No matter how you may feel about the hard copies of your video games, the industry is going digital. There are currently more than 3000 titles available for download in the Playstation Network store, including everything from AAA titles to indie projects. Streaming and downloadable games will allow gamers around the world to buy all their games digitally, and perhaps the next generation of consoles will be entirely digital. Gaming is changing, and here are some of the reasons why it’s great as well as a look into the risks that going digital could entail.
Convenience, Access, Directness
Perhaps the main reason that games and gamers are transitioning to a more digital environment is the convenience that comes with downloads and streaming games. The ease of logging into a digital store and pressing a few buttons to get the best new titles is hard to beat. Additionally, many hard-to-find games that might not be in a local retailer can be found digitally with ease.
Digital copies never run out and, for many blockbuster titles, the worst part is waiting in line at midnight or having to pre-order a title just to get a copy the month it comes out. Digital downloads omit this painful aspect of gaming and insure that you can get the best versions of the newest games. Digital sales have been trending upward since 2009. A graph from Statista shows how digital sales increased from 20 percent in 2009 to 47 percent in 2013. Digital gaming service Origin looks to increase digital sales by offering digital deluxe versions of the latest releases, such as the Dragon Age: Inquisition deluxe edition which includes exclusive in-game armor and achievements. This exclusivity is an added bonus to the convenience of digital.
Additionally, digital downloads and streaming allows game designers to cut out many of the middlemen between them and players. Gamers love supporting developers that are important to them and digital downloads allow for gamers to pay developers directly. This allows independent developers the ability to design a game, program it and release it to an audience that votes for what it loves with their wallets. This model has allowed small developers with big ideas to compete with the AAA companies on their own terms and put out games that have changed the industry.
There are some downsides to a world where only digital downloads exist. For example, the risk of only-digital gaming is bottle-necked access and price gouging. If all games are sold digitally access then lies in the hands of the platform developers and console manufacturer, which means that games’ prices could rise or titles could simply not be available. Gaming commentator TotalBiscuit provided a contrary opinion to this issue. He argues that the used games market is not good for the gaming industry as a whole in his YouTube video. The video has over 470,000 views and 16,000 comments and is a prime example of the clashing opinions between gamers. His main points is the retailers are pushing used game sales, effectively cutting off the developer and publisher profit. He also points out differences between the used game market and other used goods market like music, movies and cars. Reactions in the comments show that many gamers are unwilling to give up their used games as many of them wait for prices to drop before purchasing games.
If the world of gaming was to go digital, it’s unclear if prices would drop or increase. It’s also unclear if developers and publishers would benefit or be negatively affected. Despite the 3000 titles on the PSN, GamesRadar reported how 72 percent of UK console gamers buy boxed games only. Time will tell if digital adoption increases and if digital gaming can successfully face the challenges.