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Physical Games vs. Digital Games: The Face-Off

Five Reasons Why Physical Games Trump Digital

by Tom Malina - February 19, 2014, 9:46 am EST

While gaming systems struggle to adapt, physical media shall reign supreme. 

Call me old fashioned. Tell me I’m being stubborn and refusing to accept the winds of change. I’ve heard it all before. I am not going to argue for a single second that digital downloads aren’t the future of video game distribution. In 10 to 15 years, digital could very well become the only way consumers will acquire their games. But while some of you may be ready for the all-digital age to arrive now, the realities of the current technology, infrastructure, and economic factors mean that today’s gaming systems are not.

Therefore, as somebody who still purchases all their games in the form of discs and carts, allow me to defend my corner. Here are five reasons why I personally feel that, for the next few years, old-school physical media will remain the better buying option over the new-fangled digital market.   

1. Corner the Market, then Raise the Price: The Lack of Seller Competition

Most people don’t buy their games from a single outlet. Whether you are buying from a store or ordering online, there are plenty of options, from GameStop and Best Buy to Amazon or even your local supermarket. And why do we swap our purchasing habits from place to place? Because each one is trying undercut all the others to obtain business in a competitive market, and the consumers tend to benefit. With physical vendors, games generally enter the market some way under the recommended retail price, and it is usually not long before it is either cut or incorporated as part of a promotional deal. 

With digital games, we have a different story. If you want to download software on one of today’s home consoles, there’s only one place to go to: the hardware manufacturer’s own digital marketplace. It’s basic economics; if you have control of the market, you dictate the cost. What that tends to mean is that the game starts at full price - $59.99, or £49.99 is common for retail games on the Nintendo eShop – and it stays that way for much longer than at retail. Those of you who play a lot of games will know what an expensive hobby it can be, so it certainly helps when you can take advantage of your buying options. After all, if I’m buying approximately a game per week, sometimes more, I’m going to search for savings wherever possible. However, until we have more vendors from which to download our digital content, we are left with no choice but to shell out the full amount – it’s hardly ideal, is it?   

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2. Where Are All My Games?: The Accessibility Debate

I know what you’re thinking. How is it that a proponent of physical games could make a case for their ease of access? No doubt, most digital advocates will argue that one of the key advantages of downloading games is that it effectively creates an all-in-one library on your console, with each one ready to launch from a couple of menus. I can absolutely see the benefit in that, but leaving aside the fact that I’m not so pushed for time that I feel inconvenienced by having to change a disc, having all your games in one place is not all that wonderful in the infrastructure of the current consoles. 

For Nintendo systems, it is especially a problem. Even in this day and age they have stuck to attaching digital downloads to individual Wii U and 3DS units. What is the result of damage or a miscellaneous reason to replace/fix a console? A goodbye to all those downloaded games, unless you go through the highly convoluted customer support solution to retrieve them. 

Of course, this is antiquated, and other systems with a comprehensive account set-up handle this better, but the standard potential issues with digital media remain. Suppose you forgot or lost the log-in details for your account. Suppose your account was hacked. Suppose your account was corrupted or anything unexpected occurred in this vein. What I like about physical media is that, if the hardware or firmware goes wrong in some way, I can keep a hold of my physical copy and be safe in the knowledge that it will always be ready to put it in and play to once things are repaired.   

3. If They Don’t Want It, I’ll Take It: The Trade-In Market Preservation

After all the mixed messaging during the long lead-up to the Xbox One launch last year, I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about the whole used games argument in the past few months, but I understand why people would be so passionate about this issue, even if they are sometimes misinformed. Let’s approach it from a different angle. 

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As my taste in different types of games has evolved and the development emphasis on certain game elements has changed, I have gained a greater appreciation for interchanging the titles in my collection. With experimental games that I’m not entirely sure I’ll enjoy, I may feel inclined to buy second hand to minimize the risk, or if I do go full price, I might trade the game in if the gamble doesn’t pay off in the end. Furthermore, with many games reducing their single player content in favor of a more fleshed-out multiplayer suite, it is more common for me to get my fill quicker, so those same purchasing habits apply again. 

It goes without saying that such an option is not available with digital downloads. That’s not particularly surprising, given that most publishers would love to see the used games market die, for both valid and not-so-valid reasons. But the hard truth is the trade-in market serves an important purpose, in that the decreased barrier to entry encourages people to try games they never would have otherwise. It would be a shame if that entire market were to disappear – at least for the time being, physical games keep it going.       

4. Bundles of Blocks and Bytes: The Memory Storage Situation

Remember when games used to save onto their individual cartridge? How hassle-free data management used to be. The GameCube era was when I first experienced the frustrations of switching between full memory cards. In the days of the nonsensical ‘block’ unit of measurement, it’s hard not to laugh at how tame all that was compared to the ‘fridge cleaning’ farce with the Wii. While this situation could certainly be attributed to the system’s paltry 512 MB of flash memory, it did, in hindsight, shed light on what would become a problem for the next generation of gaming systems. 

Nowadays storage technology has reached a point where modern hard drives or heavy-duty memory sticks can hold hundreds upon hundreds of gigabytes worth of data; surely enough to take care of even an above-average quantity of games, right? That was before digital downloads joined the fray. Without a physical disc or cart, the internal storage suddenly had to take on all the data for a game and, given the size of retail games in general today, that equated to significant gigabytes. You only need to recall the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 example. The eShop download required 16GB of memory, which was half of the internal storage in the Premium Wii U, and double what the Basic Wii U could hold. 

Of course, there is always the option of utilizing a larger external drive, but as I have alluded to multiple times in this article, I spend plenty of money already on my gaming hobby just through obtaining new titles, let alone with the added expense of new storage hardware. Plus, how I am going to keep track of what storage device contains the data for what game? It somewhat flies in the face of the supposedly convenient digital library when you throw this memory management inconvenience on top of it. Personally, I’d prefer to make the most of the storage I already have available and physical games remains the most efficient media for doing so.   

