“All media are extensions of some human faculty -- psychic or physical.”
November 6, 2017 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Our Choices to Buy Physical or Digital Games Are Controlling Our Gaming Habits [Game Revolution] “Outside of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’ve logged the most Nintendo Switch hours playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The former I purchased on a physical cartridge, while the latter was received via digital code as a review copy. It may seem minor, but the more I think about it, the more certain I am that I wouldn’t have played either game as much had they swapped places. As digital marketplaces have become increasingly commonplace and storage becomes cheaper, most players have begun to establish a consistent preference: I prefer digital, or I prefer hard copies.”

• Nintendo makes buying Switch games much harder than it should be [Polygon]
“Why cartridges suck: The biggest problem is that — and please excuse me for going back to the basics here — cartridges are physical objects. You have to remember to pack them if you’re traveling, and you can lose one if you’re playing your Switch while you’re out and about. You have to find a place to put these tiny things, and if you want to play another game, you have to remove the cartridge that’s in there and put in the other game. These are tiny annoyances that add up to a bad experience when you’re taking your system out of your house, and the portable nature of the Switch is one of its selling points. Having all of your games stored on system memory so you can’t lose any of your purchases and you can swap games at will is very nice, especially with a house filled with little kids. There is also the fact that physical Switch games may be more expensive than the digital versions, and that extra $10 adds up if you buy many games throughout the year. You’re getting gouged if you buy third-party games on cartridges, and that sucks.”
• EA reckons 40% of console game sales will be downloads by the end of 2017 [Eurogamer]
“It's no secret the video game industry is trending towards digital, with an increasing percentage of console game sales coming from downloads each year. But for EA, that trend is moving faster than it predicted.In a financial call last night, EA predicted the industry will end 2017 probably above 40 per cent for full-game downloads. If correct, it means we're hurtling towards that magical 50 per cent milestone. The debate about whether to go physical or download when it comes to buying a video game is a long-running one. Buying a disc means you can trade it in or sell it on. Typically, buying a disc is cheaper than downloading a full console game, too, with often prohibitive prices on the Xbox and PlayStation stores. But clearly more and more people are going with downloads, despite these issues. If you've got a fast internet connection, it's pretty convenient after all.”
• Shovel Knight Dev Speaks Out in Favor of Physical Game Releases [Playstation Lifestyle]
“In an interview with Games Industry, programmer David D’Angelo noted that gamers today are not only able to treasure old purchases but they’re also able to pick up retro titles and play. “What are you going to do when the eShop or PSN or Xbox Live is shut down, and you want to play an old game?” he questioned. “Making a physical product means you are creating something that is in the world forever – unless they put it in the garbage.” D’Angelo also mentioned adaptability. “If I was a grandma buying a game for my grandkids, I am not exactly going to gift it to them through Steam,” he said. Though wallet top-up cards are available at stores, there’s still the question of how long people can keep or play digital purchases, which they can’t sell or trade either.”
• 3 Reasons Digital Games Are Better, And 3 Excuses For Why I Still Prefer Physical [Now Loading]
Choosing what format to buy your game is almost as important as what system you buy: it's a choice you'll forever be stuck with. You could be kicking yourself a week or even months or years later and be forced to shell out more cash because of a poor choice. To decide what's best for you, you'll have to take a look at the problems you individually face as a gamer: Do you want the newest games immediately? Are you low on hard drive space? Are you prone to losing your games? What works best for you?

Why You Should Buy Digital
1. There's a reason a number of gamers pre-order. It's not so much the fear that a game will sell out, it's for the immediacy.
2. Things get misplaced, it's just a fact of life.
3. Let's face it, gamers can be very lazy at times. You don't wanna get up for anything—you're in the gaming zone.
Why You Should Buy Physical
1. 500GB isn't gonna cut it any more.
2. The truth is some gamers don't have internet access.
3. You can't lend them, trade, sell, you can only play the game on one specific console or a very limited amount of consoles linked to the account.
posted by Fizz (44 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This is such a weird thing to read as a PC gamer. Hahaha buying disc copies.

