Movies, music and books, to a slightly lesser extent, constitute a step towards a fully digital future. It’s time for the game industry to take that step too, because very slowly all the benefits of the physical versions have disappeared. That’s why I say: say goodbye to plastic boxes and discs and embrace the benefits of a full digital library!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 disc has just been revealed for PlayStation 5 Only 72.23MB contains data. This means that the disc acts only as a license key for the game – to actually start the game, you still have to download about a hundred GB. The fairy tale that asserts that physical media ensures that games remain playable after servers go offline somehow.
Let this be the main reason for people to buy physical games. People really want to own a game, even if the platform’s servers are offline, but this is often no longer the case with the physical version.
Modern Warfare 2 is of course a stark example in this field, but with other games it is no longer as simple as pushing a disc into your console and playing. Day 1 patches are the order of the day and therefore games cannot be played immediately without downloading. Even on Nintendo, those days are numbered. Some games, such as the Ori collection, are still fully cartridge in, but that’s more of an exception than the rule these days. The patch should always be downloaded, so we can get rid of Plug and Play carefully.
Games that can be played via disc often do not end completely without a download. Games these days are labeled “golden” in time – which means they’re print ready – but development isn’t over yet. For example, can you now Cyberpunk 2077 First Edition want to play? Or the first version of Horizon Forbidden West with Flickering vegetation in performance mode? Games these days rarely end completely when printed on discs.
Plus, it’s really crazy that servers suddenly go down and all your digital purchases are gone. Certainly at giants like Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and Steam, that won’t happen for the foreseeable future. Google Stadia was a different story, but the demise of that service saw everyone come from miles away. Fortunately, in this tragic situation, players are still receiving decent compensation; They get their money back on all purchases. However, for Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo and Steam players, you don’t have to worry about your game library.
The only thing you have to keep in mind is that sometimes the games are taken offline due to the expired licenses. It happened, for example, with Tony Hawk and some Forza games, which are no longer for sale in online stores. This is unfortunately inevitable and very unfortunate. Fortunately, this is only about a few examples and games that almost never disappear from your library. Thus, the possibility of suddenly losing half of your games due to expiration of licenses is nil.
Then we also have an environmental problem. In all kinds of sectors, we do our best to use as little plastic as possible, but in the game world, it’s still normal to put a lot of plastic on the shelves. If there are a lot of benefits to it, it might be worth it, but now is the time to stop. The consequences of excessive plastic use can be disastrous for nature and of course we don’t want to contribute to that.
There are also plenty of signs that the industry is heading into a digital future. For example, both Microsoft and Sony released a current-generation full-digital console for the first time. It looks like Sony is going a step further by replacing existing PlayStation 5 models with a detachable drive model. That’s purely guesswork, of course, since Sony hasn’t announced this device yet, but it could be the last step toward an all-digital scene.
There are also plenty of signs on the wall that the industry is heading into a digital future
With that said, there’s one thing stopping me from going completely digital right now: the prices of physical games. Prices on the PlayStation and Xbox digital stores will still be very high. New games of the current generation are always on sale in the digital store for seventy or even eighty euros. There’s no competition, so console growers see no reason to cut those prices quickly.
A good example in this regard is God of War Ragnarök. In the PlayStation Store you pay eighty euros for it, while I ordered the physical version for 67 euros. The same applies to Splatoon 3. It costs the full sixty euros in the eShop, while you can find the physical version online for fifty euros. Perhaps there is not much difference, but in the long run you can save a lot of money.
However, when prices in digital stores are comparable to physical versions, I say goodbye forever to buying unnecessary plastic with license verification. I was never a college collector and no longer needed one. Games no longer take up space and I can play them from my slow chair without fiddling with discs. The latter is a hassle, especially on the Nintendo Switch, fiddling with these little cartridges once had to be done.
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