For years I have had a very strong opinion on paying for digital games. For me, paying near, or more than the physical release price seems ridiculous. As a collector I would also rather pay £50 for a physical disk or cartridge, rather than £7 for the downloadable version. Please continue reading to see why I don’t pay for binary.
I am so against digital game media that even when I get games that have free DLC codes – I do not use them. It may sound like I am spiting myself, but I just do not agree with digital content on the scale that we see today.
One reason that I am very anti-binary is that it saddens me to see games released that have 30% of their content available on launch. These games cost the consumer money – lots of it, and then we are pushed to purchase DLC for sometimes the same value or more. This downloadable content is marketed as “extra content” but with several games it is obvious that it is the content that was just stripped from the game.
During the golden age of gaming all the way through to the Xbox and PS2, games were released as-is. There was no margin for error. There was no possibility of getting DLC for your game, or a hidden costume that you now get as a pre-order bonus. PlayStation games like Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII were large games that were 100% complete at the time of launch. To finish a game you needed your initial funds and then lots of time – not a larger wallet.
Today many games are branded as “pay to play” or even “pay to win” titles. Some games even stop you progressing on mobile platforms until you purchase a specific weapon or item from its subsequent app store.
Regardless of your thoughts on digital media we are continuing to progress towards a gaming market that will be solely digital. Physical releases in the future might be strictly limited – such as titles from Super Rare Games and Limited Run who already release titles that have no physical counterpart from their digital brothers and sisters. Streaming services such as Amazon Luna and Google Stadia are becoming more popular amongst gamers, and the ninth generation consoles the Xbox Series X/S and PS5 both have all-digital, diskless variants at launch. There are several issues with this movement.
Firstly, a digital gaming world means that shops such as Gamestop and CEX will cease to exist. CEX was incredibly popular, and still is, for selling DVD’s, Blu Ray’s, CD’s and video games. The film market is shrinking due to Prime and Netflix amongst other streaming services. CD’s sales have plummeted in recent years too. Add video games to this, with streaming services and people buying all-digital console variants, and CEX is losing a massive audience of consumers.
The consumer loses
This is not just bad for CEX as a business, and the people who work there, but also the consumer. Gamers of a certain age remember taking their pocket-money to game-dedicated shops. Walking in and seeing the pre-owned section was like Christmas all over again. Finding that one title that you craved for so long at £4.99 instead of £44.99 was mesmerizing. Children were able to join in with the joy of video games. People who are on restricted budgets could do the same, and some of us are just more patient in when we buy our games after release. An all-digital world would make this cease to exist. Sure – companies have their e-sales, but generally they control their prices with a firm grip. If Sony wants a title to remain at £49 on their store indefinitely, then you will be forced to pay this if you want to play the game. This is surely a form of monopolisation.
Who own’s what?
The next issue is in regards to the legislations around buying digital media. You might be paying full price for a game, but you do not actually own the title. The title is still property of the licensee and you are merely paying for the right to borrow it. The right to borrow is also for as long as they see fit. My last statement is in reference to Microsoft closing it’s eBook store in April 2019. This service was similar in design to the Kindle Store for Amazon. People could “buy” their books, download and read them at their leisure. When Microsoft announced the closure it meant that everyone who had downloaded a book could no longer read it. Yes – some refunds were given to consumers, but the books were lost.
In the current climate no company is safe from collapse. If Microsoft or Sony decide in 20 years to terminate their gaming industry offerings then digital content could disappear. This is not terrible if you have already kept the saved files. But what if the PS5 you brought at launch in 2020 decides to pop its clogs? You will not be able to get a second-hand console to redownload the £3000 of binary games you have purchased. Of course not – the servers will be down, making this impossible. However, if you had the game on disk – you could get another console, pop it into the drive to continue your fun.
Other issues that could arise are ones such as Epic Games forcing Silicon Knights to remove their games from store shelves after a terrible court case. Obviously they are unable to remove all the games from the world as many had already been sold. However – on a digital platform they could send patches to remove this content at will. This gives companies total control over what they want you to see and play.
Recently my son’s Nintendo 2DS died a death. After trying to fix it with a tad of soldering and a new motherboard I have given up. This is not the end of the world as I can gain a cheap second-hand replacement if required. However, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a digital install on the console. I also believe that this is console specific as you can log in and register the device to any Nintendo ID to retrieve the game. Because the hardware has failed – the game is lost. I now need to buy a physical version of the game – doubling the initial cost.
Perhaps I have made myself sounds like a conspiracy theorist of sorts? However, I honestly believe in what I am saying. With a large physical collection I have complete control over my purchases. If these are looked after they will last me until retirement. In a digital world you are handing the controller over to player-two. Even if you do get it back it will be a sticky, Wotsit-covered controller that they can snatch back at any given moment.