In any event, AAA games are moving to a service model where the game only exists for as long as the servers stay up, and between that and day one patching the discs seem pointless to me. And indie games don't have physical releases generally outside of special editions.

2. The truth is some gamers don't have internet access.

The bigger issue is that many gamers (and more every day as ISPs in the US become shittier) have data caps. Imagine being the person who buys a new Xbox One X and discovers the 4K assets for their new game download are equal to their entire monthly provision.
posted by selfnoise at 10:03 AM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

The price difference between digital and physical is infuriating.

I have most of my Switch games as cartridges. They're so small and fiddly that its a miracle I haven't lost one yet. Or broken that stupid door on the console. Or ripped it off in frustration.

We use no other physical media in the house, no DVDs or CDs or even Books these days. Everything else is downloads and always available on a range of devices. The cartridges just feel so antiquated and irritating. From a user experience point of view its pretty bad. My youngest daughter was genuinely baffled when I explained that the game being in the little menu of thumbnails doesn't mean you can actually play it, you have to walk upstairs and find the magic token first. I might as well have been explaining a steam engine.

It really is inexcusable that you can't load a game onto the console and then "lock" the cartridge to that console, a lock that'd only be removed when you deleted the game and that deletion was reported back to Nintendo. Even better would be locking to an account and being able to log in to any console to see your games and saves... like a Chromebook style experience for the Switch. But dreaming about ways Nintendo could have developed a sane and modern online strategy is a road to madness and ruin...
posted by samworm at 10:12 AM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

The bigger issue is that many gamers (and more every day as ISPs in the US become shittier) have data caps. Imagine being the person who buys a new Xbox One X and discovers the 4K assets for their new game download are equal to their entire monthly provision.

And this also applies to streaming movies, which is why I'm shocked DVDS are considered obsolete.
posted by Beholder at 10:12 AM on November 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

For me it very much depends on the system I'm playing on. I've been entirely digital on my gaming PC for the last couple of years. I try not to think about what will happen when/if Steam ever goes down and I lose access to all my stuff. I have 3 hard-drives (two SSD and one HDD) and I still don't have enough gbs to support my entire library.

But for handhelds like my 3DS or the Switch, I always go physical because I like having cartridges that I can share and lend out to other friends. Also, Nintendo handhelds and consoles have always had very limited memory.
posted by Fizz at 10:12 AM on November 6, 2017

Remember a few years ago when all of Nintendo's Online presence ceased to function because they had partnered with Gamecrazy and Gamecrazy went under? I remember, because the online features (including trade and online battle) for the 4th generation of Pokemon games were shuttered.

I imagine that only for an entire systems worth of games and I weep for the digital only customers that exist out there.

I buy physical whenever possible. In fact, I held off for a year waiting for a physical copy of Minecraft for my Vita.
posted by Twain Device at 10:13 AM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

My first experience of digital download was in the early days of steam. It never worked and that put me off for quite a while. Then I moved somewhere with lousy broadband so it wasn't on the cards though I have it now I wasn't motivated to buy games that way, though obviously I used it for upgrades/patches.

Last year I bought a PS4 and took up the deal from amazon to get the as then unnamed Uncharted 4 DLC (Lost Legacy) for a tenner. About a year later it came out, the code for download from Sony didn't work and since it was no longer for sale on Amazon they passed the buck to Sony, who didn't reply to online contact. Eventually Amazon worked something out to get the disc version to me. That's not exactly sparked a new faith in buying via download. I cancelled my pre-order of the download for Red Dead Redemption 2 and will likely plump for paying a little extra from my local independent game shop for the next couple of releases I want. I did pick up a download copy of "Everyone's gone to the Rapture" for a fiver recently and that went fine but I am loath to risk more expensive game downloads.