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5. Infinite Shelf Life: The Benefits of the Old-School Collection

This last point is hard to properly qualify and is perhaps more of a personal preference. When the Amazon Kindle launched and offered the prospect of hundreds of books existing on a single lightweight tablet, I was not persuaded. For me personally, the weight of a tangible paperback or hardback in my hands, the feel of turning a page, and the distinct look of each book seemed exactly right. Quite simply, the digital experience could not replicate this. 

With video games, it is much the same argument. I won’t contend that in a scenario such as moving house, multiple shelves worth of games would unquestionably be a pain to shift from place to place, yet it does not alter my enjoyment of owning such a collection. 

There are other advantages to physical games. As somebody who likes to recommend obscure, abstract titles to friends, I will frequently lend out a disc or cart for them to try, maybe only for a few days, just to let them mess with it. This is not so simple when it comes to digital games. The original plans for the Xbox One indicated a family-sharing feature, but that unfortunately disappeared during Microsoft’s major policy reversal shortly before the system was released. 

In addition, physical media provides a safety net in that it will always be playable so long as the system, or systems, it is compatible with remain functional. Digital downloads, on the other hand, might not stick around quite as long. All it takes is for the online marketplace for a given system to be shut down and suddenly, a digital game would be inaccessible if deleted for whatever reason, with no avenue to re-download it.

Check back tomorrow for Andy's rebuttal as he makes the argument for digital games.

Talkback

OblivionFebruary 19, 2014

Since I can't sell my digital copies? Physical all the way.

Leo13February 19, 2014

Digital Games going on sale Sunday in the form of 20% off eShop cards at Best Buy. That's what the email Nintendo sent me this morning says, plus here's a link on the story


http://nintendoeverything.com/best-buy-eshop-cards-getting-20-discount-again-starting-feb-23/

tchatenFebruary 19, 2014

On the 3DS I am digital all the way. Imagine having a handheld with every first party Nintendo game ever created for the system on it and a ton of awesome indie and 3rd party titles. That is one heck of a handheld to have and own. Game sizes on handhelds are still small enough to make that a reality.


It also is fantastic to be all digital on my Japanese system - having games instantly from the eShop instead of paying for international and slow shipping from Japan is quite nice.


On the Wii U however - I like my discs - It has to do with it being a home console and my affinity to collect games for those - I never had that affinity to collect games for handhelds. The downloads are also bigger on Wii U.


I never sell my games so that part of the equation has never been in the mix for me. I do own a few carts of duplicate games like ACNL and Pokemon where I want to trade or do local play features with my other 3DSes.

xcwarriorFebruary 19, 2014

I see there is no argument for what digital is better than physical. You guys make claim this is simply a link error, but it's Fruedian slip.

Because physical is better than digital. I hate buying any game digitally unless there is no other choice.

I own a physical copy of Ducktales Remastered on the WiiU. I gotta be one of like 7 people who have it, but once I heard there was a disc version, kept me from buying it digital.

Same will go for Wii Sports Club. Not buying until that retail version comes over here to America.

Quote from: tchaten

On the 3DS I am digital all the way. Imagine having a handheld with every first party Nintendo game ever created for the system on it and a ton of awesome indie and 3rd party titles. That is one heck of a handheld to have and own. Game sizes on handhelds are still small enough to make that a reality.

This would be great if it were true. But Nintendo isn't going to publish 75% of their first party content on the VC. I think that's pretty evident by now.

chilenozoFebruary 19, 2014

Hard-copy all the way!

1- I have a brother who also owns a WiiU. So we both talk to each and buy different games, with the exemptions of those ones where we can play multiplayer, specially co-op. So it's a no brainier we can exchange games whenever we see each other.

2.- There are always better sales and discounts, so far, of CDs than eshop games...if sometime in the future eshop becomes something like, say, steam, maybe just then I will fully commit. but as I said in # 1, I won't be able to exchange games with my brother, but if eshop games have huge discounts, then we can both buy more games!

3.- As the guy in 1st post said, I can always sell my games...I have been very successful selling my used games, I usually know when and how to sell them. I don't sell many games, as I am very picky and buy always the best, but year franchises like Call of Duty get useless quite fast as the new releases come so I sell them after a year or so.


I have 12 WiiU CDs so far and plan to buy more. I only buy digitally VC games and indies. And I have make the most of my purchases by buying most of my games at a discount.

Quote from: xcwarrior

I see there is no argument for what digital is better than physical.

The "Digital is Better" article, aka the correct article, should be posted tomorrow.

Ian SaneFebruary 19, 2014

I can make a compelling argument in favour of physical copies with two major points:

1. You never really own the games you buy as the seller realistically has a remote off switch where they can disable your game at any time.
2. There is no ability to have used copies so years from now certain games will be effectively lost.

My points stem largely from a historical videogame preservation perspective.  But the thing is that one can wipe away my whole argument by saying "but I don't care about those things" and the discussion is over.  People have different values and I'm making the incorrect assumption that what I value is shared by everyone.  I think it is very important and honestly if you don't think it's important I think you're being a short-sighted fool but if you don't care my points mean nothing.  This is a key part of the physical vs. digital argument for all IP, not just videogames.  I notice in particular that younger people that have spent more of their lives in a internet/cellphone/digital world don't value creative works in the same way that someone my age typically would.  They see it as much more disposable.  So if I say "hey these games will be lost to time" to them I might as well be saying "throw that candy wrapper in the garbage and it will be lost forever" to which the response would be "so?!"

Digital will take over in my lifetime as younger generations that embrace it become the majority and people like me become old geezers that marketers don't care about anyway.  The part that lets me deal with it is that the games that will not be preserved will be microtransaction pieces of shit that I don't care about being preserved anyway.  My favourite Nintendo games for example have all been released in physical format and are already preserved.  The games I care about will be fine and the garbage the "kids today" are playing won't matter to me.  Going back to the topic of values, I won't value their games anyway.  If anyone suffers in the end it will be them.

DonkeyBilly KongFebruary 19, 2014

Good points in the article and talkback for both sides.  I have been an advocate of digital downloads for a long time on the PC.  Going back to games from the 80s, digital versions are generally still easy to use and games with a big enough fanbase even get extra mods and upgrades over time.  Plus, with digital, I can play on any PC I have, and move the game to upgraded PCs with minimal hassle.  Steam sales also give the equivalent of used game pricing for digital goods.

