Why I Prefer Physical Copies

Pretty, pretty game disks.

Digital games have been making waves in the gaming industry for quite some time, and have been gaining even more traction with the introduction of the PS4 and Xbox One this generation. With every game being available in digital as well as physical formats, the convenience of owning a game that can be played without a disk is obvious.

However, I’m not entirely sold on going all digital for my gaming collection, and it will take quite some time and many changes to get me to that point. Below are the reasons why I’ve stuck with game disks over digital licences this generation.

Easier To Get New Releases Cheaper

There are currently many options available to gamers these days to allow them to buy new games at a discount. Retailers like Amazon and Best Buy offer membership services that offer discounts on new games to the tune of about 20% off ($12 off a $60 game), for a price of course. Similarly, many retailers allow people to sell back things to help pay for games, and even though the amounts that are offered in return are usually laughable to the point of provoking derision from competitors, it’s an option nonetheless.

None of these options are really feasible for digital purchases. Receiving a discount on a digital purchase usually hinges on the publisher offering a discount, which is generally only for PC games. Console players are limited to things like EA Access on Xbox One, which only gives a 10% discount on EA published games. This might change with the Xbox Game Pass, but the digital discounts will only apply to games that are part of that service. Buying new games at launch is only reliably cheaper by purchasing physical copies.

Less Risk Of Not Being Able To Play

Playing while a console is supported carries many benefits. The services offered are still in place, games can be patched by developers, and multiplayer is still available. Granted, these are recent concerns for only the console gamer, but they are still legitimate concerns.

Consider this though. Back when Konami released the Silent Hills playable trailer, people were ecstatic to play it. So much so, that it was the buzz of gaming communities. Then Konami cancelled Silent Hills, and removed the playable trailer from the PlayStation Store. People that wanted to play PT at that point either had to have it still installed on their console, or know someone that did. There is no way whatsoever to download PT ever again… It’s gone.

This can happen to any digital game, though luckily it hasn’t yet. That future isn’t really possible with physical games, because you have the majority of the data on the disk. If sometime down the line, I want to install Bloodborne or Sunset Overdrive (assuming they don’t do remasters of them), all I need to do is pop in the disk and I’m good to go.

Easier To Keep Track Of Physical Games

I’ve honestly lost track of how many digital games I own that were given to me from my tenure at GameStop. In order for me to see what I have on each system, I need to boot up the console and look through the Ready-To-Install games.

Not the case with my physical games. All I need to do is venture over to my bookshelf (partly pictured in the header image) and look through my games. It’s a decent way to catalog my games without having to set keep track of them some other way.

Publishers Pocket The Extra Profits

This is a little more of a principle than a benefit for the consumer. Why is it that digital games cost the same as physical games? Without retailers being part of the equation, digital games shouldn’t cost nearly as much as a physical game. The chart below does a decent job of illustrating the breakdown of the cost of getting a game into the hands of the consumer.

Digital games could be cheaper right off the bat, but they aren’t. Instead, publishers are apparently lining their wallets with the extra cash that they’re pulling in from the sales of digital games instead of trying to pass any savings onto the consumer; at least until they’re ready to make some extra sales by cutting the price a little.

Onlive LA Times Article
Source: LA Times

No Internet? No Problem

One thing that sucks about modern life is when the internet at home is out. Whether because of hardware failure, weather, or other circumstances, the internet might crap out on you. Well if you own a game digitally but isn’t installed on your system, you aren’t playing it until access is restored.

Of course, if you have the disk, you can just pop it in and install it. You won’t get any patches that are available for the game, but at least you can play it.

It might not be as big of an issue for people that live in areas with reliable internet, but as a person living in a small Oklahoma city where DSL is the fastest internet around, disconnections are fairly common. Having physical games means uninterrupted access to my entire library, and it’s a perk that’s extremely hard to discount.

Physical Copies Look Prettier

It’s a widely known fact that game cases have some wonderful cover art. Who doesn’t want something pretty to stare at every now and then? And reversible cover art? Who doesn’t love that? What do you get with a digital game? A thumbnail on your dashboard? How do you show off your collection to people? How do you brag about your games? By telling them to hang on while you start your console?

Do you like physical copies of games? What about the perks of owning game disks as opposed to digital games? Or are you a digital game lover? Let me know in the comments below.


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39 thoughts on “Why I Prefer Physical Copies

  1. I prefer digital, it’s way more convenient to me. Being able to switch games without needing to find a disk is a big bonus for me. Especially considering 3DS libraries, while I’m on the go, I don’t need to lug around all the cartridges with me.