So on one hand its a once bitten twice shy thing for me. But the other thing is that I have picked up a few games and hated them pretty rapidly and like being able to take them in and get a credit note a week later for some reasonable fraction of the spend rather than being SOL if I buy a stinker on download.
posted by biffa at 10:13 AM on November 6, 2017

I have two Switch cartridges, BoTW and Has Been Heroes. HBH might as well not exist to me because BoTW is always in the slot. I have a 200GB card and I still have 140GB free yet I own over a dozen games so far.

There’s no question for me because I want it all on the device. If it gets stolen I buy a new switch, I reauthenticate, I call Nintendo support, and it’s all back.
posted by Talez at 10:14 AM on November 6, 2017

My problem is I have a 3Mb DSL connection that can't be raised (too far from the CO - AT&T gave me a 5Mb upgrade for being a good customer that had to be removed as it was causing problems).

I love digital to no end, as I am a loser of CD keys, and have even repurchased several titles I owned physical copies of for that reason. That being said, I am already dealing with the fallout of the GfWL debacle.

So, yeah, I am conflicted.
posted by Samizdata at 10:19 AM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

i still buy music.... on physical media. come at me bro
posted by entropicamericana at 10:29 AM on November 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

I prefer digital, but I've bought a number of physical games lately because Amazon gives you a 20% pre-order incentive on them.
posted by grobstein at 10:31 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

i still buy music.... on physical media. come at me bro

I'm almost totally digital for video games but I love love love having music CDs. No clue why.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:34 AM on November 6, 2017

The data issue also applies to physical discs, though (and I bet cartridges as well). I can't remember the last time I installed something with discs and didn't have an immediate 20 gig patch to download.
posted by Copronymus at 10:39 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

... I don't find that digital vs. physical on console affects which games I play more.

On PC I never play physical games obviously. I still have some game discs somewhere but they are doomed to languish. My main PC doesn't have a physical media drive (unless you count SD ... I don't think they sell PC games on SD). The other gaming "PC" I sometimes use is in a rack in an Amazon data center, what am I gonna do Fedex them a DVD?

To me the more significant difference in game modalities is console vs. PC. The PC is more flexible, I take it almost everywhere, etc. The console is homebound and, often, hampered by UI obstacles in the way of loading games (ironically). My audiovisual setup for console is much better but I probably favor PC anyway because of flexibility, ease of use, and the fact that I'm usually already at my PC. (In fact, here is an argument in favor of console-exclusive games -- a rather awful one that nonetheless might be true for me: they force you to play them in a focused setting more conducive to appreciation.)
posted by grobstein at 10:42 AM on November 6, 2017

i still buy music.... on physical media. come at me bro

I buy a lot less new music than I do new video games, so personally I really like to buy vinyl records that come with download codes. Best of both worlds, without having to do any CD ripping or anything.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:48 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

As someone in the process of moving and procrastinating on that very task at this very moment, this article resonates. I found a box full of optical media that I had utterly forgotten about in the back of the closet, under other boxes. I hadn't thought about a single one of these disks in at least three years - the last time I packed and moved them, probably. I'm on Spotify, I'm on Netflix, I'm on Steam and just this summer, I finally put the Kindle app on my phone. The media I'm currently engaged in all lives in the air - I don't own a copy of a single movie I've seen in years, or song that I've listened to. Netflix and Spotify are so cheap that even piracy seems obtuse. ~$10-$15 a month is more than worth not dealing with the hassle.

Likewise Steam games. Half a dozen times or so a year, they're so cheap that my cartridge-era brain feels like I'm robbing the place. Or they come at you in bundles - a dozen games at once, all for a price I would have been happy to pay for a single title ten years ago. It feels, I don't know, almost irresponsible. I throttled back on game purchasing when I began to really add up all the time it was still going to to cost me to play through my backlog. I'm mighty grateful that I didn't have to box up and haul a physical version of my Steam library, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, the few physical copies of PC games I still have that turned up during packing kind of stymied me. Like, these were once really important objects but now it was like, what are you still doing here? I forgot that a few survived the last physical media purge. I was reluctant to put them in the Goodwill box because they represented a couple hundred dollars spent, but who would I resell these to? I had replaced all of them with bundle purchases since I last opened this box, so why would I keep them? My copy of Company of Heroes was on CD - fucking six of them, as I recall. I would need to purchase an external optical drive for my laptop to even get at this data, then settle in for a day's worth of patch downloads after. Replacing it with a digital copy cost me maybe $2. I would definitely pay someone $2 to deal with the physical media hassle for me. And right now, the freight space they would cost me is more valuable to me than their backup physical media value. Life is full of tough choices, and my Goodwill box is full of old PC games.