With Nintendo consoles, I feel the opposite.  I don't trust that my games will transfer or continue to be supported.  With physical copies, as long as I have a functional console, my games will work.  If it breaks, I can buy repair parts or get a used one and all my games will still work.  That, coupled with the ability to loan or borrow and buy used, means that physical is what I choose most of the time.

Killer_Man_JaroTom Malina, Associate Editor (Europe)February 19, 2014

Andy Goergen will be covering the other side of the coin tomorrow, for those of you asking about balancing the debate. It's written as a fairly direct response to the points I made, so whilst I stand by my case, his rebuttal sheds some light on factors some of the physical advocates may not have considered.

And J.P., you troublemaker... we'll see who has the last laugh.  :P: :

Jet PilotFebruary 19, 2014

Until Nintendo can set up its account system to protect the consumer from loss of purchases and the ability to transfer purchases from one device to another on the user end (like iTunes or PSN) I will not purchase anything more than VC games on the eShop.

In addition, they need to stop hosing the consumer and allow multi-device installation of games. I have two kids...I shouldn't have to buy the same digital copy twice if I want them to be able to share the game.  I shouldn't have to pay twice to put SMB on my Wii U and my 3DS.  If I buy a song on iTunes I can put it on all of my family's iPods for one price.  It should be the same way with eShop games.  If I buy a new iPod I just have to sync it and my data transfers.  I don't have to file police reports and call Apple customer service and go through some long transfer process which may or may not be approved.

Nintendo's download game system is broken. Until they fix it I'm sticking with physical.

Ian SaneFebruary 19, 2014

It seems that physical vs. digital on Nintendo systems is a different debate.  One where my response to the pro-digital side would be "are you fucking nuts?!!" :)

CericFebruary 19, 2014

As a long time PC Gamer my feeling is that its about time I can live in a digital world.  It is very annoying to me to have to manage a Physical thing to play my games and the space and clutter that it causes.  Since I don't sell games, not a good enough RoI,  digital is great for me.  The only downside is that now I can't share 3DS games with my Son.

I don't understand all this talk of inability to transfer purchases when all downloadable games on Wii and DSi could be transferred to their respective successors. All my Wii downloads transferred easily to my Wii U, and my DSiWare went from DSi to 3DS, and then transferred again to my 3DS XL along with my many 3DS eShop titles.

As for Ian's claim that there's some kind of remote kill switch, that may be true of some other services, but with Nintendo's systems, as long as they're still on your system and the system works, you will be able to play those games regardless of anything Nintendo does.

Does Nintendo's eShop infrastructure need to be improved? Absolutely. They need to expand their account system so that you can move between systems without jumping through a ton of hoops, and tweak a few other things, and I'm confident that they will. Nintendo has steadily improved their online offerings over time, and while it's happened far more slowly than it should have, I don't doubt they'll get to that point in time.

Chad SexingtonFebruary 19, 2014

100% digital in all things that are available in digital.


I want to own as few physical things in my life as possible.  Digital movies, streaming online television shows, digital games, etc.  I haven't owned a TV in ~10 years.  If I can't play a game on my laptop or 3DS then I'm not interested.


I came to this change in my life after I cleaned out drawers & shelves worth of plastic Gamecube crap from my room and wondered what the hell I was doing.  Moving it all sucks, sifting through it all sucks, and losing a copy sucks.


Whatever I can do to have less physical stuff, the better.

Mop it upFebruary 19, 2014

Why can't we have both? Why can't we all just get along?!

AdrockFebruary 19, 2014

Physical games. How else am I supposed to appreciate all of my unplayed games than to display them proudly on a shelf I walk by every day?

Ian SaneFebruary 19, 2014

Quote from: Mop

Why can't we have both? Why can't we all just get along?!

For retail games we currently do have both which is nice.  I can have a physical copy of Bravely Default while someone else can instantly download it from the eShop.  Perfect!  Everyone gets what they want and deals with the cons accordingly.  But we all know that digital will take over in the future.  In the free market too often options cease to become available if those that want it are in the minority.  As physical media consumers decrease the option will be removed for everyone.  Thus we get a bit of a pissing match.  The pro-digital crowd is slowly and unintentionally taking something away from the pro-physical crowd, something they've had their entire lives.

Chad SexingtonFebruary 19, 2014

Quote from: Mop

Why can't we have both? Why can't we all just get along?!

I should also add that I recently bought a nice 3DS case from Amazon that has pockets for 6 games.  So I do have physical copies of Crono Trigger, Lego Star Wars Complete Sage, Lego Star Wars III, and Dragon Quest IV.  I'll probably end up buying Dragon Quest V and VI.

If these were available in digital, I would get them digitally.  But I they fit nicely in the case I got so I don't mind having 7 physical games (no more!).

ejamerFebruary 19, 2014

Rent vs buy argument in a lot of ways. I know which I prefer, but that doesn't mean it's a better choice for other people.

For me, the biggest factor in preferring physical copies is that I appreciate things more when I own a tangible good. This applies to all sorts of things - not just games or entertainment.

This is why playing a ROM isn't as enjoyable for me as playing a game I've actually made a conscious decision to pursue and purchase.
This is why putting something on my credit card is much easier than opening my wallet and handing out cash.
This is why I look at my shelf of DS/3DS games with pride, always wondering what should be the next game to play, while my PSN games are largely forgotten and ignored despite being downloaded on a PSP and ready to play at a moments notice.


Maybe things are changing though. Do people who have spent their whole lives in the digital age value the concept of ownership less, or appreciate the idea of digital goods more? Or are they just young enough to not be concerned about the idea of ownership because there is always something new to experience just around the corner? They certainly are trained to accept digital goods and service-based objects at a much younger age.

smallsharkbigbiteFebruary 19, 2014

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

I don't understand all this talk of inability to transfer purchases when all downloadable games on Wii and DSi could be transferred to their respective successors. All my Wii downloads transferred easily to my Wii U, and my DSiWare went from DSi to 3DS, and then transferred again to my 3DS XL along with my many 3DS eShop titles.

