Physical vs Digital

I may be one of the last people I know who continues to buy physical media. I still collect Blu-Ray movies. I sometimes buy CDs (very rarely these days). And I buy many physical video games, but that may be the most normal of the three. I do like to collect things.

I have a large collection of digital games on my PC, Switch and PS4, but I also own many physical games (Switch and PS4). I still have a big physical collection of old X-Box 360, PS2, X-Box, N64, SNES and NES games. I continue to buy physical games for a few reasons, which I will share with you now.

Physical Reason #1

This first reason no longer applies, but up until some point in 2019 I still had my friend’s Gamer’s Club Unlocked membership saving me 20% on physical games at Best Buy. This is why I purchased many fully priced, new release games over the years. When you could pay $48 instead of the normal $60 it made sense to buy physical. This even pushed me to buy some games that I definitely could have waited on (some that I haven’t even played yet, two years later).

The Best Buy Gamer’s Club Unlocked was discontinued in 2018. Luckily, my friend had pre-paid for two extra years. That’s why we were able to continue to use it for so long. I even ended up giving my friend’s phone number to people he didn’t know letting them enjoy his discount too (it’s fine, it got him more Best Buy coupons).

Even after the extinction of Gamer’s Club Unlocked, I’ve seen Amazon and Best Buy offer $10 off of pre-orders. I only pre-ordered Cyberpunk 2077 from Amazon because it was $10 off at one point.

Physical Reason #2

I enjoy trading physical games with friends. It’s not a forever trade — my game is mine and yours is yours. But, if friends work together they can build a pretty sweet library of games along the way. Of course, there are some un-tradable games. Games that you play forever or with friends and it’s ok for everyone to buy them and play together.

I got Marvel’s Spider-Man at launch because it came with my Spider-Man PS4 Pro (the physical edition). I would have bought the game myself if I didn’t upgrade my PS4 to a Pro. My friend bought Red Dead Redemption 2 at launch. They weren’t released at the same time, but I gave him Spider-Man to play when I was done and he gave me Red Dead 2 when he was done with it. It’s a great system.

I have another buddy who buys almost every physical game for Nintendo Switch, he has a PS4 but rarely buys new games for it. I am able to trade games cross-platform with him. I give him my PS4 exclusives to try and he gives me Switch games. It’s a good way to give games you aren’t so sure about a FREE test drive.

Physical Reason #3

I still enjoy opening a brand new game case for the first time. I enjoy ripping off the plastic wrap, and cracking it open. It was a much better experience a few years ago where you would sometimes get a booklet and maybe some goodies with your new game. I still have some old Nintendo and Super Nintendo game manuals in my collection.

Cyberpunk 2077 goodies

Cyberpunk 2077 is the first game in a long time to bring back physical goodies with purchase, and I just bought the regular edition. Cyberpunk 2077 was the first game to come with a physical map since GTA V (and that was on X-Box 360, now two generations ago). GTA V is the Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day” of the video game world (Number 1 song for 18 weeks straight). It’s been a top game on consoles for three generations now.

Physical Reason #4

This last reason may be the most outrageous, but it is also a rational fear I have. This may also be why I still buy Blu-Ray movies. I love that most of my Blu-Ray movies come with a digital download that I can watch on my Apple TV. I also love owning a physical copy for special features.

The true reason why I love owning a physical backup is in case of the zombie apocalypse, or frankly any type of apocalypse. What will happen when in a post-apocalyptic world, with no internet, you want to stream a movie? You won’t be able to. With no internet your digital collection is gone — Vamoose!

In the post-apocalypse, physical media will reign supreme. CDs, Tapes, Vinyls, DVDs, Game Cartridges and Game Discs will all take over the world. At least, until there’s no more electricity or generators to power our lives. Then we’ll all be screwed, but until that happens I will enjoy playing my physical games — at least for a little while. I’ll play Animal Crossing straight into the apocalypse and beyond.

Another, more sane, reason could also be game preservation. Digital games can be taken away (like P.T.) but physical games last forever, or at least until the disc or cartridge is damaged, or the servers go down for an online game. It’s good to have physical versions around for the future.

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There are a few reasons why digital is a better choice too (as long as there’s no zombie apocalypse).

Digital Reason #1

Anytime you pre-order a digital game you get to play it on release date at midnight. You don’t have to wait for the stores to open or for a delivery. I remember a time where we would stand in line at midnight to pick up our pre-ordered games. Many digital games can even be pre-loaded before release in order to instantly play them. Some games even release digitally a week early or so.

Of course, you can receive a physical game a few days early too. You can also receive it very late on release day or even days after release, especially during a pandemic. Receiving a game early can be neat, unless there’s a patch needed that isn’t ready until release date. Many games need their day one patch (and some patches beyond that too). 

Digital Reason #2

Another reason why digital is better than physical is for lazy gamers like me. When I’m playing a physical game, that game stays in my console for weeks at a time. Once I sit down to play, I usually play what’s already in the console. Animal Crossing hasn’t left my Switch for the past few months. I haven’t even tried out the three new additions to Smash Bros because I’m too lazy to change out my Animal Crossing cartridge.

It’s so much easier to switch between digital games on any console. Even when playing my Nintendo Switch in handheld mode with my cartridges in the case right next to me, I’m still too lazy to change games. I’ve exited whatever physical game I was playing on PS4 hoping to play Overwatch, but have been too lazy to get up so I instead played something downloaded to my PS4.

Digital Reason #3

Digital games are often given away for free (on PS4) with a PS Plus membership. I have a ton of games in my digital PS4 library that were given to me FREE, and although I don’t play many of them at the time I have gone back to download and play some of them. 

Last year, when the new Rachet & Clank: Rift Apart was announced for PS5, I looked through my library and found Rachet & Clank (2016), a game I had never played. I instantly downloaded it and started that night and I became obsessed with Rachet & Clank. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is now one of the main games I’m waiting for to upgrade to a PS5.

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I will continue to buy my physical games, mainly to be able to trade with friends. My current strategy has been to buy physical games when I really want them at release and to buy games I missed digitally, later on, when they are on sale. There will always be some games that I wish I bought physically and some that I wish I bought digitally.

What’s your game library made up of (Physical vs Digital)?

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