Opinion Piece: Digital or Physical?

With next-gen coming next month, I’ve been looking at the pros and cons of digital purchases vs physical ones. Why are some people all for going digital, and why are others so reluctant to move forward? With the digital age in full swing, wouldn’t it be wise for consumers to go fully digital in a digital world? Here are some of the pros and cons of digital vs. physical.

The Pros:

No Lost or Broken Disks and Faster Loading Times

One of the absolute must reasons 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 amount of times you’ve lost your favourite game disk, only to find it under a boat load 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 doesn’t it? With digital media you wont 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? Imagine buying Call of Duty: Ghosts down the line for less than £5, wouldn’t that be marvelous?

You Can Carry Your Games Around With You

Let’s talk consoles here. Say you wish to go to your grandparents house for Christmas, you’re spending some time there but you want to take your console with you and some of the games you’ve amounted over the day through presents and some older titles, what on earth do you do? Taking a bunch of disks and/or cases and lugging them around with you can be a problem, if you have them all installed on to your HDD though things will be much easier.

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.

The Cons:

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 and have been since their creation. 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, it’s silly.

You Need Some 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, how much space would all of it need? We’re lucky to be getting bigger HDD’s with our next-gen console, the PlayStation 4 is giving us 500GB’s of space to save all our gaming goodness, but will that be enough?

As an example, Call of Duty: Ghosts will need to take up roughly 50GB for the initial install, that’s a lot of space gone in just a few minutes. We’re not sure if the majority of next-gen titles will need a mandatory install/update this large, but if they do then that’s only 10 games you can fit to your shiny new HDD at one time. One could argue that you could delete the data once you’re done, but how many people still keep content for a rainy day? I know I do. Why can’t this console come with a bigger HDD already in the box? A 1TB, maybe a 2TB just to be sure.

Digital Means Downloading, That Isn’t Always Quick

For some, downloading can be a right pain in the bottom, with broadband connections in some areas being rather poor you can see why we’ve put this here. If you’re going to go full digital when your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One 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.’, this sounds great right? I’m still skeptical, if I’m not all wired up to my router (which is hard due to console placement in my house) downloads can take a while. 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.

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 games 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 gaming folk who enjoy collecting or buying the odd special edition because it’s ‘rad’ or ‘cool’. You can’t open, touch or love any DLC like you can an artbook or statue.

Here’s Some Thoughts:

‘Digital all the way, no broken disks, faster load times and generally better.’ – Tom

‘Digital is great for indie/arcade games and for me personally, PC games, however, I’m still a fan of collecting physical copies. I enjoy seeing my collection in front of me rather than viewing the majority of it digitally. Nothing like a new game smell!’ – Amber

‘I love, love, love owning something physical. If it only comes as a digital, then that’s fine by me, but if I have a choice, then I will gladly pay extra and wait longer for something I can hold.’ – Devin

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


I play games. A lot of them. You can catch me streaming my favourite games on Twitch: twitch.tv/amberplaygames. 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.