As for format changing play habits, I think there's something to that. Starting a digital game is so painless that if I try one once and bounce off it at first, that's not the end. It took me many false starts and rage quits before Crusader Kings II made sense to me. If that process had included the all the old fiddling-with-disks steps, I don't know if it would have gone the same way. I might have just put something more familiar in the drive and stuck with that, as this author describes. Goddamn that looks lazy typed out, and maybe it is, but it's the truth. Water still runs downhill and all.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:52 AM on November 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Another Switch owner here. I feel like I'm kind of the cartridge/download Daywalker here -- I buy the big releases on physical because I'd like to be able to resell them sometime down the line if I get tired of them, but am also 100% fine with buying smaller indie releases as downloads. My line for download vs. physical tends to be price -- any higher than $30 and I opt for the physical.

I'll also buy physical if doing so constitutes an upgrade from a game that was previously download-only; the boxed edition of The Binding of Isaac comes to mind, since I'd previously bought it no less than three times (in various editions/expansions) on Steam before it even existed on cartridge. It even comes with a little Zelda-inspired instruction manual and Isaac stickers, which are a lovely bonuses for fans.

As far as keeping track of the cartridges goes, I spent $10 USD for a zippered carry case that holds the Switch + joycons and also stores up to a dozen cartridges. It's absolute overkill in terms of the carrying the number of games that I am likely to play in a given bus commute, but it keeps the system safe and secure in my backpack.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:52 AM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Pros for Digital - I don't wanna live in a non-degradable broken plastic hellscape

Pros for Phys Copy - I don't wanna live in a corporate, DRM-controlled hellscape

Reality - we already there, we just don't see it on the daily :(
posted by runt at 11:01 AM on November 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

In the Digital vs Physical debate, I'd personally perfer if I could have both. If the Switch allowed me to download the whole game from the cart or had some kind of download code (like some vinyl or DVD/Blu-rays do) then I think this would be a total win for the consumer. While digital allows flexibility owning the physical copy allows you to actually own it and do with it as you will (sell, lend, trade...) and as a particular console gentrifies and the downloads are no longer available (or their service disappears or goes out of business) you can still use the physical discs to play.

As for other physical media, sadly neither Netflix nor Spotify cater to my tastes.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:08 AM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Considering that the hard drive on my ps4 (500GB) holds like, what? 10 AAA titles with a 50GB footprint, I'm much more likely to go physical unless there's no other option (and usually those are indie games with a much smaller memory footprint anyway) because I inevitably end up needing to swap games out and a ~15-20min download from disc is much less annoying than a 4-6 hour download from the store (even with fast internet). Also selling off a bunch of games I'm bored with for a new one is a bonus.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:12 AM on November 6, 2017

For me to buy physical media requires either a game that's a big event for me and will be played obsessively for a while (BOTW, Super Mario Odyssey, Persona 5), a significant discount only available by buying physical, or both. Games that either can or should be played in smaller chunks for a longer time (Animal Crossing, puzzle games like Picross) I definitely prefer to buy via download.

And then there are all the Playstation Plus games I've got for which downloadable is the only option. This does not go as neatly with Sony's annoyingly expensive proprietary Vita memory as I'd like.