We'll see where Nintendo's O/S goes as well as as where their account system goes.  Both of those things are very important to me before I would be willing to invest in Nintendo downloadable games frequently.  The Wii games that are either aren't bought again for the Wii U or are not re-released (Wiiware, VC games that don't get rereleased) are probably gone on future consoles because I don't see future iterations having a Wiimode.  Now that Wii U is the base of future O/S systems I would guess that 3DS/DSI software is in danger of becoming extinct. 

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As for Ian's claim that there's some kind of remote kill switch, that may be true of some other services, but with Nintendo's systems, as long as they're still on your system and the system works, you will be able to play those games regardless of anything Nintendo does.

As a platform, steam is becoming more and more appealing (even as a physical guy).  That said, I can't see a time where I don't have a PC.  I could see a time where I don't need to buy the next console.  I'm 33 years old, and while I love my PS3, I'm not that enticed by the PS4.  While I don't regret buying a Wii U, the appeal of a successor is waning on me. 


How Nintendo approaches the account system is a big deal.  Now if my Wii U breaks and I choose not to have Nintendo repair it (at a significant cost) I lose those games.  But what if I chose to have the Wii U be my last console ever?  Nintendo will only repair Wii U's for so long.  Nintendo will only allow Wii U's online for so long.  So while that date is significantly out there (10-15 years) there is a kill date for people that don't decide to make the next $400, $450, $500 or more investment in Nintendo hardware.  The reason Steam is so appealing is because I can't see ever not having a PC.  So the future investment is basically $0.  The future investment to access Nintendo games is potentially several hundred (and maybe even thousands of dollars as time moves forward). 


That may be a small deal to you, but the Snes is my favorite console ever and it is approaching 23 years old and I can easily track down treasures for it.  I have a functioning Coleco that is 32 years old.  Maybe it's because I love retro gaming, but longevity is very important to me as a game player, because I've come to realize games that are once good are always good and worth a replay at some point. 

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Does Nintendo's eShop infrastructure need to be improved? Absolutely. They need to expand their account system so that you can move between systems without jumping through a ton of hoops, and tweak a few other things, and I'm confident that they will. Nintendo has steadily improved their online offerings over time, and while it's happened far more slowly than it should have, I don't doubt they'll get to that point in time.

I think the standardized O/S piece is as important as the standardized account piece (as mentioned above).  Because how else will I be able to play NSMBU (if I bought it download, which I didn't) on future hardware once Nintendo stops repairing Wii U's. 

yoshi1001February 19, 2014

I think the physical side of the debate tends to be more enthusiastic about their choice. For me, having to switch cartridges repeatedly during heavy StreetPassing at Pokemon nationals a few years ago convinced me to go digital.

RazorkidFebruary 19, 2014

Digital all the way. Physical is for people who sell their games regularly, share them, or collect them.  None of that applies to me and the convenience of it trumps all.  Plus sales are steady and regular for what I want.

ejamerFebruary 19, 2014

Quote from: yoshi1001

I think the physical side of the debate tends to be more enthusiastic about their choice. For me, having to switch cartridges repeatedly during heavy StreetPassing at Pokemon nationals a few years ago convinced me to go digital.

They are the only side with something to lose (more to the point, something that almost certainly will be lost eventually).

Quote from: yoshi1001

I think the physical side of the debate tends to be more enthusiastic about their choice. For me, having to switch cartridges repeatedly during heavy StreetPassing at Pokemon nationals a few years ago convinced me to go digital.

This is actually part of the reason I've moved to predominantly digital on the 3DS. Well, that and it's nice to have a legal way to do things I was doing with quesitonable legality in the US (but perfectly legal here) in the DS era when my game collection exceeded my age.

On handhelds, what I've started doing is either buying games on sale - Atlus is quite good at this - or using retail discounts to make sure I *want* to keep a game, then I'll buy it digitally and trade it for what I've paid after I move the save over. I can usually get close to what I paid for it. (Example: I bought SMTIV on launch day for $33, bought the eShop version a couple of weeks ago for $30, and traded the physical in for $19. Net cost: $42.)

The storage solution isn't so bad for Nintendo people since they use existing standards - USB hard drives and SD cards. I paid $5 for a Y cable to use a little 500GB pocket drive I picked up a few years back for my WiiU, and I got a 64GB SD card on sale for $40 for Boxing Day. I'm about to drop $110 on a similar sized card for my Vita and will be doing it with teeth gritted so hard they'll snap in half.

smallsharkbigbiteFebruary 20, 2014

Quote from: Razorkid

Digital all the way. Physical is for people who sell their games regularly, share them, or collect them.  None of that applies to me and the convenience of it trumps all.  Plus sales are steady and regular for what I want.

Physical is for people who will want to go back and revisit game experiences 10+ years from now when many of those games are unlikely to be re-released ever.  One of the systems I've started getting into recently is the Dreamcast.  It has alot of gems and reminds me alot of the Gamecube.  Some of those games have been re-released and some have not.  Since Dreamcast is a physical format it's easy (if costly) to track down all the games available for it.  Had it been a digital only console the only way I could get games for it would be to track down a dreamcast that had it downloaded to it and the owner was willing to part with their account info on the machine.  That or emulate which I strongly prefer not to do. 


Physical is also for people who care about replicating the initial experience.  I'm thinking of Donkey Konga/beats series.  The bongos are very unlikely to ever be re-released for any future Nintendo console.  As such, the game can be re-released but it won't have the same features and won't give the user the same experience in the future. 

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They are the only side with something to lose (more to the point, something that almost certainly will be lost eventually).

In the extreme, I'm going to die and nothing I have on earth will come with me.  To a lesser extreme, it may be difficult to find a working Gamecube in 25-30 years from now making physical games difficult to play.  To me, I'm still think that's a better alternative to digital which will most likely not make it that long. 


