While there is something very special about cartridges for me, even some CD based stuff, for modern systems I have mostly eschewed physical media.
I would say the 3DS was my cutoff system for buying and collecting physical games. I do have some physical stuff on the PS4 and XB1, but honestly, I regret it. Having these systems set up as digital jukeboxes is more appealing.
Not to mention that modern games are rarely “finished”. They receive substantial patching.
Moreover, outside of stuff like LRG, physical releases come with no manuals and in flimsy cases, especially PS4/XB1.
The Switch cases look great. However, being a portable system in my use case mostly, having all my games on my system is way more convenient. This is especially exacerbated when I travel. Those tiny cards look so easy to lose.
Personally, I am glad physical media exists and that companies like TLG and the like provide physical options, but for me, it’s just not that appealing anymore.
What about you?
I was 100% digital for a good while there. Steam got me into that habit, and when I got a 3DS it felt weird buying carts – as soon as they started doing digital retail games I was all over it.
Continued that with PS3 and Wii U, ended up with a couple physical Wii U games but only because they were way discounted, I wanted to have everything digital. On PS3 aside from a set of physical only games that I got before they became hard to find I have a huge library of digital games and only a couple optionally physical games.
Then my wife got a 3DS of her own and I wanted to share games with her. I couldn’t cause almost all my games were digital. That experience left such a rotten taste in my mouth; I ended up using piracy tools to got a 2nd copy of Link Between Worlds for her to play on my old 3DS which is a pretty annoying way to have to go.
I tried to be practical about it, like if it was a game I knew she’d never be into I’d get it digital especially if there were sales, but I ended up buying a lot more 3DS carts. It’s pretty rare I buy anything on the 3DS eshop in the last couple years.
By the time the Switch came out I decided to just go back to doing 100% physical. Especially with many smaller formerly digital-only games getting releases from Nicalis or one of the various small-print-run retailers, I figured I might as well just hold off on most eshop games as well.
At this point I have more than 30 switch games physical, and it took me more than a year to buy any digital Switch games which is so far limited to Blaster Master Zero, Mighty Gunvolt Burst, and MM Legacy Collection 2.
I ended up getting PS4 Pro and XB1X very late as well, and while I’m trying to be practical on those systems as my wife isn’t into TV-only experiences and it’s pretty easy to share TV-connected games when we only have one console, I’m still defaulting to buying physical. Pretty hard to turn down ultra-cheap digital 360 games for back compat or play on an actual 360, though.
I’m all digital on Xbox and PlayStation platforms.
But I’m physical when possible on Nintendo systems. I just really dig their box art. I agree that switching games on 3DS or Switch when traveling is a bit of a pain though.
I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle at all.
Probably repeating myself from elsewhere but…
Digital makes perfect sense to me for online and multiplayer games. Mario Kart, Splatoon digital means they’re always there ready to go as I’m always returning to them. I imagine it’s the same for COD, Destiny etc.
But single player games? You play through it for 20 hours, then are done, at least for a few years. That might as well be physcial. How often did anyone play the latest Uncharted after they finished it? It might as well be archived on a shelf in a nice box. And all the best indies are getting physical now so I’m quitting digital outright (except for Splatoon etc). And I haven’t even run out of the default space on the Switch.
I’ve already sold 10 Switch games for what I paid for them (or more in some cases) because I decided they weren’t top tier for me. Sometimes I basically traded versions (eg Street Fighter Anniversary swapped for the Japanese version). Couldn’t do that with digital.
I’m all digital on the X1X and I love it. No regrets. Switch I still buy physical unless there’s a crazy good deal on the Eshop.
I only buy physical releases on Switch because the boxes look great, carts actually save space on my Switch and resell value is great as usual with Nintendo stuff. I got more for selling Yoku’s Island Express than I originally paid for.
PS4 is mixed. I don’t need every game in physical form but I buy them for my absolute favorites like Dark Souls, Yakuza and most Sony stuff (like TLG or SOTC).
Don’t have a X1 but I buy very cheap digital stuff for my 360 still. I mean I can’t just pass up some games for like 3€.
I went mostly digital with the Vita but got burned for a number of reasons (memory card NAND quality/failures, poor backup solution for saves, poor download list, limited memory card space).
Even though all of those issues aren’t a problem with the Switch I’ve decided to grab a boxed copy of upcoming games where possible now. My Switch carry case has space for five game cards, and I like being able to have the earliest version of the game on game card in case future updates mess things up.
I think publishers like Team17 have the best approach to let people decide for themselves. Games like Overcooked 2 and Yoku’s Island Express launched digitally when they went gold, but the publisher also let retailers list boxed versions for pre-order at a later date at a higher price. So you get the best of both worlds really. Because they launch digital first, that version of the game doesn’t need to price match the boxed version either.
Contrast that to something like Umihara Kawase Fresh, whose global digital release has been delayed from April to July because Nicalis is releasing it alongside their own boxed SKU. The digital price is now going to match the boxed version’s because of the simulataneous launch, and one of the benefits of digital (picking up the game as soon as it goes gold) has been lost because of that.