As far as PC goes, I should probably get an optical drive so I can get at my ancient CDs more easily. At least I've got them all in binders so they don't take up too much space.
posted by asperity at 11:14 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have two Switches because they are magnificent and I hate you, Nintendo, but I don't know how to quit you. I buy anything my sons might want to play on "their" switch physical so we can share it and everything else I buy digital and put it on "my" Switch and the boys see it and go "What is that? Is that a chicken? Is that corn? What's a Stardew? That looks cool can we try?" So then I buy it again digitally but not before entering my credit card information into my son's account because you can't have the same account on two Switches because somehow then the PIRATES WOULD TAKE OVER THE WORLD and the terrorists would win and Lord only knows what else and . . . OK. . . . Deep breath.

Anyway, so I buy stuff we might want to share on cart, because that's the only way to share. Physically pop out the cartridge; hope the crappy little door doesn't break off (I'm looking at you, kickstand); move it to the other machine; hope that machine is where the saves you want are. Because saves are physically bound to the console and can't be moved because its 2017 and there is no cloud SAVING even because that's not something we worked out two decades ago and, I don't know, pirates again or something? And you can't even put saves on an external memory card reliably and I can't take it I'm going to lose it -- the red haze! THE RED HAZE!

Why did I come into this thread, again?
posted by The Bellman at 12:29 PM on November 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

I think we're at the point where customers can be forced into paying more for the convenience of digital - I recently bought Endless Space 2 and it was USD39.99 on Steam but AUD29 at retail for a physical copy at JB Hi-Fi.
posted by xdvesper at 1:00 PM on November 6, 2017

My husband refuses to get digital downloads for anything that's not an MMORPG, he's paranoid that if the company were to go out of business he'd not be able to access his content anymore. But I think this reasoning is becoming more and more obsolete as even physical games usually have downloadable patches and content that are mandatory - there's no guarantee that you'll still be able to play any of the games in 10 years.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 1:40 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've downloaded pirate versions of games rather than dig the disc out of that big box in the garage more times than I can count.
posted by straight at 1:46 PM on November 6, 2017

i still buy music.... on physical media. come at me bro

I have a bunch of CDs still in wrappers in my desk that people have given me as presents and I don't have the heart to tell them that I don't have a way to play them.
posted by octothorpe at 2:03 PM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

as even physical games usually have downloadable patches and content that are mandatory - there's no guarantee that you'll still be able to play any of the games in 10 years.

Yes this assumes that people have Internet and it also assumes that people have enough memory. And it's a problem that people are already experiencing.

Third-Party Nintendo Switch Games Are So Damn Big [Kotaku]
“Even if you buy the physical edition of NBA 2K18, there’s a 6.8GB download once you first start it up, an “additional software update” that’s 16GB and then you’ll also need 5GB of memory per save file. And Resident Evil Revelations is even bigger: Revelations 1 is 13GB and Revelations 2 is 26GB if you get the digital version, and if you buy the cartridge, you only get the first game, with the second having to be downloaded.

Oh, and anyone buying WWE 2K18 on cartridge still has a 24GB download to look forward to.

The reasons for this are pretty clear: Nintendo’s games have been coded from the ground up to run on this hardware, while all these third-party releases are ports from other platforms. And Switch cartridges are only 16GB in capacity, so when there’s overrun, it’s got to be shifted to a download.”
posted by Fizz at 2:09 PM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

For me... I just realized that I rarely if ever replay games, so the permanence of them doesn't even matter.

That and cloud saves, oh my gosh what a wonderful thing. I had a HD fail without backup (since all it had was my steam library) and once the new one arrived I just installed it, pointed Steam at it, and went to work. Got home and all my games were ready right where I'd left off.
posted by selfnoise at 2:15 PM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Roughly the way I'm thinking about things:

Breath of the Wild - this is an absurdly long masterpiece I'm going to spend 200 hours soaking up, so it'll sit in the cartridge slot and get played a ton for long stretches at a time - it just fits as physical media. 15 years from now I'm going to want to revisit it, and it's such a work of art that it's something I want in my home collection. It elevates my surroundings just as a token of a great experience - like keeping Criterion Collection films on my bookshelf. It's a top 10 of all time game, something seems wrong about sacrificing that permanence and visibility for the sake of mere convenience of access on my system.

