreciation or sense of ownership is lessened just because of the form my content takes, whether that be bits or atoms. It seems almost fetishistic the way I hear some people talk about the wonders of being able to feel something in their hand. It's just a piece of plastic. If you want to handle a piece of plastic I'm sure there's a bottle in your recycling you can fondle.

The bold bit should be enough to indicate he's not talking about your reasoning. Though, I mean, I can't say what he thinks of your other examples. Speaking for myself, I don't find them particularly bad. I get benefits to physical media. For example, you never have to recharge a book. I don't always share them, but I get them. However, noting the benefits and treating the game or manual as though it's some sort of magic talisman or whatnot does come off as the kind of behaviour one would seek help for (though I'm not sure how much of one's life this would occupy).

Bring back stone tablets! Don't you know that paper falls apart and ink fades, but stone! We can still read stuff from Ancient Egypt!

The only benefit of having a physical copy these days is the ease of re-installing it if something goes wrong or if you've removed the game some time ago and feel like playing it again. My friend went to re-intall Mass Effect 3 to try out a mod, and it took her nearly 5 hours to install the game and all it's DLC in. However, with the advancement of internet access, I'd imagine that problem would eventually go away.

PirateRose:
Bring back stone tablets! Don't you know that paper falls apart and ink fades, but stone! We can still read stuff from Ancient Egypt!

The only benefit of having a physical copy these days is the ease of re-installing it if something goes wrong or if you've removed the game some time ago and feel like playing it again. My friend went to re-intall Mass Effect 3 to try out a mod, and it took her nearly 5 hours to install the game and all it's DLC in. However, with the advancement of internet access, I'd imagine that problem would eventually go away.

Not to mention, one of the benefits of PC is that you can get hard drives large enough to avoid this entirely. I haven't deleted any game I didn't thoroughly dislike since I bought the PC that preceded this current build.

I'm not sure the claim that people aren't willing to pay sticker price is really valid. I'm not willing to pay full MSRP for a game I've never heard of, but I've bought several games day 1 or (for games by companies I trust) for the preorder discount.

Yeah, I have a lot of games I paid $5 for, but quite a few of them I wouldn't have bought for full price (or wouldn't even have heard of) otherwise.

Zachary Amaranth:
Only one of those comes anywhere close to describing what Olas was talking about. ~brevity~

I'm mature enough to admit when I'm wrong - at least tangentially so, in this case. I'd overlooked that bit and did not realize he was speaking very specifically about someone's love of holding the disk. I'd misread it as a general put-down of anyone supporting this idea, and for that I apologize.

I don't fall into that camp myself, but even so, in the end does it really matter why someone's in favor of boxed physical content? I still maintain that as much as it might sound weird, there's no real harm in someone who just likes the smell of fresh plastic[1]. There's no reason to deride them for it.

[1] Unless there's been some study linking manufacturing "fumes" with brain damage or nose cancer or something. That would be unfortunate for them.

I'm more than happy to not have clutter... although, as pointed out, I am relying on having a decent internet connection, etc.

Also, when I got a box, it was mostly "here's a large cereal packet sized box, and all that's inside is a CD". That's just annoying, that is.

I'll always be physical media only. Even if it means I'll never get a new game when everything goes digital.

Ken_J:
What happens when say Capcom goes under, will their massive library go with them, probably.

It's simple, the service that sold us the digital product still has to support it. If Capcom goes under, the Steams and Playstation marketplaces will still be under contract to offer the game for download to those who own it, even if they can't sell new licenses to people.

And that's just in theory, in practice, another company will buy Capcom out and keep selling it's product. Hell, System Shock was deemed impossible to resell on GOG because something like 3 or 4 companies had claim to the license, now, it's on GOG on Steam, even if it did take 10 years.

Also, my first digital distributor was Direct2Drive, after it went under my entire library transferred bought by Gamersgate, not entirely ideal but they're still available under the same username and password.

Finally, when Games For Windows UNDYING finally keeled over, all CD-Keys for the Batman Arkham games automatically reverted into Steam keys, so I copy pasted my Direct2Drive keys into Steam and got a second version on the service I prefer.

