Skip to main content

Digital vs Physical Gaming


You know, there was a time once upon a time many years ago I would have told you straight out that digital gaming media was never going to take over and I would never be interested in such a thing. Now how has that held up? Alot of people are starting to come around to the idea of digital media. I mean we now have digital only gaming consoles! Does that mean that physical games are dead? Is digital now taking over and leaving that physical format to slowly die it's slow death? Let's go down into the rabbit hole of digital vs physical shall we? There are a definitely benefits and disadvantages to each and is there a front runner? Let's find out!

Now yes, all this is the opinion of one dude on the internet and every opinion can be different. This is what I personally feel and honestly I like both physical and digital media and I will tell you why.



There are a lot of different types of gamers out there and I fall into the collector type for sure. Ever since since was 10, I had that mentality of just collecting all my games. I had atari games boxes that I kept in under my bed and would pull out those cardboard boxes whenever I wanted and look on at the glory of having all those atari cartridges. Same when I built a nintendo collection. I didn't have a ton of space so it was boxes or totes for awhile and I would just throw whatever games I had into them. When I was a teenager, I upgraded to bookcases and boy did it take off from there.

The point was that I loved collecting and it was seeing those games that gave me a sense of accomplishment. It was no different than a hobbyist collecting their favorite things. Gaming was just mine and alot of people did and still have that mentality of seeing the worth upon all your games on the shelf. What you have amassed over the years and also being able to show it off to friends and just the feeling of adding to it. It's a feeling like no other for me and it is what still has me believing in physical media. With digital, I don't get that same feeling. That magic just isn't there. Sure, you get to play that game but it's just sitting there on a hard drive. You can't really see it besides it being on your television screen in the form of an icon. There's just a certain magic to getting those physical games.



When you buy the game, that game is yours and it will continue being yours until you sell it, trade it, or somehow lose it (how does one lose a game?). Digital is a little more sketchy in terms of actually owning the game. You own the rights to play that game in the digital form, but what happens if that service goes away? What happens if you let's say you buy a game digitally and the game gets taken down off the store and you can't redownload it? There are cases where a digital store loses rights to sell or have that game up on their store. It's happened with the deadpool game and for me personally, tales from the borderlands on ps4.

I bought tales from the borderlands on psn years ago for ps4. Then they took the game down from their store and I was only able to find the first episode to download. I pretty much lost access to the game and then they "remastered" the game as new and put it back up on the store years later for 20. Guess who didn't have access to that version? This guy! They wanted me to pay 20 more bones for a game on the same platform I already paid for it on. I also own the physical disc version now and now don't have to worry whether or not I can play it. It is true that a majority of the games you can still get access to. They are forever in your download list MOST of the time, but what happens if psn at some point goes away or you buy something on something less popular like the Stadia?

What happens to those games if the service disappears? Physical copies give you that guarantee that it will always be available. Digital has rights only but not a guarantee. Something to think about. Lastly on this point. What if you get hacked or banned? You lose access to digital games at that point and you'll have to start over. Always a fear of mine for sure.

Scroll to Continue

Internet Woes

Now yes, internet does get better with time, but there are still people that have data caps or live in areas that do not have great service. At one point a couple years back, I lived in a rural Kentucky area with some really not so great Cincinnati bells DSL that would totally not want to work if it was raining and sometimes just not want to work.. just because (I call these the dark times). It would take me literally 2 days to download an xbox one game. Yes, there are still game updates you have to get through sometimes. Those post launch updates and patches can sometimes be mood killers when all you want to do is get to your game. Updates are a thing no matter what format you have though.

Sometimes physical can save you a few extra hours though or even some extra data you perhaps don't have to spend. During the dark times, sometimes I would just pop some xbox 360 game into my xbox one just to let it simply install and then I can play. Nothing wrong with playing some good old Batman Arkham Origins or Portal 2 instead! Sometimes you just don't want to wait for the a whole game to download and then some updates on top of that. This is one of the areas where physical media can definitely shine.


Sheer Convenience

This right here is what got me to come over somewhat to the digital side or atleast accept it for what it was. A huge part of it is indeed the convenience of just having it there on your hard drive. Not having to worry about shelf space or getting up and changing the discs every time you want to play a game. It was just there and you could load it up from your controller any time you wanted. As I got older, that convenience of it just being on my console is why I gave in and just let it happen to me. I started getting into the sales I seen digitally and some of those flash deals were a gateway for me into digital games. It started with some psn flash sales back on ps3 and it snow balled from there. The recent spring sales have absolutely destroyed my wallet (rip having money) and now I have just as big of a library digitally on my xbox one and ps4 that I do physically and even some that I have physically I own also digitally because once again, that convenience factor.


Digital Game Sales

Now I just touched base on this. A few years ago I would have argued that ps4 and xbox one games are much cheaper physically, but with the age of steam setting the trend of all of it's steam sales, Sony and Microsoft have both also gotten alot more into crazy digital sales and I can not say you can get most games alot cheaper digitally if you wait for the right sale. I just bought Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza Kiwami 2, and Yakuza 0 all for 25 bucks during the ps4 spring sale. Those games physically are around $20 each so getting all three for $25 was pretty damn good to me. Seriously, sales can be a huge factor and plus for digital games these days.


The age of gamesharing

This is something I feel alot of people don't think about. I am able to share my library of ps4 and xbox one games with family members with little more than logging into my profile on their console and there is a convenience within that too. You don't have to worry about a family member or friend borrowing a game and never bringing it back. I can't count how many times way back where I have lost games by having someone borrow them and then losing touch with them.. I still wonder where my copies of Chrono Cross and Metal Gear Solid are out there in the world and if they have been treated kindly. There is just that nice thought of being able to share your library without being inconvenienced and also I don't like to lend my physical games out anymore. Again.. My poor lost copies of Chrono Cross and Metal Gear Solid have changed me..


The verdict - It's all good

There are definitely advantages to both and for me personally, I am a fan of both at this point. Again, years ago I never would have thought but here we are in an exciting age of gaming where Gamepass is a thing of beauty and even game streaming is emerging gradually. I still also love my physical games. I am actually in the process of building more shelves because I am out of space to put my games on the shelf and now they are being stacked ever so carefully on the top shelf (I call it game case jenga). Do I feel like digital has taken over? No, not necessarily but that also isn't an easy answer. There are still collectors out there like me and I believe there always will be, but we live in an age where all digital consoles are a thing and I do believe we will keep advancing in that.

We will keep getting more and more into digital along with kids are growing up into a digital gaming era and is it slightly pushing physical out of the picture? Maybe a little, but I also feel like physical media will always be around as an option. It is still a viable option when it comes to making money and until people stop buying physical copies of games, it will always be there as an option. I for one will always buy the games I love and want to add to my collection physically. Will I also buy it digitally if it's on sale so I don't have to get my butt up off the couch to put the disc in? Yeah probably, but that is the beauty of it. I love both my games and the convenience so I will always be in the middle of living both. I understand why some people swear by one format or the other. I just love both too much to give up one or the other.

I would love to hear what format you love the best and why. We all love games and at the end of the day, that's what it is all about. That passion of starting up a video game and playing it no matter if it's physical or digital. It's fun either way and the experience you'll get it awesome either way so enjoy whatever you want to enjoy no matter how you are playing and most importantly, keep gaming on!

Which do you prefer?

© 2021 Ronnie Bier

Related Articles