Are the days of physical media numbered?

Ever since we started seeing more and more titles being distributed via digital means I started wondering to myself about what would happen to physical boxes. The ramp up of digital releases when it comes to console or handheld games with the store options on Playstation Network, Xbox Live and Nintendo’s Eshop all offer games, music and video for purchase or rent. On the PC front gamers have long been acquainted with digital distro thanks to the rise of Valve’s Steam, EA’s Origin, Greenmangaming, GOG.com and hundreds of other services that remove the need for actual physical means. Over the last several years digital distribution has seen a 28% rise which is showing that people seem to enjoy the idea of being able to acquire their games without leaving their homes or enjoying the convenience of not having to deal with headaches when it comes to purchasing games in certain places.

A little fun fact;  According to game sales of March 2013, digital distribution accounted for $7.1 billion of a combined total of $14.8 billion that was spent on gaming. That’s 48% people, a huge difference of yesteryear when it was averaging 15%.

It goes on as this isn’t just common place with gaming. Taking a look at Apple’s iTunes or Google’s Play Store, you can pick up applications, games, music, TV shows, movies or even the every growing list of media distribution channels such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Spotify that deal with delivering media to set-top boxes, PC, mobile devices and even gaming consoles it’s clear to see where we’re headed. Companies have been seeing the demand and result of this evolution; Blu-ray, DVD and CD sales have dropped and are still on the drop, companies that only dealt in physical retail have either closed up shop or had to reduce their footprint in other to survive where other companies have heeded the call and embraced the new age of distribution and now offer both physical and digital media.

I know people tend to cling to their physical copies and argue the fact that physical is better, I completely understand that. But I consider my self a futurist when it comes to technology and I love to point out the pro’s and con’s of both sides. Consider that physical is still physical and as such it had a shelf-live or it can be broken or scratched, stolen and takes up space which is huge if you’re a college student, live in a small apartment or house. On the flip it’s always available.

On the digital side the titles are tied to your account mostly for life, they take up no physical space, it can never be damaged (Unless you delete them)and will always be accessible unless you lose internet connection. However with that comes DRM and the fact that they can’t be re-sold…. well not completely as some channels let you trade them in now and ever since it was ruled that reselling digital games was legal companies such as Microsft, Gamestop and even Valve have been looking into how reselling digital games would work.

Ultimately all signs point out that digital distribution is here to stay and that it’s slowly replacing physical media as the preferred format in all sectors. How do you feel about this and what is your preferred format?

3 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Maxfield Stanton

    Though i do agree that digital media is here to stay, what signs point at digital media slowly replacing physical media as the preferred format in all sectors?? show me these “Signs”?!!?

    alot of these game devs are wishing digital distro would take over physical sales, so i’m sure they’ll spew some bullshit like that.. but as far as consoles go, currently there are hardly any real benefits of digital distro over physical

    the price differences are still far too great with digital releases still at or near MSRP compared to physical versions droppin in price in a little over a month

    pricewise, digital media is still not convenient in terms of console gaming

    • Avatar
      Grahfex

      Pricewise? Are we talking new releases? Also, I don’t really think that digital media is going to be full blown or anything on consoles, but we’re seeing it grow steadily.

      Benefits are all in what you prefer. If you rather download from the comfort of your own home and play the game without having to wait to go home. I think Hax pointed out some valid benefits as well. Again, this is all in what you prefer as a gamer. I don’t think digital media will take over anytime soon. My reason for that is basically this. Not everyone has access to the internet. And not everyone that has access to the internet, has a super fast connection like FiOS or whatever. But, I do believe that once it becomes less expensive and faster, more people will hop on and you’ll see more of a decrease in physical media.

      That’s just my opinion though. I do enjoy downloading a game without having to leave the house. But I’m and old skool type of guy. There are those games that I just HAVE to buy from the store. Console wise that is.

      • Avatar
        Keith D. Mitchell

        I would agree however there have been PSN or XBL only titles and indie titles mostly digital only as well. The console scene isn’t like it used to be. As mentioned broadband is an issue but the world is going everyone will be connected via broadband.