Why do I bring this up? Because I'm sick of hearing how you can do more with physical media. Discs decay in about 12 years, alot of my mid 90's CDs in collectors editions are yellowed and don't read properly anymore and it's not like I can mail the disks to the company to get replacements nowadays.

Kieve:
[list]
1. The feeling of actual ownership. I will say right up front it's largely an illusion at this point, but when you download games from Steam, Origin, or uPlay, you're beholden to that service (and your login credentials) to reinstall / re-download, should you suffer a hardware or memory fault of some kind. Or if for some reason the service bans you and you lose access to those games.
*Not typically an issue with "DRM-free" services like GOG or Humble, though in the event of hardware / software failure, you're still reliant on them existing in some form in order to reacquire your games. Which brings us to...

I mentioned the problem of DRM and being tethered to distributors in my first post, and how it's not a problem with digital content but with the people who want to make money from it. In a way, it's a side effect of digital distribution being TOO convenient since data can theoretically be copied indefinitely without need to reference the original.

Although DRM is definitely a legitimate issue, most services that use it do have some sort offline mode that can let you use the content free of internet connection for at least a period of time. You also have to weigh this minor (for most people) downside with the upside of being able to reacquire the content in case it gets deleted or destroyed somehow, not to mention updates/patches, mods, and access across devices.

I get the sense that when people talk about the idea of owning something completely free of online connections, they're really imagining some apocalyptic future where their country's infrastructure has failed and they're living as a survivalist in some kind of bunker, playing their old single-player games on electricity that I assume is generated by turning a crank. I don't know, maybe I'm projecting too much, but that's the feeling I get.

I'm not particularly worried about Steam going under, and have to believe if they did they'd provide patches for their games beforehand, and if they didn't well... let's just say where there's a will there's a way.

*Not typically an issue with "DRM-free" services like GOG or Humble, though in the event of hardware / software failure, you're still reliant on them existing in some form in order to reacquire your games. Which brings us to...

Complaining that you need an internet connection to reacquire digital games is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. The fact that you can reacquire them at all puts should be a huge plus for digital content. Unless you buy a warranty, good luck getting a distributor of physical content to do the same thing at all.

2. Not relying on internet connection. Not everyone has the bandwidth (or even the access) to obtain games digitally, and while things are improving, there's still a feeling of security in having a physical copy of something you can install and play completely offline. This doesn't necessarily apply to AAA-games, who are embedded with the above services, but the topic we're discussing here in the article are Indie games, which more often than not have DRM-free versions that would be perfectly at home on a stand-alone disk.

It's funny how where some people see security, I see vulnerability. Disks can be scratched, toys can be chewed up by pets, even just regularly intended use can take it's toll on things over time. Add to that the risk of misplacement, theft, dropping it down a sewer, lending it to a friend who moves out of town. Physical media is also more reliant on specific hardware to work, which can make compatibility into an issue over time. It seems quite likely that my old consoles may someday stop functioning properly, but I'm pretty sure the internet is here to stay.

As for slow internet speeds, it's an embarrassing fact that so many people living in the first world still have this problem, but I see it as a problem that exists in the world around digital content. Digital distribution should by all rights be a much faster, easier, more energy efficient way of transmitting content to someone. While I'll admit it's a fact that for some people it's preferable to get into a car and drive to a store to buy a disk, I definitely don't see a reason why it SHOULD be.

3. "Pokemon Syndrome," ie, gotta collect 'em all. Some people feel a measure of pride in being able to point to their vast library of disks. I guess you could term that "fetishistic" if you wished, but it's not all that different from people who pour hundreds of dollars into pimping out their car, or building an awesome PC case - there's a showing-off element to it that says "Look at all my fine stuff."

Which you can't do with digital content why? Unless your friends have eye damage that makes it hard to see a screen I would think this is a non-issue. If anything doesn't the internet make it easier to share stuff with people who you otherwise couldn't invite to your house? If anything I think the digital age has made sharing stuff about one's life a little TOO easy for some people.