    It does have it’s downsides as it seems more and more that digital libraries purchased for one gen of games is not playable on the newer iterations, making your digital purchases essentially useless because you cannot play them unless you keep the older console, and you can’t sell them 2nd hand.

    If digital games were able to be played on any platform, then it’s a dream come true. I’m thinking how cool Steam is because I can play old and new games from the same client. Even way in the future, it should be technically possible for me to load up any game from that library still. Say I want to check out Witcher 3 in 10 years, should be no problem.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As strong as my opinions are towards choosing physical games, I enjoy reading someone speak as strongly towards the opposition! I will say that having a nice 3DS homescreen filled with games (mostly eShop games like the PicrossE series, Pokemon Shuffle, games like that) does look beautiful and it’s super nice to jump around. I also have Mario Kart 7 digital on my 3DS and I play it way more than I probably would if I had to swap a cart.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Having suffered at the hands of a dodgy internet connection for too long, I still prefer physical copies of games. It’s easier to track my Pile of Shame when I can physically go through it, despite the space it takes up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m definitely more of a physical copies kind of guy, as I’ve mentioned here before, I think.

    On the other hand though, digital purchases have one huuuuuge advantage. See, back when I gotz burglarized, the bastards took most of my physical games, which I either had to buy again (and let’s face it, that ain’t a lot of fun), or kiss goodbye to forever. My digitally owned games however, I still owned, so even though my PS4 and Xbox One (and their hard drives) had gone, I just had to re-download those games onto the replacement consoles.

    If most of my library had been digital then (as opposed to mostly physical), it would’ve saved me a fortune, and/or meant I wouldn’t have had to make decisions about which games I would/wouldn’t replace.

    So, like, there’s that. You know, in the interests of fairness and such! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great post! I will ALWAYS prefer physical copies. I enjoy collecting games and I want to display them all proudly on my shelf. I’m a bit upset the industry seems to be heading in an all digital direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel there’s something inherently satisfying with owning a physical copy of a game – especially when it’s the best of the best. That said, I tend to prefer them to digital copies solely on the subject of console games. With PC games, it’s reversed; I don’t like physical copies of those because I prefer to just click on the icon and begin playing. With consoles, inserting the disc feels like it should be part of the experience while doing the same for the PC is too cumbersome.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a fan of physical copies. I forgot who I was talking on here, but we agreed that having that cover on your bookshelf, like having a physical book, just has something a little more special about it. You own it, it’s yours and you can pick it up and hold it in your hands and show off, “Look at all the fantastic adventures I’ve had!” Especially if it’s a game I really like, I prefer having something physical. It’s like keeping a little piece of it, whereas a digital copy is more like a concept. I don’t know if that makes sense.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I apologize ahead of time… this is going to get long.

    It is logical to think that digital should be cheaper than physical, after all there is no physical item to distribute or shelve. However I don’t think it is quite as cut and dry as the publisher just lining their pockets with the difference.

    Based on the chart you provided (from OnLive), simple analysis allows us to remove the $7 for returns and $4 for distribution, as they are the only breakdown pieces both tied to physical stock. This should by rights lower pricing of digital goods by $11. Let’s say $50 for a new digital game as a base price because no one is charging $48.99 for a new product, $49.99 sounds just as good and makes an extra buck. That sounds a lot like digital games cost more than physical and for a long time I was inclined to agree with that assessment.

    But when exploring on such a base academic level we aren’t accounting for a very big piece of the puzzle. That of course being inflation. Since standardized gaming prices came in to being (by my memory, it was roughly about the PSX era where games were $39.99 as a base price), every generation the pricing has moved up. PS2/GCN/XBox era, games were generally $49.99. X360/PS3 era that price moved to $59.99, where the pricing has stayed for about 12 years. The increase in cost was attributed was to offset the rising cost of development. This did not happen this current console generation (although some PC games did see an uptick from $49.99 to $59.99 during last gen). However, development costs are at an all time high (which is why you hear studios like Square listing the Tomb Raider reboot as a sales disappointment despite selling 5m units – the margins just aren’t as high). One could extrapolate that digital sales are healthier for a publisher as they are making (roughly $11 more per game). I understand that isn’t really the discussion here but I would wager a guess that without digital we could be looking at $70 or $80 price points for games.

    The biggest reason though that physical ends up being cheaper than retail is because physical retailers want it to be that way. The physical retailers hold the cards in the relationship. They have, depending upon their contracts but based on your chart, a $15 margin to play with. This is why Best Buy and Amazon can offer 20% off new purchases because it still keeps them in the black on the sale. If say Sony or Microsoft were to offer similar sales on their consoles, retailers could balk at ordering more units to stock placing one or both in a position where they are being blackballed by the very partners they need to get the units out to the consumer. None of this of course directly impacts us as consumers but it isn’t just an easy decision of digital should be cheaper.

