Digital or Physical [Revised]: Which Direction Are You Going?

Digital or physical has been a big question in recent years thanks to Steam and console stores such as the PlayStation Store, but with varying prices and tempting physical sales, we’ve not yet moved completely to digital sales. As a gamer, do you still support physical game releases more than digital or have you upgraded your HDD and are now fully into digiland? Below I’ve listed a few pros and cons of digital vs. physical and if you’ve got your own reason just leave a comment.#


The Pros of Digital:

No Lost or Broken Disks and Faster Loading Times

One main reason to go digital is not being able to misplace or break your game, it’s digital and therefore can’t be lost or broken. Think about the number of times you’ve lost your favourite game disk, only to find it under a boatload of rubbish in your room and oh look, the bottom of the disk is scratched so much that even your local game store can’t fix it with their ‘magic fix’ service. Sucks don’t it? With digital media you won’t have that problem, it will always be working and you’ll always be able to find it.

Going Digital Could be Cheaper

In the cons section below, we‘ve mentioned that games can be expensive, this is currently true for games purchased digitally via consoles. PC’s are another matter. If everything were to turn digital, would that mean prices would be lower overall as they are on PC? Even if that doesn’t happen, wouldn’t it be nice to pre-purchased an upcoming game digitally for £30-40 instead of the £50+ markup?

You Can Carry Your Games Around With You

Let’s talk consoles here. Say you wish to go to your grandparent’s house for Christmas, you’re spending some time there but you want to take your console with you and the games which you believe will take you through the rest of the day, what on earth do you do? Taking a bunch of disks and/or cases and lugging them around can be a problem. Having games available digitally through either the internal or external HDD would make journey’s that much better.

When I used my old Xbox 360 Elite, I would always pop off the HDD and take it to a friends house and play some of the XBLA titles I had on there. It was much easier than lugging around the entire console. Having said that, even lugging around a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One with games already installed is much easier than taking your entire physical collection around with you. Having recently bought a 1TB external HDD for my PS4, I’ve found taking digital games with me – console or not – is a pleasure.


The Cons of Digital:

Going Digital is (Currently) Expensive

When it comes to PC gaming, the cost of games is usually low for digital purchases. With platforms such as Steam offering gamers constant sales, we can usually see the latest games at a discounted price. Why wouldn’t you consider buying that game you’ve wanted for some time at just the fraction of the retail price.

On the other end of the scale, digital downloads on both the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Store are priced extremely high. Think about it, you’re not getting half the content you would when buying a physical copy (no manual, cases or any other printed goods) so why are the prices still so high?

This is one reason that I don’t wish to go fully digital, if the prices were cheaper then maybe I’d consider it, buying a game at a lower price always makes you feel good. Right now though you can still find older titles being offered for twice, nearly three times the amount that they should be.

You Need a Chunk of Space

If you’re planning on going fully digital then you’re going to have to plan your downloads wisely, think of all the games you currently own and how much space would all of it need? Even with a digital push at the start of the current-gen, 500GB or 1TB is still small for the majority of players.

Back when the PS4 initially released I found myself constantly deleting games in order to play new releases. Luckily with an external HDD, I no longer need to do this regularly but not everyone can afford extra space when they need it.

Digital Means Downloading, That Isn’t Always Quick

For some, downloading can be a right pain in the arse with broadband connections in some areas being poor. If you’re going to go full digital when your PS4 or Xbone comes through the door, you better be prepared for the amount of time it might take to download your games before you can play.

Let’s see though, ‘Increase your playtime with the ability to play games while they’re downloading titles. When a player purchases a game that is enabled with this feature, the PS4™ system downloads a portion of the game, so play can start, while the rest is downloaded in the background during actual gameplay.’ Sounds great, right? Even so, we’re in the 21st century and we’ve still got slow internet, I guess we should all be thankful we’re still not surviving on dial-up.

That said, this is still a major issue and it’s still a valid reason for some people not willing to move to digital downloads for larger titles.

What About All Those Collector’s Editions?

If we all went digital, what would happen to all of those lovely collector’s editions? While some gamers prefer extra downloadable content in their ‘special editions’, I’d rather have something that I could display and let people enjoy as much as I do. I’m not going to go into detail with this particular con, it’s self-explanatory to all of the folks who enjoy collecting or buying the odd special edition.

What’s your opinion? Would you go fully digital with your purchases or would you still enjoy having a trusty disk by your side?


I play games. A lot of them. You can catch me streaming my favourite games on Twitch: Can’t wait to meet you!

  • Tim

    Physical boxes for me, old school rich 35 year gamer here, still love having the physical game boxes lined up on the shelf just like when I was a kid.