But I do disagree with the point in general.  When great games are no longer playable on any format, all gamers lose.  The digital generation may not know what is lost yet, or care that it's lost initially but I think alot of those gamers will eventually miss games that they enjoyed that they can no longer play.  When I was in college, I bought/played/sold everything.  At one point I had purchased >100 Gamecube games but owned <5.  I was a machine at getting rid of them quickly to recover as much of the original cost as possible (obviously money was tight).  7/8 years after getting rid of many of those games (and not thinking twice when I did) I began to miss the experience that many of those games brought me and my friends (many of who will play Gamecube games with me but have no desire to pick up new systems).  Those games define a time in my life and experiences that I (and my friends) can easily go back and experience and have a great time.  I guess I've reached a point in my life where I feel new games are not necessarily better than old games and having the old games available is important.  If there was a future (other than emulation) that all games could be reproduced digitally than I would probably be less concerned about physical/digital debate. 

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On handhelds, what I've started doing is either buying games on sale - Atlus is quite good at this - or using retail discounts to make sure I *want* to keep a game, then I'll buy it digitally and trade it for what I've paid after I move the save over. I can usually get close to what I paid for it. (Example: I bought SMTIV on launch day for $33, bought the eShop version a couple of weeks ago for $30, and traded the physical in for $19. Net cost: $42.)

I don't want to be rude, but I'm kind of dumbfounded by your example.  You "waited" for a digital sale, but ended up having more money in the digital copy than if you bought day 1 digital.  The only way your system is financially better is if it assumes that you sell all physical copies and don't convert them to digital (at a loss) very often because you don't want to "keep" the game.  But then again, the opportunity to sell if you don't want a game is one of the big pluses you'll be losing in the future since digital doesn't allow you the option to see if you want to "keep" the game.  So it seems to me that you like having both physical/digital available and deciding (based on your preferences) which format to choose for each game. 

Quote:

The storage solution isn't so bad for Nintendo people since they use existing standards - USB hard drives and SD cards. I paid $5 for a Y cable to use a little 500GB pocket drive I picked up a few years back for my WiiU, and I got a 64GB SD card on sale for $40 for Boxing Day. I'm about to drop $110 on a similar sized card for my Vita and will be doing it with teeth gritted so hard they'll snap in half.

Comparing Nintendo's crappy solution to a worse solution doesn't make it better.  Proprietary hardware always sucks and should be scrapped.  PS3 is the gold standard.  Simply plug in a laptop hard drive.  No secondary power supply to power to have (or Y cable using up both of your USB ports so you can't charge a pro controller).  No planning to figure out how to either hide the additional box or make it fit in a stand.  Cheapest prices available.  It's been awhile since I've looked, but I'm sure I've seen 1 TB drives for <$60.  Not withstanding, most people have had laptops before, it's usually easy to find a drive and re-purpose it to the PS3 for a net cost of $0 (which is what I did).  It just seems silly to me.  Nintendo wants to be the cheapest but hidden costs like this negate the cheap factor (except for low powered hardware which you'll still have).   

smallsharkbigbiteFebruary 20, 2014

Quote:

On handhelds, what I've started doing is either buying games on sale - Atlus is quite good at this - or using retail discounts to make sure I *want* to keep a game, then I'll buy it digitally and trade it for what I've paid after I move the save over. I can usually get close to what I paid for it. (Example: I bought SMTIV on launch day for $33, bought the eShop version a couple of weeks ago for $30, and traded the physical in for $19. Net cost: $42.)

Sorry, I forgot SMT4 was $50 at launch.  Still seems like a lot of work for little gain.  Based on your #'s 33-19= 14 +30 = $44.  So you ended up with what you want for slightly cheaper.  It's closer after you factor in that you paid tax twice instead of once.  Even closer yet if you made a trip to a store specifically to either pick up SMT4 or trade it in.  That and no game save transfers. 

AdrockFebruary 20, 2014

Unless I'm upgrading the same system, I rarely trade in hardware. I like preserving that feeling of playing a game on the hardware it was originally made for, particularly on Nintendo handhelds because they have this annoying habit of changing the aspect ratio in successors. Sometimes that's not possible and for that reason, I like that digital is an option. If anything happens to the old hardware (e.g. natural disasters, negligence, accidents, etc.), it's nice to have access to those games without getting bent over the coffee table in the collector's market to replace the actual hardware.

Nintendo's all-or-nothing transfer policy is limiting to put it lightly. I understand the reasoning for this on digital downloads, even though I disagree with it. I especially HATE that the process deletes even save data from the original system. I had no digital downloads on my Wii, but it would have been nice to bring my save data from my Wii to Wii U (without deleting the data from my Wii), mostly for spur of the moment Super Smash Bros. Brawl sessions. Ultimately, I don't know how long Nintendo can stick to this policy and I think we're already seeing them bend. I strongly prefer having the physical copy, but I can live with a digital future so long as the really annoying bits get rectified.

xcwarriorFebruary 20, 2014

To destroy the digital arguments:

1) Most games that are rare nowadays are of the older generations. Just don't wait to buy the game. And the one from generations are not only hard to find physical, but probably not even available digital. Once something is available digital, it won't have that crazy physical value (with some exceptions). Ikaruga I'm going to pick up on Steam now, but that's a rare case of an old hard to find gem being reborn on digital.


2) "If I drop my copy of Chrono Trigger into the bath, it's done for." - You're kidding right? Who takes their copy of Chrono Trigger into the bath? Seriously, doesn't count.

3) "As I mentioned in the introduction, I'm a chronic video game seller. I've sold almost every single piece of gaming hardware and software I've ever owned, and I've regretted almost every sale."  - And this is why we shouldn't be listening to your argument to go digital....

4) "The Storage Solution: Standards, Standards, Standards" When your SD card dies or "gets dropped into the bath...." you lose all of your games. Not just the one game you dropped in. All of them.5) This is just you babbling about nonsense. I can still physically see I own the game, and my friends are still in awe of my plastic cases with next to nothing in them.

Your solution is to buy every game when it's new?  Awesome!  Can I borrow a couple grand?

AdrockFebruary 20, 2014

I had Ikaruga on Gamecube. It cost like $20 at the time. Then, I traded it in like an asshole and not due to its rarity, but because my brother loved that game more than I realized at the time. I was able to rebuy Phantasy Star Online Episodes I and II again for him, no such luck on Ikaruga. He was elated when it was released on Steam recently.