Digital content also has the benefit of being something you can choose NOT show to people. While you may be proud of your collection in front of your friends, you might not feel the same way when your parents are around.

4. The extras. This is the part I was mainly trying to express in my first post - it's less about having a physical copy of the disk, and more about the presentation. A nice, descriptive novella-sized manual. Maps of in-game worlds or locations. That kitschy key-chain or desk ornament. Even the box itself, in some cases. They all give the sense that the developer isn't just selling you on an experience of ones and zeros, bits and pixels, but on something real and tangible - an experience you'll keep even after the software has moved on and left your poor, aged, unsupported and nonfunctional game behind[1].
[/list]

The only thing you mentioned that couldn't be digital would be the kitschy key-chain, and even then there are things that come close ie

But it's not the same!!

Okay fine, enjoy your keychain. Anything with some degree of physical functionality will necessitate a physical component. So your Halo lunchbox and Spongebob bottle opener are justified as well. This will also extend to clothing, though I don't know how many games come with that.

But by and large the game accessories can also be made digital, as has been the case with purchases I've made. I've had games come with wallpapers (as if I can't download them from the internet), soundtracks, and pdfs of comic-books and regular books, and things like trophies can be provided in game.

If there's one valid argument I think you could make for physical stuff, it's that we all live first and foremost in a physical world, in a physical area, house or room, and that physical space would be quite dull if we didn't own physical things to fill and cover it with (at least until we have walls like in Cloud Atlas). So I'll give you that point. After all, it's not like I don't own posters and models and stuff myself.

It's just that when it comes to videogames, we're talking about something that is, by definition, digital. Cartridges and disks were never intended as anything more than a tool to access the games. While I do have plenty of nostalgia, it's more for the content of the games than the physical storage devices they were on, which is why I'm a big fan of emulators.

Now it's perfectly fair if none of these apply to you, personally, and/or you don't find benefit in any of the points given that outweigh the convenience of a hassle-free digital copy. Contrary to what the internet at large seems to think, it's perfectly acceptable to have a different opinion or perspective on something. I just see no reason to be dismissive and snide about it. I don't see anything in the article to suggest the digital option will simply disappear - this is an alternative for people who do miss the bygone days when a PC game came in a VHS-sized box and felt like you were buying a product instead of a service.

I think the "it's my own opinion" defense is often used too lazily to defend a point without using rational. Ya, I suppose on some level there will always be an underlying qualia that can't be communicated through language, but most people who like something can describe the aspects that make it good to them in a manner that other human beings will understand. I mean, how else could MovieBob have a job if he wasn't able to say not only that he likes/dislikes about a movie but why?

[1] I'm looking at you, MechWarrior 2

Olas:
I get the sense that when people talk about the idea of owning something completely free of online connections, they're really imagining some apocalyptic future where their country's infrastructure has failed and they're living as a survivalist in some kind of bunker, playing their old single-player games on electricity that I assume is generated by turning a crank. I don't know, maybe I'm projecting too much, but that's the feeling I get.

Speaking personally, I live in a rural area with abysmal connection speed and less-than-reliable service. Downloading the ESO beta took an entire week, going more or less full-throttle on what bandwidth I had. If Ookla's speed-test is to be believed, the same is true for around 15-20% of the US, which is a fairly substantial chunk of the population.

Complaining that you need an internet connection to reacquire digital games is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. The fact that you can reacquire them at all puts should be a huge plus for digital content. Unless you buy a warranty, good luck getting a distributor of physical content to do the same thing at all.

Consider the above - reinstall game library from disk in a couple hours, or spend an entire month, give or take, doing the same via download? It's not nearly as ridiculous as it sounds, and it's this kind of condescending tone that sparked my first reply. Not everyone has the option or privilege of high-speed access. I'm lucky I'm not still on dial-up, for fuck's sake.

