Physical Games Are On Last Legs As Digital Market Grows

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More Important Than Ever To Protect Physical Discs!

Story Highlights
  • Physical copies of games seem to be in danger of extinction.
  • Many titles are now opting for digital releases instead of physical ones.
  • However, physical releases have various advantages over digital ones.
  • I believe the option of both physical and digital games should continue to exist.

Going back 15-16 years, no one would’ve guessed that physical copies would eventually become a dying trend. Since the dawn of gaming, physical copies, whether they be in the form of cartridges or discs, have been a popular form of distribution.

However, the times are changing, showcasing small glimpses of an all-digital future after this push was set in motion many years ago. Publishers are opting for digital-only releases, consoles without disc drives are a thing, and discs are non-existent in the PC gaming space.

Recent events further highlight this push, hinting that the death of physical games, as unfortunate as it may be, is not very far.

Why it matters: Physical copies are still preferred by many gamers as they have plenty of positives when compared to digital releases. Some of them have been listed below.

Recent Events & Their Implications

Physical copies of Starfield were recently sold for dirt-cheap prices at Walmart. This is being done as a move to get rid of the copies. However, Walmart is not alone in this move, and neither are Xbox games the sole physical media to go through this change.

Others, like Best Buy, have started following the trend. Best Buy is also cutting prices for Blu-ray movies to get rid of existing inventory, discounting big films by 70% in the process.

Elsewhere, Xbox’s recent layoffs have targeted the physical games department. Microsoft is already very digital-focused on its gaming platform, selling the ecosystem based on Game Pass, and it appears this focus will only increase moving forward.

According to rumors, the Xbox Series X console refresh will also be a digital-only machine. If this wasn’t enough, major AAA games like Alan Wake 2 have recently skipped a physical release.

Xbox’s upcoming Hellblade 2 is following suit, offering a digital-only launch, albeit at a lower price point.

Sony PS2 PlayStation 2

Physical Copies Are Still Important

Despite many physical games requiring downloads for day-one patches today, there is no denying the ease of inserting a disc to begin a gaming session.

Discs also carry a nostalgic factor with them. The feeling of picking up a Metal Gear Solid or Crash Bandicoot disc and playing it on the original PlayStation remains unmatched for me. Meanwhile, playing Halo on the Xbox offers a similar experience.

Once preservation is taken into account, it is easy to see why many, including me, are still fond of discs. Digital games can be delisted from stores at a moment’s notice, becoming lost forever in many cases.

Digital libraries, while highly convenient, are not fool-proof. Account bans and hacking can practically annihilate digital game collections, making them slightly risky despite their widespread adoption.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of relying on physical games is the aspect of game sharing and reselling. I still appreciate the ability to exchange games with friends and buy older titles for dirt cheap to add to my collection.

However, publishers and platform holders don’t have much to gain from such methods of sharing. This may be one reason for the accelerated transition toward digital-only models of distribution.

Ultimately, both physical and digital games have their positives and negatives. I am not opposed to either, but it is evident that the industry has already picked sides, largely favoring digital games.

In my opinion, consumers should always be given an option. Physical games should continue to stay relevant despite the growth of digital libraries. Hopefully, the industry can prolong the final years of physical games, appreciating them while they last.

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