The case for why physical copies will always exist: Why physical books still outsell e-books, even if everyone predicted the obsolescence of physical books a decade ago

So this CNBC Reports video popped up on my YouTube feed, and I couldn’t help but compare this story to how everyone in the video game industry is currently expecting a phase out of physical media. All trends pointing to digital downloads and even streaming. Is it possible that this is just a phase the market is going through?

Apparently, physical books have gone through a resurgence and have withstood the Amazon Kindle bubble in the early 2010’s. Back then, everyone believed that physical books would eventually become obsolete. A Kindle was more portable, inexpensive, better for the environment, and took up less space than a library of physical books; It seemed like a no-brainer. This clearly never came to pass. Physical books now take up a bigger slice of the market than ebooks.

As retro gamers, we love our physical copies. Clearly there is still a market for physical games as a whole cottage industry of limited print games are on the market and are apparently a viable business
model. Is it possible that the video game industry would experience similar trend? Or unlikely?


I thinks it’s difficult to compare books and video games, books are more of a tactile experience they have to be held while being used, a book on a kindle is a different experience to a paper book. A digital video game is exactly the same as a physical one from a gameplay perspective, so nothing of the original experience is lost.
Physical games have a greater sense of ownership, having the cart/disc with a box a manual is more satisfying than just owing the same game in a digital format, so the future of gaming will depend on how attached people are to their physical media. I used to own lots of music CD’s and movies on DVD, now I don’t see the point, I can access them easily online or using music apps, more convenient and less environmental impact.
My PC games are now all digital and lately thanks to gamepass, so are my Xbox games.
I think the movement towards digital games is now unstoppable.

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My biggest pain point is the quality of ebooks still. Newer books seem largely ok but for anything a little bit older it’s been a decently sized population where the formatting is atrocious or it’s missing pieces or has tons of typos and other errors. There is a pretty large number of books flagged on amazon as having issues and the publishers have rarely if ever fixed the problems with them. It’s the biggest reason I’ve slowed in purchasing ebooks and now largely will only rent them since if there are issues there is no financial loss to me. Also I feel like these things vary heavily by location. I collected books a lot but since living in a city where space is at a premium, I know try to use ebooks as much as possible.

For me, at least, it’s all about the feeling of owning something.
The magnificence of entering one of those huge libraries and seeing all those books, making us feel overwhelmed since we can quantify the amount of book, kind of, with our eyes makes it amazing.

I love looking at my cartridges, and boxes, and memorabilia. But if I think about my steam collection, I feel nothing, and it’s pretty big.

Of course digital helps with the whole accessibility issue, that’s why I want everdrives and that sort of stuff to mitigate moving arund my collection so much. But of course, I will always use roms that I ripped, and in case of books, buy the original and after reading it once, keep it digital whenever I feel like reading again, or it gets damaged, or whatever.

I think the biggest factor his is the fact that actual ownership still has value over a digital copy. When ebooks were being introduced, there were clear notices that they use drm and only allow you to download/copy so many times before you hit your limit and require a new purchase. For the customer to read that I would imagine that was pretty jarring and those who have been burned by this would have sworn off digital entirely.

It translates to gaming for the same reasons, but sadly we have a different audience and while one can question if they’re any better then a book reader’s market, honestly who am I to judge? *Shrug

Physical is in many cases MORE convenient for me.

It’s usually cheaper at launch or near. For single player games I can pop in the cart/disc, play it through, then when done put it on the shelf for posterity. Like once you finish a single player game you usually don’t play it for at least a year or two, maybe more, so I don’t need it on the system. There’s no waiting for downloads to play it (either at launch or when returning to it), no memory management (there is memory management on consoles with mandatory installation, which is lame, but not 3DS/Switch).

And I not only have a nice physical object which can’t ‘disappear’ if I forgot to install it when a storefront goes down in a decade, but I have something that can be sold. I tried out some physical indie games, enjoyed them but not enough to keep, and sold them, often they went for more than I paid.

And of course the nice library element, which also goes for books. I like seeing the books I have read and the games I have played lined up, it’s a nice archive.

The exceptions are service/multiplayer games for which access is intermittent over a longer period. I have Splatoon digital for that reason.

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I find it really annoying how recently certain games only release the base game physically. For example WRC8, I wanted to purchase the deluxe version with the extra content but it’s only available digitally. I ended up buying the base version as I won’t buy full price games digitally and of course I want it on my shelf. I think the game companies are forcing the digital route on us by underhand tactics such as this. Another difference these days are non existent manuals, this annoys me too.

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The even more annoying trend are all the goty editions with the original disk printing but then have a dlc code. I’ve been burned more than a couple times not realizing that was such a thing now

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Dead Island springs to mind.