It's funny how where some people see security, I see vulnerability. Disks can be scratched, toys can be chewed up by pets, even just regularly intended use can take it's toll on things over time. Add to that the risk of misplacement, theft, dropping it down a sewer, lending it to a friend who moves out of town. Physical media is also more reliant on specific hardware to work, which can make compatibility into an issue over time. It seems quite likely that my old consoles may someday stop functioning properly, but I'm pretty sure the internet is here to stay.

Oddly enough, I've almost never had any of the above issues with my physical media. I would point out how being responsible and taking care of your stuff is basic common sense, but I understand that "shit happens" and sometimes there are circumstances beyond your control. Hell, I loaned my Freespace 2 disks to a guy whose apartment burned down. If it weren't for the game being open-sourced over at Hard Light, I'd still be SOL.
... Bottom line, I'm not saying there isn't value in digital distribution. That was never my intent. My point is just that there's room enough and reason enough for a physical option to continue existing, and no sensible reason to be a dick to the people who do prefer the tangible one.

As for slow internet speeds, it's an embarrassing fact that so many people living in the first world still have this problem, but I see it as a problem that exists in the world around digital content. Digital distribution should by all rights be a much faster, easier, more energy efficient way of transmitting content to someone. While I'll admit it's a fact that for some people it's preferable to get into a car and drive to a store to buy a disk, I definitely don't see a reason why it SHOULD be.

See above. I've justified myself all I need to on that point. Be glad of your connection and go on your merry.

3. "Pokemon Syndrome,"

Which you can't do with digital content why? Unless your friends have eye damage that makes it hard to see a screen I would think this is a non-issue. If anything doesn't the internet make it easier to share stuff with people who you otherwise couldn't invite to your house? If anything I think the digital age has made sharing stuff about one's life a little TOO easy for some people.

Digital content also has the benefit of being something you can choose NOT show to people. While you may be proud of your collection in front of your friends, you might not feel the same way when your parents are around.

This isn't me so I'm playing devil's advocate trying to back it up, in as much as I care to. The point is that to some people, a screenshot of a lengthy Steam library just isn't the same as a vast shelf of XBox or PS3 cases. That's obviously not you, either. I was simply listing one of the many reasons why a person might want a physical copy - as part of a collection.

The only thing you mentioned that couldn't be digital would be the kitschy key-chain, and even then there are things that come close ie

But it's not the same!!

Okay fine, enjoy your keychain. Anything with some degree of physical functionality will necessitate a physical component. So your Halo lunchbox and Spongebob bottle opener are justified as well. This will also extend to clothing, though I don't know how many games come with that.

But by and large the game accessories can also be made digital, as has been the case with purchases I've made. I've had games come with wallpapers (as if I can't download them from the internet), soundtracks, and pdfs of comic-books and regular books, and things like trophies can be provided in game.


I actually can't remember ever getting a keychain as part of a physical copy, but I remember some games having them as pre-order bonuses back when I was working at Best Buy. Also that USB "whale oil" lamp when Dishonored came out. Can't forget that one.

If there's one valid argument I think you could make for physical stuff, it's that we all live first and foremost in a physical world, in a physical area, house or room, and that physical space would be quite dull if we didn't own physical things to fill and cover it with (at least until we have walls like in Cloud Atlas). So I'll give you that point. After all, it's not like I don't own posters and models and stuff myself.

The maps from successive Elder Scrolls games are also some of my favorite wall-art. I'll concede that the laminated fold-out keymap-guide from MechCommander is purely nostalgic though and amounts to worthless clutter on my shelf.

It's just that when it comes to videogames, we're talking about something that is, by definition, digital. Cartridges and disks were never intended as anything more than a tool to access the games. While I do have plenty of nostalgia, it's more for the content of the games than the physical storage devices they were on, which is why I'm a big fan of emulators.

People are different, I guess? I have plenty of nostalgia for the games too, and a fair collection of ROMs. Some memories just happen to be attached to the peripherals too. And some don't have anything to do with the cartridges or their manuals. Memory is weird like that.