Honestly, I wish we could just always have both though that's not terribly likely.

ejamerFebruary 20, 2014

A bit disappointed by the "go digital" arguments.


Point #1 is fantastic and certainly worth talking about. In my mind, this is one of the absolute biggest benefits of digital distribution. Unfortunately, after this point the debate goes downhill pretty fast.  Point #3 in particular is pretty laughable - a lack of judgement/self-control makes digital purchases a good idea? Hmm...

One point I should have made in the editorial, but didn't, was that as the proud father of a 2 year old girl, I don't have a need to have any EXTRA plastic in my house.  I have plenty of plastic toys that belong to her.  Any action I can take that prevents more plastic stuff in my house is a success.

ejamerFebruary 20, 2014

Quote from: NWR_DrewMG

One point I should have made in the editorial, but didn't, was that as the proud father of a 2 year old girl, I don't have a need to have any EXTRA plastic in my house.  I have plenty of plastic toys that belong to her.  Any action I can take that prevents more plastic stuff in my house is a success.

This is also a good argument for durability of physical releases. In most cases, physical games are durable enough that they will last if treated with any reasonable level of care. Even occasional accidents (even dropping in a bath tub) will usually not cause issues.


Having young children around is a whole different story though.

SorenFebruary 20, 2014

Wait.


So we all believe that once something gets put on the internet (a photo, documents, whatever), it's there forever. But then we turn around and think that there's some magical kill switch that will send all digital versions of games into the ether after a determined amount of time, forever lost in a digital sea. What?


It's a bit naive to think that there aren't digital preservation efforts going on to match what we have with books, films and optical media.


All forms of physical media decay over time. When it comes to video games, companies don't have long term preservation strategies because it didn't dawn on them that people will still be playing these games 40-50 years into the future(and that's still short term thinking). It's the same way people thought motion pictures were a fad, and tons of films were lost after their original negatives decayed or were destroyed.
Nintendo might not care about what happens to the Wii U eShop 20 years down the line. But there will be people who care, and preservation efforts will make sure we can still play those games down the road.


I may have steered a bit off-topic here. But what I'm sayin' is embrace your digital future. Having a shelf full of cases to gawk at is fun and all, but having a slew of titles on your home screen ready to play with just a touch of your finger is pretty freaking sweet, too.

HyawattaFebruary 20, 2014

I'm still waiting for Wii Party U to become available digitally. I would also like to purchase Nintendo Land digitally; Nintendo Land used to be available on the eShop, but it's not available anymore.

Mop it upFebruary 20, 2014

Quote from: smallsharkbigbite

(or Y cable using up both of your USB ports so you can't charge a pro controller).

The Wii U has four USB ports, so if you use one Y cable then you can still charge two Pro Controllers at a time.

smallsharkbigbiteFebruary 20, 2014

Quote from: Soren

So we all believe that once something gets put on the internet (a photo, documents, whatever), it's there forever. But then we turn around and think that there's some magical kill switch that will send all digital versions of games into the ether after a determined amount of time, forever lost in a digital sea. What?

It's not there forever (well maybe that unfortunate picture is).  I'm a big fan of NR2K3.  There have been thousands of thousands of things made by the community for the game.  Most of the sites that host things are ran by enthusiasts on a paper thin budget.  Most of those sites have shut down and there is no way to get that material today.  Archive.org is full of broken links for those old sites.

I think too, we need to differentiate between what's on the internet and what's on the eshop.  That's what people are talking about the content being removed (or never re-released) on the eshop which is likely to happen.  Especially if one decides to not buy the new Nintendo console.  Nintendo won't support eshop functionality for longer than 10-15 years for the Wii U.  Then you are cut off.  That's not a difficult thing to understand. 

Quote:

It's a bit naive to think that there aren't digital preservation efforts going on to match what we have with books, films and optical media.

This is certainly not legal and if Nintendo still exists in the video game industry they will sue that website into oblivion if they publish 1 Nintendo title.

Quote:

All forms of physical media decay over time. When it comes to video games, companies don't have long term preservation strategies because it didn't dawn on them that people will still be playing these games 40-50 years into the future(and that's still short term thinking).

Most companies don't have long term preservation strategies because they don't see the financial viability in re-releasing their games (especially when alot didn't sell much the first time around).  Many developers actually went bankrupt so 40-50 years down the line wasn't a concern to them at all.  Nintendo doesn't put effort into VC because they don't believe there to be enough money there.  I pretty much never expect a VC to ever have most of Nintendo's game available for it. 

SorenFebruary 20, 2014

Quote from: smallsharkbigbite

It's not there forever (well maybe that unfortunate picture is).  I'm a big fan of NR2K3.  There have been thousands of thousands of things made by the community for the game.  Most of the sites that host things are ran by enthusiasts on a paper thin budget.  Most of those sites have shut down and there is no way to get that material today.  Archive.org is full of broken links for those old sites.

I think too, we need to differentiate between what's on the internet and what's on the eshop.  That's what people are talking about the content being removed (or never re-released) on the eshop which is likely to happen.  Especially if one decides to not buy the new Nintendo console.  Nintendo won't support eshop functionality for longer than 10-15 years for the Wii U.  Then you are cut off.  That's not a difficult thing to understand.

Growing up on Nascar Racing 2 and 3, I can certainly remember all the mod sites that created content for those games. Like any process of preservation, you can't save every piece of work. But you can try and make sure something has a way of existing once it gets to be obsolete. I understand there's a difference between what's on the eShop and what's outside of it. But it's still all digital media. There still needs to be a concerted effort to make sure these things last beyond their initial boom. The framework of the eShop won't be there, but that doesn't mean the games have to go down with it. Which bring me to...

Quote:

This is certainly not legal and if Nintendo still exists in the video game industry they will sue that website into oblivion if they publish 1 Nintendo title.

I'm not talking about sites offering free rom hacks of games or whatever. I'm talking about individuals being able to preserve their own digital game libraries, or museums and libraries being able to have digital libraries of games that come from obsolete game machines.


As digital media becomes more the norm, this is going to be a bigger issue. We already know the whole "you're not buying the game, you're buying a license to play the game" tactic is BS. The European Union has already ruled that publishers can't stop you from reselling your digital games, and the proper framework for reselling used games doesn't even exist yet!