I am all digital on PC (Steam), and all physical for any console I own.
Steam has 15+ years of trust built up, and I’ve got full confidence that they are not going to be going away any time soon. My library there is about 2000 games, and I feel comfortable that I won’t be losing that any time soon. Legally, I know that I don’t really own the games, but I feel a sense of ownership because I can trust that I will be able to access them for a very long time.
The console manufactures are a different beast. They regularly shut down their online services, and I can say with certainty that anything I buy on a console is not mine, and I will lose it. For this reason, I buy everything physical that I can. That said, being primarily a PC gamer, I haven’t really gotten into any new consoles in a while, until the Switch. The last new home console that I bought on release was Xbox and Gamecube.
PC gaming left us no choice really. If that’s the version you want to play, you are buying it digital, even if you get a box in a store. That sucks.
When it comes to the rest, it’s really a matter of price for me. I’ll always buy physical on new releases for PS4 and Switch (I have an Xbox One, but it never gets turned on) because I still have the Best Buy Gamer’s Club until 2020. I also like to know I can resell games if I want to. We have four PS4s in the house so anyone can play the disc too when it’s single player. Switch, I just know those games will retain value so why make them digital?
I also really don’t trust anyone to allow me to keep my digital libraries. I’m getting increasingly concerned about PS3 stuff now, where I DID buy a lot of cheap digital games, specifically PSOne games that I knew I’d never buy the discs for due to price. What if I can’t download those again? It’s a problem waiting to happen.
I’m about 80% physical on XB1, 3DS and Vita. For PC I’m 100% digital, with a few physical limited editions. Next gen though, I’m going 100% digital across PC and console, with a few physical limited editions here and there.
100% Digital on Xbox because I trust their online systems and am confident purchasing digital products there.
Nintendo: Default to physical except in rare circumstances, because the way they handle stuff feels so archaic
Sony: Same as above. Default to physical because I’ve bought and sold a PS4 before so I like the option there of being able to sell, but I also am not as confident in Sony’s digital game system and ecosystem as I am in Microsoft’s.
I have no problem going all digital, but Sony and Nintendo haven’t sold me on it for their systems like MS has.
Hasn’t Sony banned people for dumb stuff as well?
Personally I try to use as much physical media as possible because I’ve seen friends lose their systems or they broke down. I’ve never lost a system, only had them break down because of age. I own a PS4 and Switch as far as modern systems go.
Physical media forever. F’ digital only media. Its no different than downloading a rom but now you are paying for that rom.
I’m very glad for the way smaller devs can get their games out in front of people without a publisher (besides the Valve storefront 30% or whatever), the same way I’m glad bandcamp exists as a way to pay an artist for something you love beyond pennies for streaming.
BUT whenever given the chance I want a physical copy. Not just for “value and resale” or whatever, but also for my dumb brain to have an object to relate to whatever I paid money for. Sometimes buying digital feels like… paying bills.
I used to be all about physical copies but now with DLC, patches and games requiring installation it just seems a little pointless. You are not buying a complete game on a disc, you are buying a snapshot of whatever it was at launch with no add-ons and when the servers go down it will be forever incomplete so whether your original purchase was digital or physical, you’ll have to jump through the same jailbreak related hoops to preserve and restore your content complete, bug fixed game.
I am starting to see physical contemporary games as just taking up space I could fill with retro games instead.
Wow, great topic! I’ve thought about this a lot, and I originally had a huge post written up about the evil crusade against media ownership, and how video games are leading the charge in the fight against consumer rights, but it is something we have all heard before and I don’t want to bring that juju in here.
So, here is my personal outlook.
For me things are less about "Physical vs Digital" and more about ownership.
That’s why I love GOG and other DRM-free services. If I can download a game, back it up, and play it any time, I am fine with ‘digital’. After all, what is a physical disc except a backup of digital data? Having a case and pretty box art for all of your games is nice, but what is nicer for me is having hundreds of games on one HDD all ready to go whenever I want to play them.
This is the exact opposite of other closed platforms like PSN, Xbox Live, or the eShop. These employ various levels of DRM and online checks to make sure you are not actually in control of your purchase, or add various stipulations to your ability to back up or move data. I only make console purchases if I have friends who play them online or it is a very compelling console exclusive (Bloodbourne, Spiderman, etc.) that don’t seem to be coming to PC any time soon. For these I get the physical version so that I at least have a copy (as incomplete as it may be) of some of the data in my possession.
For retro, I stick to carts/discs which I can play on original hardware or dump onto a PC or flash cart. I also appreciate those games which are basically collections of ROMs that you can easily use with superior emulation to play however you want.
That’s my feeling as well.
Moreover, we live in the era of cheap cases, no manuals, multi gig patches, and so on. There’s less of a value proposition.
Buying a new physical release these days is about as exciting as buying a used game in an envelope.
I love the flimsy ‘eco cases’. Why do they need to be ‘eco’ when they’re not designed to be thrown out? They’re not eco, they’re just cheap, cheap to make and cheaper to ship due to being lighter.
Plain white inside the cases, no manual… absolutely no care is taken to physical presentation anymore by many companies.