I think the "it's my own opinion" defense is often used too lazily to defend a point without using rational. Ya, I suppose on some level there will always be an underlying qualia that can't be communicated through language, but most people who like something can describe the aspects that make it good to them in a manner that other human beings will understand. I mean, how else could MovieBob have a job if he wasn't able to say not only that he likes/dislikes about a movie but why?

Did I not articulate my points clearly enough, or were you just tired of seeing that kind of statement used? If the latter, I'll understand that too, but it wasn't intended to be a cop-out. I've been lurking around the Escapist long before I had a username, I've seen plenty of arguments and flamewars over the absolute dumbest shit, simply because two (or more) people can't accept that someone else might have a different opinion or perspective. I'm not that guy and it wasn't really my intent to spark a feud - hell, I'd have left your quote off entirely if I'd just read a little bit more carefully. I was only expressing that, at the end of the day I'll still like getting Stuff in a Box and you'll likely still consider it an outdated idea and a waste, but that disagreeing with someone doesn't have to mean disrespecting them.

As I've said for years, I dislike the whole idea of digital media, I merely use it because I've been given no choice. Even when you buy a physical game for PC nowadays, it usually just includes a code and a disc that connects you to something like STEAM. With console games they increasingly require at least some degree of internet connectivity, and some kind of download or handshake to activate your game, it's not entirely on the disc.

I'll admit I miss the maps, books, and other things that came with boxed copies. Nowadays when those things DO exist in a collector's edition, they charge you extra for things that were included with the game for many years.

Most importantly though, I dislike the fact that I give people money for a product that I have no control over, and am entirely dependent on someone else to use. Sometimes when buying a game on say STEAM I even have to check in with multiple people to use a product that I paid for.

Now, I understand that the games industry argues that we technically never owned anything even from the beginning, so this isn't a "scam", but all semantics aside formalizing the fact that they have all the power and my money, and I have nothing unless they decide to grant it to me, is something I can't get behind. With a disc, with the game contained in it's entirety right there, I could install and play my game whenever I want, at any time I want, without needing to hope someone's server is up for me to download it or check in. What's more, even if it's unlikely that I would want to play a 20 year old game, as a consumer I feel that's my right, as things stand now if some of these platforms go down, they take everything I purchased with them.

As much as I hate big government, one thing I've argued for a long time is that there should be increased regulation of things like software, and the government should require everything to be made available on a self-contained hardcopy.

I also feel that in cases where digital distribution is for some reason necessary, the product should be required to be backed by a trust capable of ensuring the perpetual operation of the servers. In cases like MMOs where they sell digital content, I believe this is of particular necessity. As far as I'm concerned if some FTP game charges you money for a sword or a costume or whatever, they had better be able to guarantee that if you want to login from your death bed 50 years later and look at your shinies your able to, even if your the only one who has logged into that creaky old game for decades. Basically if you sell virtual property for money, you should be required to back that virtual property.

That said, I'll say that one of the things that made me an old school "Ultima" fan was the way how games like "Ultima IV" were just loaded with goodies along with the disk. You had a game guide, a play card, a history book, a separate book listing the spells (with runes on the cover you could translate with the rune guide in the history book), and it was all wrapped in a cloth map. It was cool that all that stuff came with the game, and actually figured into it, and it increased the feeling of value at the time. Today if you want something close to that they want like an extra $30 and at that point what was "neat" basically becomes "a bunch of garbage not worth anywhere near that".

Of course then again the odd thing is that I just mentioned Origin as being one of the groups I felt gave great value. Richard "I went into space" Garriott seems to have turned into a virtual real estate tycoon where he's apparently making a fortune selling virtual house lots and digital items for a game that hasn't even been released yet. The "beauty" of it is that your basically paying him for the right to put down a house (the house costs more money) which you then have to grind to pay in-game money on in order to maintain, and if you fail to pay your rent your lot which you paid real money for reverts to the bank.... so really, I think that kind of says it all about the world we live in now compared to what things used to be like. Even "Good Lord British" has basically become an MMO slum lord.

Eh, what can I say, I love the box. Having boxes on the shelf is something that makes my home complete, I can sit and stare at them, relive the memories I had with games, be inspired to replay something I haven't played in ages or forgotten I owned. And they make great displays.

