Is a completely digital future, in your future?

I’ve been noticing this trend with myself, more and more with each passing day. I’ve noticed this when Gamestop had their big (and abused) trade-in deal. I can see myself doing it whenever Amazon has a sweet promo and I definitely see it happening whenever  I see a game on sale, despite never have played it before.

But what exactly have I noticed, seeing how I’ve omitted to state that? Well, it’s something I’m sure that many of you have noticed with yourself as well – getting rid of your physical games and replacing them with digital copies. It’s ok, it’s not a bad thing, you don’t have to hide it. The truth of the matter, at least for me, is that I’ve been picking up digital copies of games more and more unless it comes in some sort of collector’s edition (Because I like shiny stuff). Outside of that, I can easily state that out of my last 10 game purchases, 6 of them were digital.

ARMS, Splatoon 2, Final Fantasy XII, Ultra Street Fighter 2, Forza Horizon 3, Gears of War 4, Persona 5, and I could keep going, are all digital in my game library. That’s not even counting the upcoming games for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or Switch. In addition, that I once owned physical copies off, have been sold away and replaced with digital versions of them self. Bloodborne, Dark Souls 3, Horizon Zero Dawn, Ratchet and Clank – the list goes on and on.

I suppose I have the PC to thank since damn near every game released for the PC is a digital-only game. In fact, PC gamers have been pushed/thrust/restricted to this form of digital-only media for the past 15 years – so it only makes sense that the consoles are following suit. And with Sony and Microsoft pushing many of their titles via their respective online stores, more and more gamers will eventually follow the lead as I have. It’s sort of like a digital paradise, except there’s still the issue of several negatives that could easily destroy this fairy tale.

Broadband, Accounts, and Discounts

Since I live in North America, I can only address the issues in this country. This country and the fact that while we’re called the best nation in the world, our broadband woes are easily some of the worse on the globe. Between multiple ISP’s basically raping the heck out of its customers, they also introduced data caps.  Thankfully, while some of those caps are pretty restrictive, others have gotten better due to outside interaction. Take Comcast for example, they had a 250GB at once point but has since been upgraded to a 1TB data cap.

With that much data being available, you might as well not even have a data cap. For as much stuff that I do, with Netflix, Hulu, PS Vue and game downloads, I’ve yet to hit 1TB of data usage. Yet, not all ISPs are on the same page, and some still have data caps under 400-500GB. Now, that’s a limit that I know many people can and have hit, easily. Download a few games, with day one patches at 35GB a piece and you can say goodbye to your available data usage.Still, if you want my honest opinion on data caps, they’re shit. All they are is an attempt to get more money from the consumer. Despite the cost per megabyte being the lowest that it’s been in a long time.

Still, if you want my honest opinion on data caps, they’re shit. All they are is an attempt to get more money from the consumer. Despite the cost per megabyte being the lowest that it’s been in a long time.

Then there’s the little (huge) issue about losing access to your account. Ths has happened frequently on the PlayStation side of things, while Xbox gamers are still in the same boat. You could get compromised due to either a poor password or social engineering, or even a charge back. Yes, Sony, we’re all aware on how you handle charge backs and banning someone’s account. Anything that to your account (PSN, Xbox Live, Steam, Origin) can be a disaster for a gamer as that also cuts you off from accessing your content. For many of us, we have hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of games invested. 

To make things worse, and I have to do my due diligence to make you aware of this, there is still no clear cut answer to what happens to those games if those services called it quits. While I’m sure that neither Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network is going to up and disappear (outside of DDoS attacks), no one knows what will happen to the money that we all have tied up in digital goods. I’m willing to bet that neither Sony or Microsoft (or Valve) even know for sure. Though I’d love to find that out for myself.

And of course, there’s the little issue of discounts. Or lack of them, I should say. While two of the biggest discount clubs, Amazon Prime and Best Buy’s Gamer’s Club, over 20% off of all physical games – this hasn’t been extended to digital codes. Now, this is a problem, even for me as who doesn’t like getting some money back in their pockets at any given time. There’s a big difference from paying $47.99, versus $59.99 on new releases and this is a big detractor for going digital. 

Last I checked, neither Amazon or Best Buy have given any thought to providing purchasers of digital game codes a break on pricing. Which is weird, since they still get the same piece of the sale, so what exactly is stopping this from happening?

It’s not all doom and gloom

So while I just went over the negatives, let’s shine the light a few of the positives, shall we?

Digital gaming affords us with several exception reasons to jump on board. First of all, it is super convenient. When A new game comes out and instead of hitting up the local gaming or electronic store, you can just download it. Yes, depending on the amount of traffic that either the PSN, Xbox Live or Nintendo eShop servers are getting, the time it takes will vary. Still, there’s nothing better than pre-ordering a game and having it download with little interaction from you. This also extends to every game available in those digital store fronts. No fuss, no wait – just download it.

It’s an all digital Nintendo future for me!

Then there’s the ability to access your games at any time and from any location. There’s nothing I hate more than taking my consoles with me when I head out to E3, PAX, or any another gaming event. Just the amount of stuff I have to take is enough, I definitely don’t want to carry my game cases as well. Don’t even get me started when I travel several hundred miles, thinking that all my games are with me – only to find out there they were left on the kitchen table (that has happened more than once). It’s not a good feeling. When you go all digital, those games go with you. As long as you have access to the internet, you can simply re-download those games. Then you get the warm and fuzzies.

That also extends to sharing your games. With PSN and Xbox Live, you can setup an account on several consoles, download your games and then anyone who has access to the system can play your games. Even better, with PSN and as long as you have it setup correctly, you can even play the same game – at the same time! Honestly, I wish more companies (I’m looking at you, Valve) would implement this, with restrictions, mind you.

But I’m quickly finding out that my favorite benefit is safe guarding all my games. I’m a father of two children. Children who like to take my stuff, play it, toss it around, scratch it and my recent favorite – losing my games. I can’t recall how many times one of my Nintendo Switch games or 3DS games managed to disappear, never to be found again. Especially with the latter. Those things are so damned small, I simply gave up with the physical games for both. I still have an APB out for my Mario Kart 8 Deluxe that went missing a few weeks ago – I’m pretty sure it wasn’t left in California (I hope).

There are still several advantages to go digital, however, I’ve only listed my three big selling points. Have you given any thought on going strictly digital or perhaps you already have? Maybe you still aren’t convinced about it just yet. Either way, we’d love to know what you think about digital vs physical gaming, in the comments below.

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.