Hate having to play Riptide, then I want to go back and all a sudden I’m asked to put the disk in. It’s BS cause they got the codes, they know what it is and they’re taking the exact download data I’m using on disc. Microsoft gets this and allows convenience on their platform, but Sony has it in mind if we’re physical and we want discless, then buy the @#$%'n game again!! :angry:

I was burned by buying a lot of digital content on both the Vita and Wii U - the first two formats to mandate digital versions of every boxed game release. The Vita in particular wasn’t great - you paid a premium for storage and the memory cards themselves weren’t very reliable to begin with. The Wii U was a different story, I just wanted a lot of the games on my shelf - moreso when you consider almost every Wii U title released complete without the need for patches or updates.

Now I buy boxed games if they are available. I think getting a case with my Switch, and a case for my games helped a lot - it’s easy to carry five game cards around with the Switch itself, or the case if I need more. I picked up an Oreshika-branded case for my Vita which had a similar effect of levelling out the reduces convenience of game cards.

One thing which does reduce the value of having boxed copies is just the circumstances by which developers work today. While I haven’t bought Bloodstained yet, I still wouldn’t opt for it considering what shipped on game card on Switch isn’t complete, so I’m really just buying a license to play the game as it downloads from the servers. Same goes for stuff like Rocket League.

Marvellous/XSEED did a really good job with the boxed version of Gal Metal last year. It received a brand new SKU specifically for the game card, including all the DLC on the game card itself rather than requiring an additional download.

With the Switch I think it’s important to keep buying boxed copies - the price of the ROM NAND chips can only fall if demand for cartridges from publishers goes up.

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Yep, now I’m paying attention to which version is put on the cart. A great thing about the physical indies getting later releases is the boxed version gets the final bug-fixed game now.

This kind of annoyed me: A final print of Monster Boy still has V1 on the cart

Despite the manual of the game making jokes about ‘remember when games didn’t need a day 1 patch’ and the game had a day 1 patch :roll_eyes:

I remember that. I was rolling my eyes at the manual. Statements like that would have read cynically given the game’s crowdfunded roots, but here it literally rang hollow.

I liked how Wii U and 3DS games - at least first party titles - often shipped with the latest patches installed. I got Tropical Freeze late, just before the Nintendo Selects release, but my copy is version 1.1 without any patches installed. Same with my Japanese copy of Mario Kart 7. Nintendo should have been lauded for that, though at that time Nintendo was always shipping complete games anyway. Even 2016’s Paper Mario Color Splash shipped wholly complete without a single patch, update or DLC add-on since going to press.

Still true on Switch. Buy Breath of the Wild today and you’ll get the final patch.

I want to get info on if Splatoon 2 is like that though since so much of the game was post-release by design, would be cool for posterity though.

I wonder how they determine whether to patch it if an update pushes the file-size to the next tier of game card. From what I recall Splatoon 2 was close to 8GB.

7.2GB including Octo, so not too bad.

It’s all about ownership. All video games are digital, the only difference is the storage medium. You can have a library of discs and carts, or you can have a single modern HDD that holds as much as 100+ Blu-Rays for about $100.

The real issue is DRM and closed ecosystems that make preserving and sometimes even backing up or transferring ‘your’ games purposefully difficult, or lock them to hardware with swiftly planned obsolescence. The ideal solution are games downloaded from GOG or some other source which has no DRM to get in the way. These games can then be stored in a compression-enabled HDD (and backed up to another PC as well) so they are all readily accessible as long as I want them. I can copy and back them up whenever I want, or move them to new, more durable storage media in the future (I can even put the HDD in a fancy case and put it on my shelf!). That’s the best of both the physical and digital worlds, and in my opinion, all games should be available for that treatment.

Then the only hurdle is the online experiences of GaaS like Overwatch or WoW, which are inherently transient experiences anyway.

You see, my ideal solution for non-service games is a finished, patched game ‘pre-downloaded’ onto its own custom card, with a nice printed label, and even comes with its own case. Any time I want to play it I just grab the card and pop it in. No installing or patching or memory management or copying to larger drives or remembering which card/drive has which games on it and which save files are compatible with which version.

Also known as a physical retail release :wink:

Hey, now there’s a good idea! :laughing::sweat_smile:

I guess I’ve come to terms with not having boxes and such over the years for most games, probably because of shifting to PC. I will say it’s very convenient, especially in the age where disks usually require an update between playthroughs anyway. I just wish it were more consumer friendly.

I do love physical books though, so I can totally understand where everyone is coming from with physical games. Heck, I’d be all about them if vintage games were as cheap and accessible as books in general!

The discussion about what games are complete in their physical release is interesting, is there a list out there that tracks this stuff? Would be nice before shelling out money for an unfinished game.

Physical books tend to have benefits beyond commercial implications, such as price and reselling. They require no power. They can have extremely beautiful typography and presentation. They are much more easier to flip through.

I’d argue they are almost different categories. Coffee Table e-books are not really a thing.