Why Digital Only Consoles For The Future Are A Bad Idea

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Physical Games Still Hold A Lot Of Value!

Story Highlight
  • The era of physical gaming is slowly fading, and publishers are shifting towards digital releases and consoles.
  • The low price of all-digital consoles is just a tactic to lure customers into a limited ecosystem.
  • Digital consoles are bad for consumers because they undermine basic preservation and limit choice when it comes to selling or sharing games.

The era of physical video games is fading away quickly. On the PC platform, physical discs perished more than a decade ago. Consoles are on track to meet the same fate soon, with Xbox and PlayStation slowly going all-digital.

While hardware without disc support may be advantageous for console manufacturers, it is typically terrible for consumers. I understand games are getting too big and difficult to fit on a single Blu-ray disc.

Indie developers also rely on digital sales to keep going since physical distribution takes up a lot of funding. However, this form of distribution has its own set of cons, and they often outweigh the pros.

Why it matters: Console manufacturers are rapidly shifting to digital-only consoles, and most gamers appear to be on board.

Manufacturers Are Preparing You For An All-Digital Era

xbox series s image
The Xbox Series S Has No Physical Capabilities At All

The Xbox Series S is more than just a ‘cheaper’ console. Microsoft is experimenting with going all digital with it. Moreover, its Game Pass push further proves that the gaming giant is making digital-only a norm.

PlayStation is no different, with the all-digital PS5 serving as a transition to the eventual shift toward a disc-less future. What’s important to realize here is that abandoning discs gives these big companies complete control over your money.

Fans are going for all digital consoles just because they’re cheaper, which makes this form of distribution the only option for them. Also, studios have begun to forego physical copies altogether, with big titles like Hellblade 2 serving as examples.

According to analysts, Xbox could be the first to make the transition to an all-digital ecosystem. However, PlayStation and Nintendo won’t be too far behind.

Taking Away Options

Xbox Physical Games
GameStop’s Head Previously Argued That The Option of Physical Consoles Should Always Exist

In my opinion, the biggest downside to owning a digital console is the lack of options.

When you buy the most expensive PS5 model, you have the freedom to pick between physical and digital games. Most people I know mix the two, using both options to make the most out of any given situation.

However, when you have an all-digital console, you lose this luxury. At that point, you’re completely at the publisher’s mercy. Want to play a new release for cheaper? Wait for a sale, but you never know when the sale may come.

Want to resell a game after completing it? That’s just not possible. It’s easy to take such options for granted when using a physical console, but they do come in handy when you know a game will probably collect dust after the first playthrough.

Even if you’re among the millions with a disc-based console that never resells or borrows games from friends, more options are never bad. In my opinion, it’s important to keep digital-only consoles optional for this reason.

Not Just Nostalgia 

Physical Games
Physical Games Are Still Important

Physical games have a nostalgic factor. I still remember peeling off the plastic wrap of a new disc I would buy during the holidays or after saving up money for a long time. Most people also like to build a library to display on their shelves.

Then there’s the preservation argument. Your physical games aren’t going anywhere, unlike digital releases. You don’t even own the latter since they can be delisted if their licenses are rendered useless.

While modern physical titles often require day-one patches to function properly, they still serve as a better alternative than losing access completely. Furthermore, physical releases go on sale much quicker.

You also have the added benefit of sharing your games with your friends and family. The same can be done with a digital release, but what happens when your friend is willing to share that new game you’ve wanted to play for so long, but he bought a disc?

Sure, these are specific scenarios, but having a digital-only console locks you out of such options. On the other hand, a traditional console allows both.

The industry may not make the switch immediately, but it’s a matter of when not if. Xbox is seemingly gearing up to launch its next console in 2026, which may be its first step into an all-digital future. If this happens, the others will almost certainly follow suit.

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