I can safely predict right now that Nintendo (or any other company) won't be able to stop me from doing whatever I need to do to keep my digital Wii U library running. Even long after the Wii U is obsolete(which might be in a few months. -rimshot-).

Quote:

Most companies don't have long term preservation strategies because they don't see the financial viability in re-releasing their games (especially when alot didn't sell much the first time around).  Many developers actually went bankrupt so 40-50 years down the line wasn't a concern to them at all.  Nintendo doesn't put effort into VC because they don't believe there to be enough money there.  I pretty much never expect a VC to ever have most of Nintendo's game available for it. 

Just because companies don't see financial gain from preserving digital works doesn't mean governments, museums and other private institutions also won't see value in maintaining those works. I'm not expecting Nintendo to have those kind of views.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorFebruary 20, 2014

There are tons of advantages to digital and physical.  I tend to lean towards physical when it's available.  As others have mentioned, I like having the physical game and feel I'll have a better chance of being guaranteed to play them in 20 or 30 years.  But that's not to say I don't see the advantages of digital.  I would *love* to be able to load all my games up and play them whenever I want.

I would like to say, one downside to digital - often, if there's something changed or edited in the game, the download version is "updated" and the older version is no longer available.  Imagine a world where the DX version of Link's Awakening is the only version of the game you'll ever be able to play.  I like the DX version, but there are some things I like better in the original version - and the screen warp glitch is always fun. :D

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterFebruary 20, 2014

Quote from: UncleBob

There are tons of advantages to digital and physical.  I tend to lean towards physical when it's available.  As others have mentioned, I like having the physical game and feel I'll have a better chance of being guaranteed to play them in 20 or 30 years.  But that's not to say I don't see the advantages of digital.  I would *love* to be able to load all my games up and play them whenever I want.

I would like to say, one downside to digital - often, if there's something changed or edited in the game, the download version is "updated" and the older version is no longer available.  Imagine a world where the DX version of Link's Awakening is the only version of the game you'll ever be able to play.  I like the DX version, but there are some things I like better in the original version - and the screen warp glitch is always fun. :D

Luckily nintendo seems to have the opposite idea or Mario All Stars would be on virtual console

ResettisCousinFebruary 21, 2014

The pro digital editorial made a nice point in lauding Nintendo for using SD cards and USB drives in its more recent hardware.


With that said, my choice is easily physical. One reason I choose physical is because I constantly sell back games I'm not in love with (and I _don't_ think I would find the inability to do this "liberating"). The other reason, which the pro physical op ed didn't drive home enough, I think, is that I feel there's a good chance I'll want to play these games again in 20-30 years. It's straightforward for record companies to keep releasing my dad's favorite Rolling Stones tracks on whatever the medium of the moment is. It will be less straightforward for Nintendo to do the same - if it even occurs to them to do so. Look at their handling of Virtual Console to date. So, the major reason I prefer physical is I think it will be the easiest way to play these games for several decades to come. I appreciate the effort some are making to crack the eShop, etc, but ultimately I don't think it will be as easy as already owning the disc (and keeping it in a somewhat dry, cool environment) and buying one or two backup systems, and dusting my "playroom" regularly.

It's not that hard to find a working NES, and those things were notoriously flimsy. I don't see why everyone's assuming current hardware won't work in 30 years if cared for properly. I'm not sure about Bluray, but I know there's a good chance DVDs will have degraded significantly in that time span as well.

VahneFebruary 21, 2014

I have no problems going partially digital for my PSP games (as long as the digital prices are lower than used physical prices) and I buy plenty of $2-7 Android games. HOWEVER, I personally think that only a fool would go full digital on any Nintendo console right now. Unless they live in the most secure house in the world and are able to telepathically locate a missing console. Even if the price on eShop for a retail game ever becomes SOMEHOW cheaper than physical, I would still have a hard time choosing digital over physical. Nintendo's lack of an account system (I consider Nintendo Network to be a console identification system) makes me uncertain when it comes to buying games on eShop, especially after having my Wii and DSi stolen. I do buy eShop-only titles, but only because they're cheaper than most retail games and are only available digitally. Even then, I always need to stop and wonder if the game is really worth buying on an insecure platform.
Hopefully Nintendo hurries up the development of their long-overdue account system.

Nintendo Network is an account system, it's just locked down to the point that it might as well not be. As I said earlier in the thread, I'm confident Nintendo will continue to improve in that regard, albeit very slowly.

AdrockFebruary 21, 2014

I like the way it currently is. If you want physical games, get that. If you want digital, get that instead. I just like that we've reach a point where digital downloads are even a thing due to the rise of the indie scene. Those games would never be widely available otherwise.

I don't like when a physical copy is partially a download which negates the purpose of getting a physical copy pretty much entirely. I don't mean patches or updates either. For example, the God of War Saga collection has the first three numbered games on disc and the remastered PSP games as download vouchers. On top of that, the vouchers could be expired depending on when you bought it. For rizzle, Sony? They ended up extending the life of the vouchers, but that shouldn't even have been a thing on a physical purchase and Sony is going to run into this problem again when the extended vouchers expire.

The sucky thing about physical games these days is that while you can preserve the game and always have it, patches and updates may not and probably will not always be available.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterFebruary 21, 2014

Hey baby, I'll show you some physical distribution. :smug:

yoshi1001February 21, 2014

One argument that could go either way is the time it takes to acquire the game itself. Depending on how close you live to the store, the speed of your internet connection, and the scarcity of the game, either one might be faster. As it stands, right now I'm looking at a 17+ hour download time for DK Tropical Freeze, a game I could get on disc in less than a tenth of that.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterFebruary 22, 2014

Quote from: yoshi1001

One argument that could go either way is the time it takes to acquire the game itself. Depending on how close you live to the store, the speed of your internet connection, and the scarcity of the game, either one might be faster. As it stands, right now I'm looking at a 17+ hour download time for DK Tropical Freeze, a game I could get on disc in less than a tenth of that.