Stardew Valley - are you kidding me? this game should be labeled a Class A drug, give me as many instant hits as possible, I just wanna dip in for 5 minutes and tend to my farm in between the longer narrative experiences of BotW etc. The quicker I can get from waking up my Switch to getting into the flow of the game, the better, and physical cartridge swapping is just going to be detrimental to that. Sure it's a masterpiece, but one that just feels right sitting directly in the storage of the system for easy loading and retrieval.

Third-Party Nintendo Switch Games Are So Damn Big

If you get a Switch, you should get a high speed micro SD card (the kind they make for digital cameras) as soon as possible. I opted for 256 GB.
posted by naju at 2:21 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

You have to find a place to put these tiny things,

The complaint here is that there's no space for your collection of tiny plastic carts? The cases are quite small, and the carts even smaller. The trick, dear reader, is not to hoard them.

To me the more significant difference in game modalities is console vs. PC. The PC is more flexible, I take it almost everywhere, etc. The console is homebound and, often, hampered by UI obstacles in the way of loading games (ironically).

The switch is in the unique position of being a portable, flexible console. You can switch between docked mode and mobile just by taking it out of the dock. There's a surprising amount of crossover between docked only players and mobile only players. However, I don't generally take it anywhere, because it's too big to fit into pockets, and if I'm going to the effort of carrying a backpack, may as well take the laptop instead.

3. You can't lend them, trade, sell, you can only play the game on one specific console or a very limited amount of consoles linked to the account.

This. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but digital games are a rip-off. They're priced equally, but the digital is largely a rip-off. I can typically recover about half of what I paid for a game, so digital games are roughly 2x as expensive.

That said there's huge incentives to move the market to digital:
1. No inventory risk. If you license a film property and produce a million copies of the game that don't sell, you don't have to find a hole in the desert to bury them.
2. No competition from rentals, second hand sales, libraries or any other facet of the sharing economy.
3. So many middlemen cut out. Why do you think Best Buy and Amazon offer pre-order discounts? It's because they're still buying games at 50 percent MSRP, and are happy to make additional no-risk sales by discounting. Pretty sure the only reason these two don't discount more heavily is because they're restricted from doing so.

The main barrier to digital I know of is that you will piss off retailers if you price digital below retail physical, because they'll lose a lot of sales with up front price conscious consumers. Which probably explains a lot of the pricing problem -- losing your up-front Wal-Mart and Gamestop orders is an incredible risk. Only the PC crowd has moved towards discount digital pricing, largely because indie devs see it as a way to break out and Steam's hired economist in residence pointed out that 25 percent of 1 sale is worth more than 100 percent of zero sales.
posted by pwnguin at 2:55 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

PC wise, I hope Steam doesn't die one day, and in the meantime I buy from GOG when I have the option. I have also backups of old discs on hard drives. For console I opt for physical media when I can because it's inexplicably* cheaper and because no console maker has acceptable policies for online infrastructure and support. This means I have to wait a bit more for Super Mario Odyssey, but hey.
posted by ersatz at 2:58 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't think digital games are a ripoff, I put no value on a case that will gather dust on my shelves. And I don't buy games with the intention to resell them so I personally don't place any value on that, so all of my games are always digital. My husband collects things though and feels that he has to "own" it, and he doesn't feel any sense of ownership with digital. So he waits for the game of the year editions for console games that come with all of the downloadable content and first day patches already on the disks, the tradeoff is that he still hasn't played Fallout 4 even though it's one of his favorite series, he was waiting for that all inclusive edition (it IS out now finally so he'll get to play).
posted by Hazelsmrf at 3:33 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

In general, I only buy digital if it's really, really cheap, because price depreciation is even worse than a new car. If I'm in a jam, my physical game collection is worth something, while my Steam account is worth nothing.