Me and my girlfriends new flat suddenly felt all the more homely once we finally got our games shipped and upacked.

I love me some digital distribution. I don't have room for boxes and maps and other nonsense. They can keep it.

EDIT: I will say that I prefer the GOG.com model of digital distribution the most, where even if at some future date I don't have internet, and GOG.com goes out of business, I can still install and play my games, because I have a DRM free installer. I still use Steam of course, b/c what else can a PC gamer do, and Steam does provide a good service, but hopefully digital distribution heads more in that direction.

Kieve:
I still maintain that as much as it might sound weird, there's no real harm in someone who just likes the smell of fresh plastic. There's no reason to deride them for it.

You know, if someone has a plastic fetish, that's fine. But it then becomes an issue of them demanding a physical copy specifically to assuage their compulsion. Speaking of compulsion, you are talking to someone who suffers from OCD. Such fixations aren't necessarily harmful, but I start to wonder at the point people insist on or demand them.

I mean, like most things I get it to some extent. I still have positive associations with the first time I cracked open an NES game (all my previous game media had been secondhand), a starter of Magic, etc. But the way this is brought up comes off as really unhealthy.

Speaking personally, I live in a rural area with abysmal connection speed and less-than-reliable service. Downloading the ESO beta took an entire week, going more or less full-throttle on what bandwidth I had. If Ookla's speed-test is to be believed, the same is true for around 15-20% of the US, which is a fairly substantial chunk of the population.

This is actually a damn good reason to not go digital, and it really shouldn't be trivialised. Some people just don't have the bandwidth. Hell, I mock my crappy bandwidth, but the worst case scenario is I download a large game overnight. And even then, that's kind of rare.

US broadband speed is slow and expensive, and I wouldn't be surprised to find that a fifth of the US was in your boat. Personally, my biggest worry regarding digital games is that Comcast is going to start reinforcing the bandwidth cap again, because a single splurge could get my connection shut down.

ritchards:

Also, when I got a box, it was mostly "here's a large cereal packet sized box, and all that's inside is a CD". That's just annoying, that is.

Yeah, this was always somewhat of an issue. I had SNES games that came with a four-page manual and a ton of cardboard. I think SimEarth was the size of one of the Bibles one might read off a lectern, and that was a couple floppies and a (admittedly thick, but nowhere near thick enough to justify the size of the box).

They used to do the same with CD longboxes, and they were largely for antitheft purposes. At least when the Playstation came out, those boxes looked purrrrrrty (most of the time), but there was a lot more of this than people seem to remember. Thanks Obama confirmation bias!

Gennadios:

It's simple, the service that sold us the digital product still has to support it. If Capcom goes under, the Steams and Playstation marketplaces will still be under contract to offer the game for download to those who own it, even if they can't sell new licenses to people.

Are they actually required to, though? I mean, so far so good, but that doesn't mean it will continue to work that way.

And that's just in theory, in practice, another company will buy Capcom out and keep selling it's product. Hell, System Shock was deemed impossible to resell on GOG because something like 3 or 4 companies had claim to the license, now, it's on GOG on Steam, even if it did take 10 years.

In theory, someone will buy it and keep selling the games. In practice, they might not. Again, you can point to examples of it happening in the past, but you can't guarantee its continuation. If Capcom goes under because of financial issues, another company may not wish to take on the associated debt or may consider sales of the library not substantially worth it. That was nearly the case with THQ.

Also, my first digital distributor was Direct2Drive, after it went under my entire library transferred bought by Gamersgate, not entirely ideal but they're still available under the same username and password.

Also not a given. And I wonder who would undertake it if Steam were to actually keel.

Finally, when Games For Windows UNDYING finally keeled over, all CD-Keys for the Batman Arkham games automatically reverted into Steam keys, so I copy pasted my Direct2Drive keys into Steam and got a second version on the service I prefer.

Great for Batman players, not so great for the other games where the devs didn't transfer over. And a lot of them didn't. I'm told some games were outright rendered unplayable.

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