Amid Rising Preservation And Ownership Crisis, Is Killing Physical Games Wise?

With games slowly becoming digital-only, I fear for the worst.

Story Highlights

  • With recent releases becoming digital-only, the gaming industry is slowly phasing out physical games.
  • Companies want us to live with not owning our games by pushing digital, but I don’t want that.
  • Physical games carry many benefits like concrete ownership, resale value, and reliable preservation.

Looking back, I realize that gaming has come a long way. As Technological development and the normalization of the Internet benefited the whole world, it also gave gaming a significant boost. Instead of searching everywhere for your favorite games and waiting for stock refills, you now had the comfort of getting them without even moving from your spot. Subscription services are a lot easier on the pocket, and each offers distinctive benefits.

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However, all the comfort also carried some solid risks and demerits, and because of this, there are a lot of people who prefer to do things the old-fashioned way by using physical games, including me. Thus, two different means of getting games appeared, each with some pros. Back when the PS5 Slim was released, I thought it might unite both parties, but now it seems the industry has started preferring one of these while neglecting the other, and I find that highly troubling.

Regrettably, Physical Games Are Slowly Being Phased Out

Before I begin, I should state this right away. My purpose in discussing this is not to say that I, as a physical media user, am superior to digital users. No, not at all. What I wish to deliver is how although digital media has a ton of benefits, it doesn’t completely negate physical games and they shouldn’t be undermined. Well, now that that’s out of the way, let’s proceed. As you might have guessed, the gaming industry is slowly dissolving physical games.

How is that? Well, newer games are slowly starting to become digital-only. Physical editions for these games are not even being considered. This is because of the growing popularity of digital media as the major choice for a lot of gamers. They’re easy to get, hassle-free, take no physical space in your possession, and thus are more manageable, and most importantly the many competing subscription services that offer enormous benefits.

Digital games are rising in popularity and for good reasons
Digital games are rising in popularity and for good reasons

What are some examples of this? First, it was Alan Wake 2. One of 2023’s strongest titles and honestly, Remedy’s bizarrely creative and magnificent sequel story was sadly without a physical release. And it seems to continue with Xbox’s next major release that people have been dying to know more about is doing the same. That game is Hellblade 2. As much as I feel it’s going to be a brilliant narrative experience, the fact remains it’s digital-only and that’s worrisome.

Can We No Longer Own Our Purchases?

Makes you wonder, does the industry have anything against physical games in particular? It’s true physical media has the additional cost of designing disks and cases etc. but that has been true for a long time now. The reason it’s being done now is due to the difference in sales between the two. Digital games are more popular, it’s a fact I willingly admit. But here’s another fact. The growing focus on digital media in general means you never really own these things.

Purchasing a digital game is essentially acquiring a license for that particular product. You can use it as long as the parent company and service is active. The moment it goes under, boom, your purchase goes down the drain, too. And it’s not just speculation, this has happened in reality. When the PS Video service went under, many people lost their products. And did Sony do anything to reimburse all those losses? None at all.

PlayStation Video is gone now, and some of the purchases were lost permanently
PlayStation Video is gone now, and some of the purchases were lost permanently

While subscription services brought a lot of comforts, they subconsciously normalized the feeling of not owning your games. Having used them extensively, I can say this with surety, they create an illusion of having tons of games, when not a single one is yours. Since they demand a meager amount, it balances out, but now the industry is blatantly leaning towards it. Take a look at Ubisoft, it says people need to get used to it. Can we own anything from here on?

And Ubisoft needs to get comfortable with not getting my money anymore
byu/Professional_Job1154 inpcmasterrace

I Grew Up With Physical Games, And Still Want To Own My Games

All these recent developments give me an ominous feeling that times are changing, and not in a good way. What felt like yesterday is now starting to seem like it was ages ago. I’ve been an avid consumer of physical games for as long as I can remember. There wasn’t any other choice in the distant past, but even when digital stores and games became the norm, I was looking for physical games, both for nostalgia and for collection purposes.

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byu/harvey1a from discussion
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Back when the Internet was not a thing, I used to get in line and scour for the newest game cartridges and later disks. Modern gamers might think it to be a drag and a waste of time, but I consider it to be an experience and a chance to socialize. Oh, and even if you think it’s a hassle, it’s not like you have to stand in a line now. You can get the game delivered to your doorstep, even this “trouble” is a thing of the past. Then what’s the problem?

My reason for sticking to physical games is the same as it was back then, it gives you a sense of ownership. You have a very real collection sitting in front of you, and there is a story behind each and every one of that cartridge or disk. It’s a nostalgic throwback to some of your beloved memories, and you have proof of purchase right there. This reason alone is enough for me to prefer physical games, and a lot many people still do as well.

Physical copies of video games are better than digital
byu/AmazingAlasdair inunpopularopinion

The Benefits Of Physical Media Don’t Stop There

I’ve told you all about my reason for still going for physical games. I’m sure you have a lot of reasons of your own, and I’d like to know those, too. Physical media still carries many benefits that digital games can never provide. The most important is how they have a solid existence in the material world and make their presence known. And that’s not all, since they’re physical entities, they can be traded as such.

A huge reason to continue buying physical games
byu/Hwbam33 ingamecollecting

Here’s the next major advantage, if you purchase a game and don’t like it as much so as to replay it, you have the choice of keeping it, or recovering most of what you spent. The same is true the other way around, you can get used physical games a lot cheaper than what they originally went for. On the contrary, digital games are forever tied to your account, you can’t resell them in any way. Physical games are a good choice for financially conscious people.

Moving on, here’s another advantage for those with slow or bad internet connection. Digital games require you to download 100s of GBs before you can play, and deleting them to free up space means you have to download that all over again the next time you wish to play it. Physical games just need to be copied from the disk, which takes minimal time. Deleting them is no trouble either; you can just copy them again when you wish to replay.

Do you prefer digital ownership or physical copies of your games? And why?
byu/caasi615 inplaystation

Game Preservation Is Already Endangered, No Need To Make It Worse

Above all, do you know why physical games are indispensable? They contribute to the preservation of the titles they enclose. This is especially meaningful now when the preservation of classics is at stake. The shutdown of digital stores leads to the loss of many precious gems. Do you remember the Nintendo e-Shop closure for Wii U and DS that happened sometime earlier? It was the prime example of retro games in serious danger.

Nintendo e-Shop closure was a reminder of the critical need for game preservation
Nintendo e-Shop closure was a reminder of the critical need for game preservation

People took it upon themselves to preserve some of the digital-only games, but the question is, for how long can they keep it up? Everything becoming digital-only from here on would just add to the trouble of ensuring the preservation of such games. At least being on a physical medium means they can be collected and stored to make sure the game within can go down in history. This decision is not eliminating physical games but their legacy as well.

Does anyone think Video Game preservation is an increasing problem
by invideogames

Video game preservation is a very real concern, and has only become more critical recently. In a time like this, the decision to go fully digital and phase out physical games is just going to add fuel to the fire. Plus, people like me who’ll always go for physical media if given the chance are still present in a solid amount. I hope the industry realizes the value physical games hold and puts some thought into the growing preservation concerns.

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Hanzala is a dedicated writer who expresses his views as opinion pieces at eXputer. He's always been fascinated by gaming, and an avid consumer of a multitude of different genres for over a decade now. His passion for games has him eager to encounter the latest RPGs and actively look for new Soulslike to challenge. He puts forth his experience and knowledge of gaming into captivating opinion pieces. Experience: 8+ months

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