For new PC Games, yeah, it's not like those games retain any value because all it matters is if the code on the back of the manual is used or not (although I did buy a few games for cents because I wanted the manual/maps), but for instance, why should I fork €70 for FIFA 18 for PS4 at the PS store when the physical version is at the same price on the street, and I can flip that disk for some cash back later on? It's not like I play 20 games at once and swapping discs is such a hassle.
posted by lmfsilva at 4:14 PM on November 6, 2017

I buy everything on physical discs/media that I can.

That means music (CDs), movies (BluRay), and console games.
I would dearly love to buy PC games on physical media, but its basically impossible. The last time I tried, I ended up getting what was basically a box with a steam key in it (Civ 6).

Digital means I can't freely lend/trade/sell. It means I have to worry about keeping my account, the service not going under, etc. For music and movies, there are zero advantages, as I can also rip a copy and use it digitally, without losing control of the base media/license. For games, there is no real advantage to digital either --- the console / handheld already has a slot for the game disc/cartridge. I guess the only disadvantage is I might have to stand up when I want to change games? If I'm changing games more often than I'm standing up anyway something is weird/wrong.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:06 PM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't see any advantages in having physical CDs instead of MP3s, I can put the MP3s on multiple devices so I always have access to my collection, I can store hundreds of hours of music on my phone without needing to carry my CD collection with me. Also, ugh, jewel cases. I always manage to crack the case, break off one of the hinges, AND break the little pins that hold the CD in the case. Leading to scratched CDs that don't play anyways. I don't even buy MP3s anymore, I just use Spotify and download my playlists.

It is the same for movies, I can share the movie files to my iPad and stream it via Plex to my TV, I can't do that with a DVD/Bluray. I also much prefer digital photos to shelves full of hard copy photos, some things just make sense to have in a digital format. And books... I held out because I don't want to bring my iPad in the bath with me and what will I do if I can't read in the tub! I ended up just getting a waterproof case for my iPad, problem solved, I can get rid of most of my books now.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 7:17 PM on November 6, 2017

It is the same for movies, I can share the movie files to my iPad and stream it via Plex to my TV, I can't do that with a DVD/Bluray

Well, you can rip the DVD/BluRay. I guess you can also strip the DRM from a downloaded version, though, and in this case both have DRM (download or disc). In my case it's also impossible to legally get a digital copy, since I need out-of-country subtitles (Japanese subtitles for American movies) which means I'd have to deal with VPN issues or get the discs. For some reason no one sells either digital or disc copies with subtitles in languages not commonly found in North America, even though they sell copies with those subtitles abroad (so they obviously exist).

For music, it's that I want to legally pay for it, but the sources for that either have DRM or are companies I refuse to do business with (Apple, for example).
posted by thefoxgod at 7:49 PM on November 6, 2017

I'm fine with digital downloads for games as long as I have a copy of the installer I can keep around. Steam sketches me out. Console downloads sketch me out. As far as I'm aware, the only game I've paid money for that pointlessly requires a server connection is Mario Run, but that's only because I don't play a lot of games and hardly ever play anything that's not an indie. It'd be a lot harder to avoid otherwise.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:18 PM on November 6, 2017

> I buy everything on physical discs/media that I can.

So did I until very recently for much the same reasons but I've mostly given it up, I'm too lazy to resell and I prefer avoiding the clutter.

CDs are by far the best option for legally paying for music but if possible I prefer giving the artist money on their site/bandcamp/whatever then pirate the cd rip because digital downloads can't be trusted.

For games though, there's barely a point anymore for physical with modern games. Even if I wanted to replay something in the future the disc wouldn't have the patches.
If I'm still hostage to the combination of functioning hardware + internet access + vendor good-will might as well not bother with owning the thing at all. I now operate on the assumption that I'll play it now and probably never again.
posted by Bangaioh at 4:15 AM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

With PC games, we've reached the point where some physical copies are literally just a box with a code in it. The last three games I bought via PC physical:

South Park: The Fractured But Whole - Steam code for The Stick of Truth (previous game included as a first-print bonus), three DVDs and a UPlay code for the actual game; I don't think you need any additional downloads to start playing

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus - One DVD and a Steam code, requires additional download via Steam

Call of Duty: WWII - One Steam code, NO disc, says on the box that an internet connection is required and there is no disc present in the package.

