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Buying digital is nothing new, especially to PC gamers. With sites like Steam, GOG, Desura, and Green Man Gaming offering drastically reduced prices and mind blowing bundles, it’s easy to see why buying physical copies is going the way of the buffalo.

Part of the issue is that major retailers just can’t compete with digital pricing. With PC and Mac being a haven for indie games, a lot of those titles never make it to the physical realm to begin with. The same could be said about indie games on modern consoles as well, but we’re just now starting to see Sony and Microsoft approach digital retail titles more attractively. Sony, for instance, usually offers 10% off if you pre-order, while both allow you to download your game early so it’s readily available on launch day.

Another issue is that, as technology advances and our PC becomes more beastly, some of our favorite classics no longer work. We can’t install 10 discs of Wing Commander or Indiana Jones because many of our units don’t have the proper drives, but GOG.com introduced a solution to that problem earlier today.

Although it’s a short list of games right now, GOG is allowing its customers to submit a form via their website that will, in return, provide them with a digital copy that includes “all of the bonus goodies” that come with the GOG version. All they need is your old registration key, and bam! Well, not so much “bam!”, because, as I said, the list is pretty short.

According to The Escapist, the available games are:

  • Eador: Genesis
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Clear Sky
  • Mount & Blade: Warband
  • Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAUQjhw&url=http%3A%2F%2Freddit.com%2Fr%2Fgaming%2Fcomments%2F26k2jt%2Fmy_cat_likes_my_xbox_one_too%2F&ei=R8geVb39JsHYgwSKvYPICw&bvm=bv.89947451,d.eXY&psig=AFQjCNHRb6L7ORoXz8zRuIZK66w5YHP3mw&ust=1428167039377712

Moving along to the home console front, I see two main issues with going digital. For starters, most console gamers are used to the idea of trading in their old and unwanted games. Personally, I don’t find myself revisiting games I’ve already finished, so I typically sell them on eBay. I get a decent amount back for my investment that I can then use to buy another game, repeating the process over and over again. Buying digital doesn’t allow me to get any sort of return if I’m unhappy with the game, other than freeing up HD space upon deletion.

The other issue is that console gamers don’t have an outlet like Steam that provides a steady flow of deep discounts. Occasionally sites like Amazon or NewEgg will offer discounts on digital downloads for console titles, but Xbox Live and PSN don’t really have any competition to contend with. We consumers have to rely on Xbox Live or PSN to offer sales, and if you’ve been paying attention to our recent sales posts, they’re not all that attractive. There are thousands of sales on Steam at any given time, and that not only has a lot to do with the PC having a broader selection of games to choose from, but the fact that Steam has competition.

Then, of course, there’s the limited amount of space on the Xbox One and PS4 HD; although it seems to be an ongoing trend for even physical copies to require a 40-60gb install. With both offering the ability to upgrade to an external, this isn’t so much of a problem as it is an added expense.

I haven’t yet made the jump to an all-digital future, but I definitely enjoy having so many games at the ready on my Xbox One. Recently I found myself playing through Final Fantasy: Type-0 in between online co-op sessions of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and I actually found myself scoffing each time I had to swap one disc out for the other. However, jumping between the recently released Neverwinter, Child of Light, and Killer Instinct helped me appreciate the benefit of digital releases.

I suppose if a game came out that I knew I’d enjoy and had no interest in exchanging, like Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt or The Elder Scrolls Online, I’d consider buying digital. It’s the same price either way (or 10% off if you pre-order on PSN), and having it at the ready–should I decide to flip flop between games, as I often do–is becoming more appealing as time goes on.

What about you? Have you been buying games digitally over their physical counterparts? Why or why not? Let us know down in the comments!

Bio Card Brad

Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling reviews, public relations, and our social media communications on Facebook and Twitter. He’s an aspiring video game journalist from Baltimore, MD with a deep seeded love of video games, pro wrestling, horror films, and cats. Get in touch with him by e-mail at the address above, or follow him on Twitter.

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Written by CheapBossAttack

Freelance games writer for cheapbossattack.com and regular podcast contributor at counterattackgames.com. I'm a sewer-dwelling console heathen with a passion for RPGs and horror games. Follow me on Twitter @cheapbossattack.

8 comments

  1. I’m with games as I am with books or music. Digital copies are alright, but they don’t feel the same way as the physical copies do. Which is quite silly, since the games (or books and CD’s) are just as good either way… We have both, I love that you get indie games easily as digital copies but then I tend to buy the games I really really want as physical copies.
    The feel of flipping through CD’s at the music store or reading the first page at the library, or weighing one game against another at the game store. You can’t do that with digital things. There’s no touchy feely going on there and I kinda need to be able to do that (1981 represent! or what hahah).

    1. I think that’s just something you deal with if you grew up in the pre-internet era. I’m so used to having instruction booklets to read (that are now rarer to find than unicorns in games nowadays), or having all of my games organized up on my shelf.

      When my GF got a Kindle and had 1,000’s of books at the ready, I was still adamant about reading physical copies.. until I moved from Maryland to South Carolina, back to Maryland, and back to South Carolina hauling a damn library-sized mound of books. Once she upgraded to the new Kindle, I inherited her old one and now I’m spoiled by the convenience of having tons of options AND being able to read in the dark lol.

      I haven’t bought a CD since the early 2000’s. Music is the one thing I jumped on the digital bandwagon with almost immediately.

      1. Ohgodyes! Instruction booklets are the best! I really don’t by CD’s anymore either, I just like flipping through them at the store… touching them.

