With the newly released South Park The Stick of Truth, I faced for the first time an internal struggle. Do I buy the physical copy? Or do I buy the digital version and have the download ready to play when I get home from work. After a lot of hmming and hawing, I decided to go with the physical copy. I have my reasons which I will go through during the pros and cons. But no sooner than I made the decision to go digital with South Park The Stick of Truth, I faced the same issue as I decide which version to preorder of inFamous: Second Son. I think I’ve come to a decision, but I wanted to highlight the pros and cons of digital downloads and get your feedback as to what your preference is on the subject.
It’s no surprise that the video game ecosystem is shifting to digital. It is also happening more and more to other mediums. Digital is a trend, but it’s not perfect.
Pro: Digital downloads of games are almost instant.
With the click of a button I can purchase a digital game. To make it even better, with my PS4 after I purchase a game, I can initiate a download from anywhere I am and it will be ready and waiting for me to play when I get home from wherever I am. Sure, I can’t do that on a PS3, but I can have it ready to download. With the length of time some of these games take to download and install can be up to an hour and I have a relatively good download speed at around 30Mbps. (I can’t wait to get Google Fiber at my place). A digital game can be mine in minutes a spur of the moment purchase. The need to drive down to the store, even if it’s around the corner, is over. I can stay in my jammies and get my game now.
Con: Digital games mean more space on my drive.
Digital downloads eat up a lot of space on your drive. Both the PS4 and Xbox One have 500GB drives. When you factor in the native room used to operate the OS. Then add in any other installs you have, the room for games is a lot, but not nearly 500Gb. The larger a game is the more room it take up. And you can’t forget about your actual game saves because they don’t count with the total room needed. With my continued use of Playstation Plus, I have amassed a growing library of both free and bought titles. With each game I lose more of my available room. Digital games have to download the entire game onto your system to run. Physical games don’t have that issue. A portion of the game is often downloaded, but not the whole thing. Think about it this way: inFamous: Second Son will take up 24GB (and that is a moderately sized AAA title game).
Pro: Potential lower cost.
When a game doesn’t need to be put on a disc, packaged, shipped, and go through alternate retail channels, the cost of a game should go down. We haven’t really seen that happen yet, which doesn’t make much sense. Xbox is experimenting with this with Ryse. With a lower cost, I’d be more willing to not just buy digital games, but buy more. While we haven’t seen many real price drops, it’s something we’ll see more. Unfortunately, until the ecosystem fully shifts we won’t likely see drops on newly released games in order to maintain relationships with retail stores rather than undercutting them.
Con: Sharing, or lack thereof. (Womp).
There are two PS4s in my house. I often share games. There is a well worn system in my house that often has one of us playing a game and the other to play when the other isn’t. When I buy a physical game, sharing is really important to me. Digital versions prohibit me from that. If I go for a digital game, it’s mine and it isn’t sure being shared throughout my house. If there was some sort of location recognition to allow sharing within a household on different machines that’s be great. Until then, digital games are mine. Unfortunately, digital games cost the same as physical games. I’m less likely to drop that money on a digital game, when I can go halfsies on a two physical games.
Pro: No physical collection.
If your house goes up in flames and you only have time to save a few things. With digital games all you have to do is grab your console and controllers and you’re set. There’s no need to worry about grabbing a massive physical collection. You’d be able to keep all your games, no issue. Even if your house doesn’t catch fire, which I hope it doesn’t, by having digital games you can avoid the clutter of an amassing video game collection. Sure, sometimes it’s nice to see a massive collection of the games you played. And with physical games you’re more likely to play them because they stare at you longingly. That said, physical collections can start collecting dust. Even if you play multiple games at a time, you can only play so many at once. At some point the game will just sit on a shelf and go no where.
Con: Digital Hoarding
I am a victim of this and I’m pretty sure that most people are to if they chose to admit it. With digital games, it’s so easy just to not play it. Once you’ve downloaded it, it’s there for you to play, whenever. Since getting Playstation Plus, the number of games I have has ballooned. Any game that I ever had even remote interest in gets downloaded and added to my queue. When there are small games and free games and sales, sometimes it’s hard to resist. The result end result is digital hoarding. I have so many games that I only have vague interest in taking up space on my console. And that’s the truth, until I run out of space, some of these games will just sit there. And heck, I could eventually just get a bigger hard drive rather than deleting the game I know I will never play because of a maybe.
Con: Not owning the game.
There is something to be said for having a physical copy. If it breaks, you’re SOL. But if it stays in tact, you have access to the game as long as you have a console that will run it. When your game is digital if anything happens to the game you can download it again. it’s at your fingers. That also means that if for whatever reason the servers which your game is hosted on is decommissioned, you can never download that game again. In most cases, this isn’t an issue. Once you download a game it’s there for your to use. However relying on a possibly shoddy internet connection to first download it or if you delay downloading the game, you can get burned. It isn’t a very high likelihood, but it is a possibility. I wanted to avoid saying DRM, but that’s what it is.
Do you prefer digital or physical games? What was the last digital game you purchased.