Physical video games are dieing. Should we care?

Posted: 2013/08/02 in Games, Modern gaming, Retrogaming
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It has been long coming. Since cellphones made it to the realms of gaming, since Facebook games have more players than triple-A titles, since Steam and since “live arcades” on consoles… it has been a known fact. One day, there’s not going to be any physical medium required when purchasing video games.

Digital download, full versions of games are already available on most (all) consoles. It is practical for the buyer. As long as there is storage space, all games are stored in a single location (per console.)

No need to change disc. no danger of loosing or damaging discs. No cartridges to blow into.

On a games manufacturer’s standpoint, removing the physical media is a huge cost reduction. No disc or chips, no box, no packaging, no instruction booklet to print and distribute… and no transport fees. At the same price point, profit is way higher! (Isn’t that one of the rules of acquisition?)

There’s also the piracy reduction factor. In theory, a game that is downloaded and digitally signed to a specific console cannot be copied. Or at least, a lot less easily than a magnetic support.  Going full digital would reduce game piracy quite a lot. It would also removes the third-party used-games reseller factor…

Then there’s nostalgia & collectibility.

This Penny Arcade Report titled Fighting against the death of the physical game collection depicts it very well. Owning a physical copy of a game permits to replay those games somewhere in the future. Most old Atari 2600 games still work if one can find suitable hardware. Either collected on purpose, or kept in attics or basement, those “old” video games can and will bring back nostalgia some day, or be shared with the next generation.

This exact issue came to light not long ago about XBLA’s current generation (XB360 live arcade) not being compatible with the next generation. As opposed to a steam account where you can still play games purchased in the past, the XBLA games are doomed to expire when the console is deprecated.
While someone could have purchased another NES to play old cartridges, that same concept won’t work as XBLA titles are non-transferable without Microsoft helpdesk (which won’t help with games of obsolete consoles)

Additionally, there’s the revival of old classics in the form of retro titles – sometimes modernizing them, sometimes just having classic titles in emulator styled downloadable games on new hardware. Nintendo sold lots of SMB3 “classic” on Wii.
If the company survive long enough and is proud of its history, a favorite title might come back some day!  With an extra bonus for the game maker of earning more profits yet again!

Ok, on a purely gaming perspective, playing on modernized hardware does not have the same feeling… but hey, it plays.

So, for the gaming company, removing the physical media has only positive impacts. For gamers-collectors, it is a totally different story.  What about you – do YOU care?

  1. wereallgeeks says:

    In a strange twist of fate, while physical games are becoming all-digital, their characters are beginning to become material toys!

  2. bm23reviews says:

    I love having all the boxes and having them sitting on my wall in alphabetical order, it just makes them feel more special than digital games. Maybe I’m old fashioned but if a boxed game and digital game were the same price, I’d buy the boxed one because I like having the box.

    • wereallgeeks says:

      There doesn’t seem to be any feeling of ownership in digital download. It is practical but that’s it.
      Also, there is a ritual in selecting a game from the shelves and putting it into the game console.

      I don’t think the next generation of gamers will feel the same way, having known digital from the get go, but those used to having “hardware games” seems to all see that as “important”

      Something we can do is compare with other media – namely music. There are still people playing 8-track or vinyl. There is a good feeling in using a good quality record changer and playing a few LPs, or playing singles in an old fashioned jukebox. Then there is MP3 – digitally downloaded music. Of course, there’s quality issue, MP3 not being the fullest quality, but there’s other standards such as FLAC. Still, people rarely use digital music exclusively. At some point, it become a matter of price VS preference: getting digital for convenience, but still purchasing the full physical album, only for their favorites. Of course, the technology generation isn’t the same as with consoles, having CDs still somewhat of a resell standard after all those years.

      I wonder if digitaly downloaded videogaming will see a stage similar to this.

  3. wereallgeeks says:

    Gamasutra is analyzing the big third party publisher trend towards digital revenue.
    Each quarter, Digital Distribution revenue increases.

  4. […] Mega-Man 10, but only some cardboard sheet. Download code? Suck-it-up, collector! Does confirm the digital only tendency that is coming ahead, […]