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Digital Versus Physical: Thoughts On Next Gen Distribution
On episode 370, we had a fan question in regards to buying a digital copy of a game or a physical disc copy. There are, of course, pros and cons to both sides of the argument. At the moment, we’re seeing more games offering the route of digital copies for download.
On one side, I love this idea. Of course, I enjoy it more on my PC than consoles right now. To make it easy I have a 1.5 terabyte hard drive with which to store many games. Maybe because of the issues revolving around the Xbox 360 when it first launched (the red ring of death), I’m a little more wary about downloading full $60 retail games onto my consoles. I do it (on occasion), but I’m much more comfortable with the services offered on PC—Steam & Origin—than on the consoles.
In general, I’m more comfortable as a consumer by having a physical disc for a game. Call me old fashioned, but I am the same way with books. While I definitely enjoy Kindle/Google Books apps and the e-reader function on my tablet, I also own about 2 bookcases worth of books with the goal to one day have my own personal library. So letting go of having a physical disc library will be a bit hard.
Now more gamers are embracing the digital method. Especially when we see the reduced cost of games on PC when developers don’t have to be concerned with the cost of manufacturing and distribution to retail outlets.
That’s one of two issues for consoles to fully embrace digital distribution. They’re still a bit too attached to their box art and partnerships with brick and mortar retailers like GameStop & Best Buy. Added to that, console manufacturers would have to invest in a greater memory option (screw the cloud) on their devices because some of those games are freaking huge files. I had to upgrade my Xbox 360 hard drive the first time I received a digital download code to review a game (Crackdown 2).
I’m with Pete and Paustinj that the consoles aren’t quite ready for that yet. It’ll probably be another generation before we really see full integration with a digital distribution system. Will it be offered? Of course. Several games like Halo 4 and Far Cry 3 are already available as digital copies only months after release (November and December 2012 respectively). But games won’t be available digitally on consoles on a full scale quite yet. Though the best way to entice gamers such as myself who are still attached to our physical copies is to cut out that disc manufacturing and distribution cost from the digital product. That lower pricing will sway more than you think. Again, we’ve seen this for a few games on some services (I think mostly PC so far).
Why do you think the Steam sales do so ridiculously well? Getting games at low prices is always appreciated. Maybe because of the model (or it may be the publishers/developers) discounts on consoles are fewer and farther between than PC.
The most interesting thing I’m waiting to see this year (at least I hope) is the Steambox. If Valve can copy their PC model over onto a living room console it will be gold, especially if the same options exist for indie developers. Even better if they can cross platform between those playing games through Steam on PC and those on the supposed Steambox.
I’m aware that PSN and XBL offer all kinds of options. XBL most notably for its diverse arcade titles, indie library, and Games on Demand. PSN has not only arcade games, but also the library of classics made up of games from PS1 and PS2. So the digital library of games available on consoles has grown tremendously in this generation.
So my question for you. Do you think consoles are ready for full on digital distribution similar to the PC model?