      2. You definitely don’t get that feeling of “ownership” buying digital, whether it be books or games. Maybe it’s the materialistic part of me that enjoys looking up at two massive shelves full of books and game cases. I don’t get that feeling when I mouse through my Steam library.

  2. I’m of the mind that both have their pros, and cons. I think digital on consoles have a few more cons though.

    On PC Digital’s biggest advantage is competition. Competition drives better prices, and drives up quality. Steam is the leader here, but GOG isn’t too far behind. EA, and Ubisoft have their own stores where most people go to buy their games so they don’t have to run clients separately. But now, and again EA or Ubisoft will run a deal on say, a Capcom game that forces competition to either price match, or run another promotion. It’s the closest thing to a physical business model. In the real world, you can buy games (for now) at Target, Best Buy, Gamestop, an independent small business, etc. Each doing their own deals to get customers in the door. The PC digital space is the
    only one that comes close to that.

    On PC DRM is a lot less restrictive. In the case of GOG there is none at all. But most stores ask the end user to log in once online, and after that they can play offline in most cases (MMOs, and a handful of other games being exceptions.) Steam lets you set up a friends, and family sharing list too. So while you’re playing Skyrim, your father can be playing Bejewled 3. Sadly you can’t share the game at the same time. But it’s something most game systems don’t do. GOG’s policy of no DRM means making a physical back up is doable too.

    Because games are tied to an account, when you change computers they can be re-downloaded. Where things get a little murky is changing to a new OS (ie: Mac/Linux) where not every game you own has a version for it. The biggest concern with digital though is Identity theft. If someone steals your account info, all of your games on a given service are gone. And if you think going physical with new games on PC will cut you free, it won’t. The physical games are still tied to Steam/Origin/Uplay 90% of the time.

    Over on consoles digital is convenient but it doesn’t have competition to bring down costs, and backward compatibility isn’t as common. If you buy a game from Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo there are no stores competing for your dollar digitally. There’s no incentive for one of the big three to discount a game. It’s why so many of them are still $60 on these services long after the local department store put them on clearance to make room for new releases. Now, and again one of them might do a sale to dissuade you from going to brick, and mortar. Or because they want to promote something else. But sales are far fewer here. The other worry with consoles is that while your games are still tied to an account, you can’t usually take them with you to the next console. The hardware between the 360 is different than the XB1. So if you want to go back to play a game 6 years ago you’d better keep the old console hooked up at all times. Until console vendors can get emulation down for every old machine, you’ll need t keep all of your old stuff. Plus, because you can’t move the games to a backup device in most cases. So if the machine dies, so do the games. Still, some console games are only sold digitally so it’s a risk you have to take. Of course more, and more console games require an installation, and service check ins. So when they’re outmoded, and a hard drive fails you still might find yourself unable to play. Still, when I can, I go with a disc on console. They simply don’t have the precautions, and benefits of PC services yet.

    1. “Plus, because you can’t move the games to a backup device in most cases. So if the machine dies, so do the games.”

      At least both Microsoft and Sony (not sure about Nintendo, so I don’t really buy anything digital there) save your purchase history, so if you lose your games or uninstall them for whatever reason, you can just re-download them any time you want from PSN or Xbox Live. I had a launch 360 for years and years until I upgraded to a new model this past Christmas. Once I added my XBL account to the new Xbox, I was able to jump right in to Xbox Live and download every game I had ever paid for digitally and put it on the new HD. It was nice!

  3. Yes but what happens when XBL stops supporting the old systems? Remember the original Xbox? Not long after the 360 came out they kiboshed every bit of support even online purchasing. Bottom line was that if you wanted to fire up those minigames,and DLC you had to hope the drive in the system never failed. At some point Microsoft will find it no longer profitable to keep the 360 servers up. At some point Sony will take down the PS3 servers. If they can port those games to the new consoles via emulation wrappers cool. But its unlikely. Nintendo also lets you redownload something if you uninstall it or your external drive needs replacing. But again. At some point they won’t have the Shop channel up for the Wii. Gamespy went out so the online play went with it. But eventually I see the shop channel going away. Thankfully I was able to migrate that stuff to my Wii U when I got it so when that day comes I can still play the games I bought. Still, if something gets corrupted, and I have to reformat/reload after that day comes, I may find I can’t get those Genesis, Master System, TG16, Neo Geo or Commodore 64 games I bought on the original Wii service. Until the consoles can get on par with PC services (Which probably means A LOT of emulation due to the hardware changing every generation) Where you can play all of the old downloadable games you’ve ever purchased on the latest console, losing titles you’ve bought is just a risk you’ll have to take. I will give the companies credit for attempting backward compatibility with physical games last generation. But even Microsoft gave up after a couple of years. Nintendo reused Gamecube hardware in the Wii, so we didn’t worry on the Nintendo front. They did it again with the Wii U, although you can’t run the Gamecube games anymore. Still, they’re the only console with the feature. 360 games don’t run on the XB1, PS3, games don’t run on the PS4. But again if they could have them as digital re releases, and they could see you bought them on the last console, then let you have them. (Again, would probably not happen due to all of the emulation required) I think digital console games would be less scary to people. Anyway that isn’t to say I wouldn’t buy digital on the console, just that I won’t be giving away old consoles when the new ones come out to replace them.

    1. Yeah, that’s a valid point. Or points, rather lol. Nintendo seems to be the only one on board with backwards compatibility, which is odd for a company that’s usually out of touch with.. well, everything.

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