Saturday, 18 August 2012

Digital vs Physical

Ever since this generation of consoles introduced the ability to download games straight onto your hard drive, there have been rumblings that the days of buying games in a physical format could be on it's way out. The average console has big enough hard drive's to hold a whole library of games, ranging from the most innovative of indie games to the biggest blockbuster releases of the year. So, it's easy to know why some people think this.

There are many good things about purchasing games to download. Probably the biggest one for me is the fact that they can't accidentally get broken. I'm sure at least once in your life you've gone to put a disc into your console or computer and alas it no longer works. The only alternative is to buy a new copy...except by this point the game probably isn't sold in shops anymore and you have to go online to buy it. Or maybe you find a pre-owned copy at your local game shop. You pop it in and oh no, it doesn't work so you buy it again AND THEN ANOTHER TIME AND IT STILL DOESN'T BLOODY WORK AND YES THIS HAS HAPPENED TO ME GOD DAMMIT. And breathe. The point is, digital games (in theory) last forever. So, in conclusion, I much prefer buying them physically.

I still love ya, buddy!
Sure, a lot of my old games are scratched to hell and probably don't work anymore (I was a very careless kid), but the fact is that clicking "download" is not nearly as satisfying as buying a game and then putting it into the console for the very first time. Before I talk about that, however, there is a couple more advantages to buying a physical copy.

One, is the price. You'd think downloads would be cheaper since they don't have to be packaged and shipped. But in my experience, especially on the consoles, they seem to go for full price for a lot longer than their physical cousins. Of course, you can also get pre-owned games even cheaper which is a bonus. I know that pre-owned games take money away from the developers, but I never buy a game pre-owned unless I can't find a new copy or I'm not sure if I'm going to like it. I bought Final Fantasy XIII-2 for £15 today, pre-owned, when a few months ago I was refusing to buy it at all. To put it back on to the debate however, let's talk about FIFA 12. Over the summer the price of it fell a little (because it's now outdated due to the new season), but the last time I checked (which was a while ago, admittedly) on the PSN it was £49.99. I bought it on day of release for £39.99. Obviously that's the RRP of the game, but by that point it was no longer worth the £50, plus an extra £10+ for the Euro 2012 pack. 

The other is the ability to trade. If I don't like the game I've bought then I can trade it in and get some of my money back towards another game, or I can give it to a friend in exchange for actual money or another game. If I do like a game, but I have a friend who won't buy it, I can give the game to the friend to borrow for a little while and then they can "forget" to give it back. Then I have to buy another copy which means more money for the developer/game shop. Everyone wins. You can't do that with downloaded games. If you buy something for yourself and oh dear it sucks, then sorry bud but you just wasted your money. 

Now this is purely for big name games, I don't expect small indie developers to shell out for packaging, marketing and etc. They get a free pass when it comes to this. Of course, in the digital world games can get ridiculously cheap in sales. That's great too. However, there is one thing about buying a physical copy of that I love more than anything: the journey.

It's the day of release of a game I've been wanting for months, perhaps even years. You've pre-ordered it and all that's left to do is collect it. For me, that involves getting on a bus for forty minutes early in the morning. The anticipation has reached new heights and I simply cannot wait to get home and play it. I arrive at the shop a little past nine o'clock and I purchase the game. It's not until it's in my hands that it truly hits me that I can actually play this game. However, there's still the journey home. Another forty minute bus ride which just ramps up the anticipation factor more and more until I'm basically desperate to play it. Finally I get home, turn on my console of choice, open the case, get disappointed at the lacklustre manual that is too common these days and finally put the disc in the console. The feeling as you start a new game is immense, and even more so if the game turns out to be excellent. You just don't get that feeling waiting for a download to finish.

So yes, downloads are fine, but I'd rather take a physical copy any day. I enjoy the two hour journey it takes to get a game on launch day, but maybe I'm strange who knows? The only thing I do know is that I wouldn't trade the journey in for anything, it just makes launch day that much sweeter.

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