Video Games: Digital Download vs. Hardcopy

December 9, 2014  |  Gaming, Guest Writers, Techie

[Disclaimer: Article written by a Guest Writer provided by Social Monsters]

4291_shutterstock_187770899That 1978 song “Video Killed the Radio Star” sure had a point and makes us think about the recent physical vs. digital debate in the interactive entertainment industry. Sometimes media change is hard to deal with due to both cultural and technical factors. It has happened in most entertainment industries in the past two decades. As digital formats take over as the main content delivery system, some purists defend the physical format and claim that digital delivery will ruin the industry.

There is a hint of nostalgia for the old formats fueling their claims. As human beings, we are collectors by nature, and having a bookshelf full of CDs, DVDs, comic books, video games and books allow us to brag and to feel a sense of accomplishment (even if we have watched/listened/read only half of them). Remember how music CD aficionados cringed at the idea of digital-only collections? Or how DVD collectors suspiciously frowned upon Netflix? Having 16,000 songs on your iPod just doesn’t feel the same as having a gargantuan CD and LP collection, right?

However, anyone with a Netflix account, or similar, knows that watching the movie or TV show that you want, when you want it, is quite convenient. And what about digital and subscription music services like iTunes or Spotify? Digital delivery allows for more flexibility and freedom for the technically savvy and well-connected. After all, one of the promises of digital media is to render physical formats obsolete.

Well, video games are no exception. Some gamers feel proud about their collections and claim that having an enormous list of games on Steam just doesn’t feel quite the same. Several gaming companies are leaning heavily toward downloaded content, in fact the percentage of digital games to physical games (now up to 92 percent) rises every year. Though you can still stop by the store to pick up a physical disc, titles like the new Dragon Age: Inquisition are easily downloaded straight to your computer. For some hardcore gamers who fall into the older age bracket, this represents quite a paradigm shift. But the fact that games such as DAI is available for download at a standarized price, bypassing the middle-man (your local video game store) is quite significant in terms of industry and media change. There is now a direct link between publishers and consumers, which represents both a new revenue model and a paradigm shift in how we consume video games. In fact, gamers are already creating digital collections: it was recently revealed that 37 percent of the games downloaded on Valve’s Steam engine have never been played.

However, the concerns of those in #TeamPhysical are valid on a technical level. In order for the gaming industry to go fully digital worldwide, there are a few things that need to happen:

  • Broadband: the Internet needs to be widely spread across the globe. There is a misconception among U.S., Australian and European gamers that everyone has good Internet access. However, in order for the video game industry to go fully digital, strong broadband connections need to be the standard across the world.
  • Internet plans need to be uniformly speed-based, not data-allowance-based. Some countries like Australia determine monthly Internet fees based on the amount of data that you download and upload, not on the speed. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) need to standarize their model so all gamers can download games without concerns about surpassing the data allowance.
  • What about trading games? One of the most prominent cultural practices among gamers is exchanging games. Of course, digital formats make this a bit hard. The industry has to adopt models such as Amazon’s mechanism for lending and borrowing Kindle books.

As newer generations of gamers become the group with the most purchasing power, the physical and digital sides will continue to divide. Spoiler alert: digital will win.

About the author

I am a Kuwaiti Apple and gadget girl freak, who gets bored of her blog layouts so much that I change them like I crazy. Currently I work in a newspaper and if you don't see me around I'm being sucked into my job reviewing TV Shows and APPS! This is my space where I vent and release everything, welcome to it.

1 Comment


  1. I prefer digital downloads, since a hard copy of the game can break disk get scratched. if I delete the game I can just re download it whenever.