Physical vs Digital—Why Physical Video Games Are Better
I have to be clear, I don’t hate the digital downloading of videogames—a Steam library full of thousands of games I’ll probably never be able to reasonably touch in my lifetime can attest to that. I love the convenience of buying a game from the comfort of my home, ready to play anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or so.
That being said, several hundred physical discs organized in an alphabetical fashion upon shelves and shelves is something special itself.
Old games, many of which never found their way online whether in a digital storefront or a torrent site, sit on those shelves readily accessible at any time. The same cannot be said for some of the games I let go before I started clinging onto them, some of those I may never play again. But the case for physical media goes beyond that; it goes beyond the risk of not being able to play old games ever again. Physical games, are an investment that you have control over; something tangible that with care could last your lifetime.
But with digital titles, there is a lingering unanswered specter. What if a digital download storefront goes belly up? What happens to the games you own that are bound to it? Thankfully in the case of Steam, that is very unlikely to happen. But Steam isn’t the only dog in the game anymore. Epic Game Store, Origin, GOG, just to name a few, are among a legion of online retailers that will sell games as a download from either their own sites, or another location.
But what happens if the place where your game comes from is suddenly gone? Does that company provide a way for you to retain all that you’ve purchased? Or is it simply lost to the internet void, as though you never owned it at all? In terms of gaming, it’s the closest thing you’ll find to an existential crisis. Do your digital games have an afterlife in the wake of a storefront collapse? It’s a question I ponder now and then.
It’s also the reason that, despite all my digital purchases, I still always try to get my hands on hard copies of games when I can. This scenario, however unlikely, is a worrisome one. We already know that these digital distributors reserve the right to take accounts away from users if the code of conduct is broken severely enough.
The money itself spent on the account has no bearing; if you’re found in a bad enough violation your account access can be limited, or outright banned. We already know losing your games in that way is a possibility. Do these companies prepare for the future though? The possibility of dire straits where their stores would collapse, with an outcome that doesn’t leave their users swinging in the wind? Who knows? Hopefully we never have to find out the answer to that question, and if we do, hopefully that answer isn’t the worst case scenario.
In the meantime, I’ll still be grabbing physical versions of games when and where I can as long as they aren’t outrageously priced. What are your thoughts on physical games in an ever-expanding digital era?