For the last few years, the argument over whether physical or digital versions of games are better, have been circling the gaming industry. Creators, developers, collectors, and casual players debate over the pros and cons that go with both physical and digital copies.
This conversation really took off in August of 2014 when a playable trailer (P.T) for a new installation of the Silent Hill series was taken off the PSN store. Fans of Hideo Kojima fell in love with the P.T and were devastated when it was removed due to a falling out between creator and studio. To further the blow, it wasn’t available for re-download if you had done so in the past, leaving a small number of accounts having the game on their system.
Another huge blow was the side-scrolling game, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World being removed from the PSN Store in 2013, leaving tons of fans without the ability to download it after they had already purchased it.
While this is not the case for every digital release game that has been taken off stores, these two games caused quite an uproar and caused Playstations with the game files on them to be sold at high prices on eBay.
Of course, there have been dozens of games that have gotten the same treatment of being pulled off digital stores and unplayable. This is due a lot of times to character, music, or logo licensing running out, or quarrels between studios and creators. Or, they have a physical copy, but the game is only playable online, which sounds fine and all until servers are shut down, making them useless.
So why buy digital with the chance of never being able to play the game again? A huge reason digital games are so popular is because of the convenience of them. A digital library of dozens of games can easily fit on a console or a PC without having to store discs, cases, and even cartridges for those games. With consoles becoming more portable, like the Nintendo Switch and 3DS, the idea of carrying around fewer games makes sense. A pro of digital gaming that isn’t mentioned as much, is that digital games go on sale more often than physical. Stores like Steam, Xbox Live, and PSN have games on sale daily, and often times, physical counterparts in stores don’t match the digital sale price.
However, you truly don’t own a game when you buy it digitally. It’s more of a rental. If you were to buy a game off Steam, or any other online store, play half of it, keep it in your library, and it gets taken off and you’re no longer able to download it, it is no longer yours. A physical copy is yours until you get rid of it. A lot of game collectors make the argument that if you are ever going to sell your gaming device, you will only get money back for the device, and not the digital games on it. Whereas a stack of discs and cartridges will get you money back.*
All in all, it comes down to the developers on whether or not they want to preserve their games. Fans have resorted to emulating games, illegally, so that they and other players have a chance to play great games again. Time and time again, there are lawsuits for fans emulating games that have been lost to the digital-only world. Games like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and even older retro games often get the emulation treatment. Even Silent Hill P.T had its fair share of emulations that were taken down by the company.
So if the excitement for the game is there, why are developers not fighting for the games to be left up?
Let me know what you think about digital games. Do you prefer them over physical?
*This is in a situation where you are selling games to a store such as GameStop, Movie Trading Company, video game stores, etc.