For quite a while now, as you may have no doubt noticed, the world has been transitioning to a digital future. iTunes is a great way for musicians to show off their creations, Netflix has popularized subscribing to a service to get access to a massive quantity of movies, and video games are following suit with the Nintendo eShop, PlayStation Store, Xbox Marketplace, and most notoriously Steam.
Now, I am a big fan of having different options. It offers the consumer ways to buy the product in a format that they want it in but doesn’t limit other consumers by taking options away from them. It strikes a nice balance between the physical past and the digital future. However, on occasion, a crafty company decides to completely ditch boxes altogether.
The most recent case of this is when Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water drew ire from Nintendo fans for only being published onto the Nintendo eShop, but this isn’t the only time that the same thing has occurred. This has made me inquisitive, so I will pose the question – are physical releases better than digital releases (including the stores themselves)?
Starting off with digital releases, they have some great features right off the bat. Everything is loaded onto your hard drive, meaning that you don’t need to fish out your discs to play your games. This means that the games that you own can be booted up in about ten seconds, but could take much longer with discs. That leads me on to my second point, which is that all of your data can be quickly updated and ready to go when you next boot up the game. This also bumps up the ease of accessibility. Finally, with the online game store-fronts, the game is guaranteed to be on there. There is absolutely no way that the game you’re looking for can possibly be out of stock. All of this points to a simpler experience.
On the contrary, there are some issues with digital releases. For one, every game is starting to take up more gigabytes than ever before due to the evolution of the technology. This may mean that you’ll need another hard drive, but with systems that have an internal hard drive (like the PlayStation 4), it’s quite a big problem. Furthermore, the aforementioned shops can be quite cumbersome to navigate through, which may lead to some frustration on the user’s end. Another issue with the online shops, namely that the refund policies are atrocious. Take Steam, the recycling bin of video games, as an example: you only get two hours of gameplay before you can’t get a refund on that game. That is ludicrous.
My final problem with going digital is the End User License Agreement (EULA) you have to agree to. Essentially, you only own a license to that video game, and if the publisher feels that they must, they reserve the right to revoke your license of the game. Frankly, this is utter nonsense, and a sign that we live in an age where we do not reserve the right to possess video games.
It is much more peachy on the physical release side. The box art’s nice to have, the boxes aren’t so cumbersome, and the refund policies are much better in the ‘real world’. Physical releases win!
Seriously though, it’s all a matter of preference. All that matters is what you think, so if you don’t care about EULAs, go for digital! If you want to stay physical, go for it. It’s all down to you!