The Pros and Cons of a Digital-Only Video Game Industry

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There may come a time in the near future, when gaming as we know it will forever change. Since 1972 with the Magnavox Odyssey, 1996 with the Nintendo 64, or 2020 with the PlayStation 5, players have always had the option to get their favorite games in physical form. However, in 2023, industry insiders are beginning to predict that the physical disc may be on the way out, with some projections saying digital-only AAA games will be the standard among developers by 2028.

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Even now, gamers are starting to see titles like Remedy Entertainment’s Alan Wake 2, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s Like a Dragon Gaiden, and Bethesda Game Studios’ Starfield, all announce there will be no physical release. Given the nature of the current-gen Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 consoles offering disc-less options, it appears the end is near. And so, with the state of gaming in mind, presented is the argument for and against a digital-only world.

An Argument for Why Developers Should Continue to Make Physical Versions of Games

Should the gaming industry start releasing digital-only AAA titles?
Should the gaming industry start releasing digital-only AAA titles?

The first thing every gamer probably thinks about when buying a physical title in the store or online is how nice the game will look on display. There’s something about holding the actual box and adding it to the collection that just makes sense. It’s a way to show your friends the games you love and to remind you of the great adventures they brought you. If you’re someone who loves your video game collection, then the thought of a disc-free world might be disconcerting.

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RELATED: “Is this the new normal?” Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Joins Alan Wake II in Being Digital Only Releases

The physical disc is also something you can share with others, so they can experience the game as well. If you played video games as a kid, you might remember trading games with your friends. It was a time when you could borrow something new, and a time when your friend was secretly hoping you would give the game back when you were finished. Perhaps you still trade games with your friends when there’s something you want them to try. If content goes digital, it’s unlikely developers are going to make a way for you to share access to games.

Lastly, a physical disc provides access and rarely requires an online subscription to play. It’s available to purchase in a plethora of locations and does not limit the purchaser to one market. If you want to buy a game right now, you can go to Game Stop, Walmart, Target, Amazon, and more, where there is competitive pricing and sometimes trade-in options. The new digital-only world will not include trade options and digital titles will have the same kind of value. If you buy a digital game from one of the big three: Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo, they are likely going to make you buy it from them, on their console, and decrease competition among other vendors.

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An Argument for the Benefits of the Digital-Only World and Why Gaming Should Change

Are digital only consoles the future of gaming as we know it?
Are digital only consoles the future of gaming as we know it?

One of the greatest advantages to a digital-only system, is that everything is in one place and nothing can be lost, destroyed, or scratched. All of your games can travel with you and be accessed in one location. It also means whenever a newly released game hits the market, if you pre-order the title you will not be waiting forever to get it in the mail. You will not even have to step outside your own front door to get a new game and there would be no debate in choosing between disc or digital.

There is also an environmental incentive for the world to go digital only. Materials used to produce physical games make up 23 times the carbon emissions, compared to digital titles. There is leftover waste that has to be disposed of when making the plastic boxes and discs. It would be a great way to reduce our carbon footprint by eliminating physical games and going to digital only options.

SEE ALSO: Batman: Arkham Trilogy – The Latest Release to Follow the Digital-Only Trend

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Lastly, while physical titles used to contain the entire game and were a great backup in case a developer went out of business or had servers go down, this is no longer the case. Now when you buy a physical disc, it is no more than a glorified access code to download the game from the internet. Those at Remedy Entertainment, who worked on Alan Wake 2, recognize this situation. They have even explained the reason why they decided to make the game digital-only is partially due to expenditures. Since they did not have to worry about the costs of shipping the item and making it, more of the budget can go toward actually developing the game and getting it ready for release. If digital-only mean games will be more complete at launch, then that would be a massive bonus.

RELATED: “More time to polish”: Alan Wake 2’s Devs Explain Unpopular Digital Release Decision

As some who loves my collection of games, I certainly do not want the disc era of gaming to end. However, some of the positives to a digital-only world are undeniable to the future of gaming and the environment.

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Should game developers go digital-only and try to focus more of their budget toward game improvements or would a disc-free industry lead to more problems than solutions? Be sure to comment and let us know how you think the future of gaming should look.

Source: Essentially Sports and Somag News

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Written by Ezekiel Hall

Articles Published: 171

Ezekiel is an avid gamer, film enthusiast, and has a love for technology. When he has free time you are most likely to find him playing something on PlayStation or binge watching a new show. He is a fan of all things DC, Marvel, and Star Wars.