Physical Games Becoming Obsolete?

It seems that the digital market’s impact on physical game sales has increased dramatically over the past year. According to information gathered in an article published on TheStreet, many sellers of physical games saw a major drop in sales going into this quarter. This drop is apparently steep enough that, according to TheStreet, at least one analyst is now saying that “it’s the beginning of the end for packaged video games”.

The basic message being reported by TheStreet’s article is that video gaming is moving towards a 100% digital future at a fairly steady pace. They quote analyst Michael Olson as saying, “We’re seeing more games being sold digitally, as 25% of the games are sold as full-game download. Full game downloads are increasing by 5% to 10% per year.” The article also includes that Olson believes the trend is being encouraged by simple convenience, and helped further along by improving internet speeds and better storage capacity in current consoles.

It would be nice to say that this digital-only future will be limited to PCs, but the line of thought presented here is pretty solid. We consumers tend to favor that which is the most convenient for us, just as game publishers tend to favor that which will bring them the most return for the games they produce. Make no mistake, an all digital future is exactly what game publishers want. Doing away with the need to produce and ship product to stores will increase their gains quite a bit, not to mention cutting out a very unwanted middleman. With all these forces at work, it does indeed seem very likely that physical game buyers will find themselves having change with the time sooner rather than later.

There may be some small hope in the form of special editions though. There are already plenty of gamers out there willing to part with some extra cash in return for physical rewards and goodies, so it’s not too hard to imagine that even more people would be willing to pay a bit extra if it means they’ll to continue to grow their physical game collections. It would be very surprising indeed if publishers became unwilling to take advantage of such a market. Still, the idea of someday having to pay more for the privilege of owning a physical copy isn’t really all that attractive. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

What do you think? Would you welcome an all digital future, or would you rather continue to physically buy your games at a store just like always? Would you pay more for a physical copy if that was the only way to get it?

Source: Why the Video Game Industry as We All Know It Could Be About to Go Extinct – The

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Imtiaz Ahmed says:

    I have mixed feelings for this depending on the platform. For PC games on Steam and other clients, PC gives me the ease of mind that I can play those games on any PC whenever I want. Games are not made obsolete because there is a new PC released.

    For console’s it’s another story. Taking my Wii U for example. All the digital games I bought for the Wii U are only good on the Wii U. So I cannot play these games on the Switch or future consoles from the looks of it. On top of this, if I want to sell my console, I cannot sell my digital games as they are tied to my account.

    For consoles this is a big problem, because I’ve spent a lot of money on digital content that’s essentially going to be obsolete very soon. Problem is as we know with Nintendo, and they aren’t the only ones guilty of this, these games are more than often re-released, but then there’s no incentive for me to buy it again just to play it on a new platform. There needs to be incentive for those who already own the original game, a discount or something. I can’t be expected to keep buying the same game over and over again…

    I do agree with the shift to digital, it brings so much convenience. Not having to swap out discs is great. For my 3ds, loading everything to an SD card is god send. But this whole backward compatibility business needs to be sorted out. Even for Sony, I can’t play PS3 games on PS4, I bought enough digital content there to.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Digital is definitely convenient, but I agree that they need to do something about this pattern of making their customer re-buy games with each console iteration. One would think that having the right to freely re-download something you’ve already purchased once would be a reasonable thing to expect.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Imtiaz Ahmed says:

        yup, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a full free download, even if a descent discount was offered that would go along way. I do understand when these games are re-released there is some work done to make it run on certain platforms, in some cases parts of the game may be enhanced etc.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Right now, I’m happy with physical copies of games for a few reasons.

    First, I can get a new physical copy of a game for about $48 from Amazon (won’t be buying new releases from Best Buy from now on) and they arrive on the day they actually release. Sure, it’d be a little more convenient to download them and have it ready to go the day of release, but that’s a minor concern considering that I usually don’t get to play games immediately when they become available at midnight. Digital games have generally only been offered at full price at launch in comparison.

    Second, I like the security of knowing that my game will always be available to install if I want to play it. The case of Silent Hills’ Playable Trailer should worry digital game owners, with it being the perfect example of what the digital future could mean for players. If all the publisher needs to do is to take the game off of the storefront and disallow downloads, then you’re SOL if you want to reinstall a game later down the line.

    Third, physical copies are easier to keep track of without requiring me to boot up my console or have a catalog written down somewhere.

    Finally, publishers have already shown that they’re more than willing to pocket the money they save instead of passing the savings onto the consumer. Based on what I’ve seen, if you cut out the cost of printing the disks, distributing them, and cutting out the retailer, you’re left with $35 out of the $60 price. If that’s the case, then all going digital does is put $25 extra into the publisher’s wallet and gives them the power to take it away at will. However, if they started only charging $40 for a brand new digital game, I’d switch to all digital in a heartbeat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Yeah, security is more or less why I’ve stuck to mostly physical copies of games too. All I have to do right now if I want to play a 20 year old game is take out the disk/cartridge and play it. Will the same be true of the digital games I’ve bought/will buy?

      $60 is a lot of money to charge for a product that may only last as long as the publisher allows it to. I agree that it would be much less of an issue if the price were to drop, but major games have cost $50-$60 for as long as there’s been a video game industry. It’s unlikely that that’ll happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. duckofindeed says:

    I’d really prefer to keep buying physical games, but I don’t see any reason why physical copies of games will be sold for much longer. My biggest problem with digital games is that it feels as if the player loses some power. Right now, if a console dies, I like knowing that my games will still be totally playable if I buy another console.

    But with digital, there’s always the concern that you won’t be able to get your games back. What if I can’t get back into my account? What if the game is no longer available and can’t be re-downloaded? I can’t say I totally understand how digital games work, considering I mainly play physical copies of games. All I know is that with digital, the developer has the control, not the player.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      That really is the crux of the issue isn’t it? We really don’t have any reason to believe that publishers will behave responsibly if given that power. Just look at everything they’ve done right up until the present day. Doesn’t inspire confidence.

      Not to mention the whole issue of what to do about areas with poor-to-no-internet. Are they just supposed to stop playing games?


  4. Mr. Panda says:

    As long as there are physical games, I will keep buying them. As someone who mostly plays on Nintendo consoles, all-digital would be horrible considering the company’s lack of unified accounts. If I lost my 3DS, I might be screwed in getting those digital game saves back. And for consoles, the measly 32 GB would do nothing for an all digital library. Yes, I could use external memory, or I could just but a physical game that comes with nice packaging. The collector in me as well as the Nintendo fan in me hopes that physical stays alive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. duckofindeed says:

      I really hope physical games continue. I like the security of knowing that my games are physical entities located on a bookshelf, not just files on a console that I could lose one day. I also just like seeing my collection physically grow and being able to alphabetize them and, when I want to play something, walk up and physically pick something out from the shelf.

      And like you said, Nintendo consoles don’t have much memory, so we would probably have to start buying extra hard drives or SD cards or whatever is required, and that is only going to make everything more expensive.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mr. Panda says:

        I love physically alphabetizing and organizing game boxes too! 🙂


      2. duckofindeed says:

        Organizing things is quite fun. Right now, certain shelves on my bookcase are dedicated to certain generations. I have a GameCube, PS2, XBox shelf, a Wii, PS3, and XBox 360 shelf, and a Wii U, PS4 shelf. SNES, N64, PS1, and handheld games are kind of randomly distributed at the moment, though, because there aren’t enough empty shelves for them. If I have more space one day, I’ll have a mighty nice looking collection.

        Liked by 1 person

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