I think EA has started doing this as well. Given that Call of Duty was a whopping 75+ GB, it makes sense that they didn't want to include ten DVDs (Blu-Ray player penetration isn't nearly high enough to justify a move to BD-ROMs), but eventually console games will have the same issues.
posted by chrominance at 8:29 AM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

With PC games, we've reached the point where some physical copies are literally just a box with a code in it.

Destiny 2 on PC comes with a disc, but it's made of paper. [Kotaku]
Destiny 2 launched on PC just yesterday, meaning that many hopeful fans received a physical box either from an online retailer or their local brick-and-mortar shop. But, as it turns out, the game case is basically empty. Inside there’s just a paper disc with a Battle.net code printed on it. The absence of an actual game disc is all the more curious given that Destiny 2 was sold in several special collector’s editions, which featured a decorative steel case ... for a fake game disc.
posted by Fizz at 9:03 AM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Damn I miss discs. I took me three and a half days to download Wolfenstein II.
posted by homunculus at 3:53 PM on November 7, 2017

I bought carts for the games I got for the Switch [1] because I am an old and wasn't prepared to buy digital-only. Not that I am put out by digital only; I have bought things on Steam many a time. But somehow on consoles it seems sketchier, particularly with the stories I'd heard about iffyness moving save files etc.

I greatly regret my decision. Because now I have to get up and fiddle with the device to switch fiddly little carts when I want to play Splatoon once the kiddo is in bed. This is my first console since the Wii and Xbox360 so I had not had time to get adjusted to this idea of downloaded stuff on a console. I am still really put out by this big money for things I have 0 ability to resell or give away but... ::shrug:: Get off my lawn etc.

[1] Mario Kart because the almost-5-year-old was asking to play the arcade game and $1 a play for his skill level (for any skill level) is offensive; obvs the solution to that is a $200+ console and $50 game. Splatoon 2 because it looked super fun and I thought perhaps I could actually play reasonably well in a way I can no longer manage on the other run & gun games with my old-ass eyes and reaction times. I was right about the first thing, anyway.
posted by phearlez at 4:33 PM on November 8, 2017

GodDAMN IT! I requested a physical copy of Destiny 2 as a Christmas present (remember the 3mbit DSL) and I have to see it here it is a download only!


See you all online next February (if I am lucky)...
posted by Samizdata at 12:55 AM on November 9, 2017

Another reason I only buy physical on consoles is the stupid region stuff on Sony and Nintendo consoles. Especially Sony. There is no way to change your region on your PSN account. So if I move to another region, I either stick with my existing account or have to start a whole new account and switch accounts based on what game I'm playing. With digital, if I buy the game on a US account and later need a JP account, I have to switch back to the US account every time I want to play the US game, and the JP account to play JP games. With physical games this is less of an issue since it will run on either account.

Nintendo doesn't seem to lock updates, so I guess its more OK, but since there's no way to change your account region (console region yes, account region no) I'm still worried about getting locked out or having to VPN everything.

Microsoft is the only good one here, you can change your XBox account region and your licenses follow you (and I have occasionally bought digital on XBox, but I still vastly prefer physical for all the other benefits).

All this logic applies to media too --- licenses are usually region/country locked, and changing country on online accounts is usually somewhere between painful and impossible.
posted by thefoxgod at 3:50 PM on November 9, 2017

FWIW, Nintendo Switch is pretty friendly region wise. Imports from Japan play just fine in a US switch, and I'm pretty sure they no longer do any kind of region locking. I'm also pretty sure I changed my profile to Japan to download a few demos without anything more annoying than an EULA agreement page when switching back/forth. Digital downloads are sometimes available in Japan first, but for the most part only in the 'we don't have the English translation ready yet' sense more than any serious region locking.

In general, this is a welcome change from the previous regime's heavy region locking stances, especially for folks who import JRPGs and such.
posted by pwnguin at 6:19 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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