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, 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?

About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Keith Mitchell is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grid. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. Available for podcasts upon request.