Video games exist in a world of intangibility now. We’re in the midst of the Steam Summer Sale, and thousands of people are spending countless dollars for games that exist only in their digital libraries. It’s a really convenient and awesome system, and certainly not exclusive to Steam. There’s GOG, Origin, Unity and, yes, even Playism is a neat and tidy place to keep all your games in one place.
But there’s a certain charm to having something in your hands and on your shelf to admire in more than just a fleeting glimpse. One thing that was so intrinsic with recent Kickstarter campaigns (Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained and even Shenmue 3) were the requests for physical copies. Some are questioning Shenmue 3’s campaign decision to staunchly deny physical copies for PS4 backers, but the excitement for the PC version is still palpable.
It’s the question that gamers are now facing every day with their purchases. For PC users, most of the time a digital copy makes the most amount of sense. Many indie titles only exist in digital format, and the idea of hiking down to your local department store for a game that’ll require you to connect to the internet anyways seems redundant. On the other hand, the patient gamer knows that physical copies will absolutely hit rock bottom price, as stores try to free up shelf space. Additionally, the console gamer will face the maximum price for a new release upon digital launch: most stores will try and undercut each other to make sure you buy from them. Not to mention there is a very satisfying notion to alphabetizing your games on a bookshelf that you don’t necessarily get from your Steam library (though kudos to GOG for trying to simulate it).
From a publisher’s point of view, the transition is a blessing and a curse. Not needing to coordinate the printing and shipping of physical copies cuts way down on overhead, and helps avoid messy situations like defects. Theoretically, those savings could then be passed onto the consumer, and getting the game at a cheaper price while still maintaining a strong profit. Then again, alienating the customer who prefers a tangible game is asnowball effect: there are large, concentrated areas where, if it’s not physical, it’s not buyable. Also, setting up that disc copy of a game with an MSRP justifies a higher price on the online shop.A quick rundown of where the Playism staff stands:
Meghan: Digital because my CD drive doesn’t work.
Dan: Both. You never own words in an account like you own physical media in your home, but the convenience [of Steam] can’t be denied.
Bryan: Definitely digital. If my Steam library was physical I’d be sleeping on CDs.
Taku: Absolutely physical. If it’s digital, I can’t see it in front of me, and I never get to play it. Also, holding the manual and being able to check it in game is so much better.
Nayan: Physical all the way. I’ll get digital, though, if physical’s not available.
Mike: I go physical if I can.
Bart: Both, but not equally. I usually do digital because it’s cheaper and there are so many sites to get the games in bundles. But if it’s something I really want or there’s a collector’s edition, physical.
Jon: If it’s a game/series I care about, then physical. Otherwise, digital.
No matter your preference, there’s pros and cons for both choices. As long as you choose to continue to enjoy gaming and not get hung up on the technical differences, we still emerge the victors in all aspects.