Another one could be made for how much you would want to replay the game 10 years from now.

smallsharkbigbiteFebruary 22, 2014

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

It's not that hard to find a working NES, and those things were notoriously flimsy. I don't see why everyone's assuming current hardware won't work in 30 years if cared for properly. I'm not sure about Bluray, but I know there's a good chance DVDs will have degraded significantly in that time span as well.

Most DVD manufacturers claim a life for DVD-Roms at 100 years.  The DVDs that are purchased for systems are all pressed and then a plastic layer is added to protect the data.  It is very unlikely that normal use will result in scratches that will will reach the data layer.  If the data layer is exposed to the environment, then yes, data loss can occur.


I think the think with the NES is it was such a simple piece of hardware and it's very easy to fix the issues surrounding it.  With all the parts in the Wii U, it seems like there are alot more failure points and it will probably be difficult to replace. 


Plus, my thinking is that if I have a physical copy of a disc, I will probably be able to find a working Wii U in the future and be able to utilize the disc on that.  If I have a download, it is unlikely that Wii U's will be able to connect to the eshop, meaning I can't experience that game on a Wii U in the future.  Nintendo may get their act together and use the account system to access the games on future systems, and that will be good enough for most people.  But to use the gamepad and controllers that you originally experienced the original game with will not be possible. 

If you keep your Wii U with all your games downloaded to it it won't matter if you can't connect to the eShop, they'll all still be there.

smallsharkbigbiteFebruary 22, 2014

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

If you keep your Wii U with all your games downloaded to it it won't matter if you can't connect to the eShop, they'll all still be there.

Yes, but even if you take good care of consoles, they could still fail.  I've had a gamecube and a wii fail, yet my SNES works like a champ.  Modern consoles have a fail rate (though small) that is unrelated to care of the console.  Those two consoles are viewed as "gold standard" for modern consoles and they still failed.  With physical I just find a new console.  With download, you're pretty much screwed.  Maybe it's a small chance and I'm paranoid, but I still don't like it. 

gamehikerFebruary 23, 2014

One thing that almost never gets brought up in these discussions?


Bandwidth bandwidth bandwidth.


In at least the States, like it or not, we live with crippling internet limitations. My previous ISP limited downloads to a point we had to set Netflix to lower quality to prevent from getting charged for going over. Downloading a 4GB game or bigger on top of that? Forget about it. Nevermind how long it takes to download. For most, that's going to be leaving your console downloading overnight while crippling everyone else's internet speed. Why should I do that when I can stroll down to the store and in thirty minutes have the game I want?


Digital gaming is touted as convenient, but it's really not. Our internet infrastructure hasn't caught up to digital media and major ISPs not only like it that way, but are intent on making it worse. So I'll take my physical media where I can, thank you. It's not because of Nintendo's draconian digital policies that I shy away from buying games digitally, but because my ISP has a noose around my neck just waiting to pull.

That kind of stuff varies wildly depending on where you are. Some places necessitate physical media like you're saying, but my internet is uncapped and fast enough to allow downloading games as well as other things.

gamehikerFebruary 23, 2014

When I lived in town, I had to deal with data caps. Out in the country, it's a bit slower, but I can download as much as I like. It's a little backwards, but it still spells a significant problem on a widespread basis. Not everyone is affected by it, but it's just one of those little things that might keep physical media around a little longer than we all expect it to.

nilcamFebruary 24, 2014

I see the benefits of both sides of the argument. I tend to go digital if it's a game I'm sure I'll want permanently or cannot find a physical copy. I tend to go physical if it's a cartridge. As a Dreamcast owner, I've learned to fear disc rot.

Leo13February 24, 2014

It's official, not only can you get 10% back when buying digital on Wii U (deluxe digital promotion if you have the black Wii U), but this week EVERYONE can get 20% off all digital games one 3DS and Wii U via the Best Buy eShop card sale. Get a $50 card for $40 (can anyone say Donkey Kong Country). Get a $35 for $28 and get a $20 for $16


http://www.bestbuy.com/site/searchpage.jsp?_dyncharset=UTF-8&_dynSessConf=&id=pcat17071&type=page&sc=Global&cp=1&nrp=15&sp=&qp=&list=n&iht=y&usc=All+Categories&ks=960&fs=saas&saas=saas&keys=keys&st=eShop

But you can buy Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze at Toys R Us and get up to 40% off on up to three games. Including preordering Watch Dogs for $36.

http://www.toysrus.com/search/index.jsp?kwCatId=&kw=022314wiigame&origkw=022314wiigame&f=Taxonomy/TRUS/2254197&sr=1

PhilPhillip Stortzum, February 25, 2014

I love collecting, so it's physical for me, especially on Nintendo systems unless there is no alternative.
Nothing like having a shelf full of games, being able to ogle the artwork, boxes, and manuals.  ;D

Having a shelf full of games is nice to look at, but it's a massive pain in the ass if you ever want to move them.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorFebruary 25, 2014

Having a bunch of digital games is nice to play, but it's a massive disappointment if you ever want to roll around naked in a giant pile of them.

PhilPhillip Stortzum, February 25, 2014

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

Having a shelf full of games is nice to look at, but it's a massive pain in the ass if you ever want to move them.

Oh, definitely! I'm not looking forward to doing that in the future!

smallsharkbigbiteFebruary 25, 2014

Quote from: UncleBob

Having a bunch of digital games is nice to play, but it's a massive disappointment if you ever want to roll around naked in a giant pile of them.

Please never sell your games.  Maybe I should stop buying used.  I'm off to disinfect all of my games now. 

Quote from: UncleBob

Having a bunch of digital games is nice to play, but it's a massive disappointment if you ever want to roll around naked in a giant pile of them.

/thread

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorFebruary 26, 2014

Quote from: smallsharkbigbite

Quote from: UncleBob

Having a bunch of digital games is nice to play, but it's a massive disappointment if you ever want to roll around naked in a giant pile of them.

Please never sell your games.

It makes them worth more.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterFebruary 26, 2014

Quote from: UncleBob

Having a bunch of digital games is nice to play, but it's a massive disappointment if you ever want to roll around naked in a giant pile of them.

God dang it now I have to rearrange my signature.

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