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Opinion: Between Digital And Physical Game Purchases, Which Is better?

Opinion: Between Digital And Physical Game Purchases, Which Is better?

Once upon a time, gamers queued up in retail stores after the launch of a game to grab a cartridge or a CD. Sometimes the copies will be exhausted before it gets to your turn, and you have to wait for days or weeks to try again. Today, from the comfort of your home, you can purchase a game and start playing at the exact second it launches. But between digital and physical game purchases, which is better?

Opinion: Between Digital And Physical Game Purchases, Which Is better?

The answer will depend on who you ask. While some gamers have a robust digital library of game collections, others like the euphoria that comes with holding the hardcovers and the sound of the CDs spinning in their consoles.

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Consumer behavior has changed over the years. Today, more gamers purchase their games digitally than physically. In fact, physical copies of games have become more of an endangered species or a rare treasure that gamers need to pay more to get boxed copies of games, sometimes.

Newzoo’s report in November 2023 showed that digital game purchases made up 95% of the market revenue while physical game purchases made up only 5% (a 3.8% YoY drop compared to the previous year). That number will likely continue to drop. In terms of numbers, digital game purchases pulled in $174.5 billion in revenue globally while physical game purchases only pulled in $9.5 billion.

From the developer side, more digital game purchase is great news because it takes less time and resources to ship digital copies than physical copies. That means they get to keep more of the earnings from digital game purchases than physical game purchases, and less stress dealing with the logistics of shipping physical copies.

Some developers and publishers are already moving with consumer behavior. In fact, games like Hellblade 2 will not get a physical release. Recently, the shipping of Baldur’s Gate 3 physical copies was delayed because of the difficulty of getting the game on CDs. The Xbox version of the game required four CDs to contain the entire game.

The pros and cons of digital game purchases

The pros of digital game purchases are enormous which makes it feel like a straightforward victory over physical game purchases in this era. However, it also has its downsides. Before we get into that, let’s talk about the good.

Pros of digital game purchases

Opinion: Between Digital And Physical Game Purchases, Which Is better?

The ability to purchase games digitally has removed the bottleneck associated with purchasing games. Recently, developers and publishers often incentivize players to purchase their games digitally. Here are some of the pros that come with purchasing games digitally.

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#1. All your games are in one place and easy to swap

Remember those days when you have to stop your game, eject the disc, and slot in the new game CD—after searching for it around the house sometimes—when you want to switch from one game to another? Well, with a digital game library, all that stress is off your shoulders. You can exit from one game and launch another in seconds.

#2. Three days early access

One of the incentives developers and publishers throw on the faces of players to get them to purchase the more expensive Deluxe and Gold Editions (or whatever they choose to call it) is 3 days of early access. Content creators usually look forward to this so they can get their content out before anyone else and get most of the views. This is rarely available with physical purchases.

#3. Demos and beta tests

If you are always relying on physical purchases in this age, you will miss out on game demos. Many years ago, developers used to ship out demo copies of their games. However, that era is now behind us because of the costs involved. Today, developers usually offer demos as digital copies. Likewise, beta tests are available to those who are willing to digitally access the games.

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#4. It helps to declutter your home

If you are an avid gamer, physical copies of games can become a pain when you suddenly run out of space on where to keep them. With digital copies, it is easier to store games without worrying about clutter.

#5. You are safer digitally during a disaster

Disasters are hard to predict and adequately plan for. Whether it is a blizzard, wildfire, or earthquake, your digital copies will likely be easier to safeguard your digital copies than physical copies. Imagine packing up hundreds of game disks versus picking up one hard drive with all your games.

Cons of digital game purchases

Arguably the biggest question that arises with digital game purchases is, “Do you really own digital copies of games?” Here are some of the cons associated with digital game purchases.

#1. No resale value

Although physical copies of games can easily fill up spaces around the home, you can opt to sell the games you have finished to free up spaces. With digital copies of games, you are stuck with your purchase forever because there is no way to resell games you have finished. When you do run out of space, you must go through the pain of deleting some of your favorite titles to make room for new ones which could be more painful than selling them off.

#2. Your entire library can be wiped out

God forbid your favorite gaming platform decides to pack up, you stand the risk of losing your entire gaming library forever. Many games have been rendered unplayable over the years because their publisher or developer has shut down their supporting servers. The same is the case if your console or PC is somehow hit with a malicious virus. When things go wrong with digital copies of games, it is usually disastrous.

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#3.  Harder to share your games

When it comes to gaming, the fun is usually doubled when you share. With physical copies, you can easily lend your CD to a friend to try out the game so that you both can sit later and share ideas. However, with digital copies, it is harder to share your collection with friends.

Pros of physical game purchases

Opinion: Between Digital And Physical Game Purchases, Which Is better?

Physical game purchases have their perks too—some of which we have highlighted above while trying to mention the cons of digital game purchases. Looking at the current trend, it does seem like physical copies of games are at risk of going extinct.

However, purchasing a physical copy of games means that you have full control over how you use the game—a freedom you don’t get with digital copies. Here are some of the pros of still purchasing games the old-fashioned way.

#1. Freedom to share or sell your game

With physical copies of games, you can share your purchases anyhow you want without restrictions. The only thing you get to worry about is whether the person you are handing your favorite CD will take care of it like you do. For games that you have finished, you can resell them and add the money to your savings for your next purchase.

#2. Physical copies can be laminated for decoration

If you have a dedicated gaming mancave, physical copies of games can be an excellent décor for your space. All you need is a Disc Frame Set where you can put the game cover and disc and hang it colorfully on the wall.

#3. Your library is free from digital threats

Unlike digital copies, it is hard to lose all your physical collections to virus threats. Even when there is a disaster, there is still a huge chance you can save a few of your collection.

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To be honest, there aren’t many benefits to owning physical copies of games. However, it is still important to consider the few available benefits. We always believe that having a balanced knowledge helps in making a more informed decision.

Cons of physical game purchases

Flip some of the pros of digital game purchases and you will get the cons of physical game purchases (hope that makes sense). However, here are the most glaring disadvantages of physical game purchases.

#1. You will miss out on demos and other perks

If you are all-in on physical copies, you will miss out on demos and other perks that often come with digital copies these days.

#2. You may skip some newer releases

It’s bad luck for you whenever a developer or publisher decides to distribute their games through digital means alone. You may miss out on great titles when you only purchase physical copies of games.

Between digital and physical game purchases, which is better?

Opinion: Between Digital And Physical Game Purchases, Which Is better?

After reading through, we would like to ask you again, which do you think is better between digital and physical game purchases? Ironically, there is a growing number of collector editions of games that come with digital codes rather than physical copies of the games. One of the most recent examples in this case is Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 collector’s edition. Is that a sign of what is to come? We can’t tell. However, it is glaring that not a lot of people find physical copies attractive.

Nevertheless, advocates of video game conservation have continued to push for developers and publishers to always release physical copies of games that don’t need the internet to work. According to them, that is the only way we can truly preserve games from going extinct when publishers pull the plug.

So, do you purchase your games physically or digitally? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.