    Back on topic though. I’m currently mixed on the subject. At the beginning of the generation I was full aboard the digital express train. One of the reasons for boarding that train was due to space (having four kids will eliminate large swaths of area for just you). Having a massive collection of music, games, books, movies, comics, and toys just wasn’t feasible in our living space. Aside from the bedroom and the entertainment center, there just wasn’t much space for things anymore. So the idea of systems that I could purchase my games/movies on and not need the physical space to occupy them was a perfect situation. We’ve since moved to a bigger home and I now have much more room, and physical has reappeared as an option for me.

    I utilize physical in a way that isn’t (generally) for collection purposes though. For example I bought Horizon as a physical game because I wanted to play it ($48 at Best Buy) and trade it in ($27.50 at Gamestop). While I really liked the game, I don’t see myself returning to it anytime soon and I could use that trade in money to purchase something else later. However, I bought Mass Effect: Andromeda digitally because I want the game as part of my collection and I know that I will play it for double, triple, or more the amount that I put in to Horizon (43 hours).

    I do think we are at a weird point with games though. For instance, you can buy the physical version of No Man’s Sky but without an internet connection to update the game, you don’t get the same game that everyone else got, and you don’t get the improvements that have been made. Games like Destiny, The Division, or Overwatch aren’t even playable without an internet connection, so having those games physically doesn’t make any difference in terms of playing it and when Bungie, Ubisoft, Blizzard decide to take those servers offline, they aren’t going to be playable anyway (remember MAG on PS3?). In terms of preservation physical doesn’t necessarily cut it any more. I do however (now that I have more room) seek out older games (2600, NES, Genesis, SNES, etc…) that don’t require internet connections as physical items. Having a collection of certain titles does feel good and makes me feel like I’m doing some part in preserving their history. And they do look good).

    Side note: If you have a large collection, I would suggest getting a collection database app or creating one yourself to catalog your titles. It’s easier than booting up a system, or even looking at your shelf.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true that development costs have risen, but I wouldn’t use Square Enix as the example. Sure, their development costs are high, but they do very little to justify their spending. They just spend too much. Their commercial “failures” are ones of their own creation.

      The retailer-publisher relationship has always been a symbiotic one, since publishers rely heavily on retailers to sell hardware (that increases the install base) and make up a large portion of game sales, but that doesn’t change how the retailer’s cut increases the cost of the game for users. It would probably generate a lot of ire from retailers, but I still think that digital games shouldn’t cost as much as physical copies.

      Regardless, you make a good point about that. You make an even better point about space being a concern, especially with kids being taken into consideration. Likewise, online only games carry with them an inherent risk even if they’re on physical media, since they are functionally unplayable without an internet connection to the game’s servers. MAG still brings back memories of uncomfortable conversations with customers from my time at GameStop.

      That said, I honestly don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to the question of physical or digital games. It really boils down to preference more than anything; whether you value convenience over other aspects. I do wish that digital gaming brought a bigger cost decrease along with it however.

      SN: I also have a page on here of games from my collection (The Ever Expanding List Of My Games), though it isn’t complete.


  8. I’m a fan of physical copies as I like having something to keep and remember. I still have the discs for Monkey Island and Simon the Sorcerer that I bought as a kid with my pocket-money – games that had a big effect on me. They’re like the gaming version of a family photo album.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I prefer physical, though I’m fine with digital. Physical has far more perks, especially for Nintendo systems where there is limited storage space and a lack of a unified account system. It’s a little better not with the My Nintendo account, but I don’t feel that safe losing all of my digital content if something were to happen to my Switch or 3DS. Plus you can organize, show off, and stare at physical copies. Big pluses!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ahh, one of my favorite and least favorite topics to discuss! Least favorite only because it makes me feel like the future of gaming is very bleak, but I’ll leave that side of it for another day.

    I only buy physical copies, and digital games only when the game is one of those quick and dirty indie games. $10, $15, etc. Or if a game is massively discounted (ex. $40 game on sale for $8). But I will never pay a full price for a digital game when there’s a physical copy available.

    I think what bothers me about the digital ecosystem is that gamers (and really, human beings in general) are way too quick to give away freedoms for a little convenience. The only convenience you can really claim from digital is that a) you don’t need to swap discs, which saves you about 10 seconds every several hours, and b) you can never “lose” the game, unless of course, the company offering you the license to play it (cause remember, you don’t own squat, you’re renting at full price) decides to revoke that license.

    Plus, physical games look nice. If they’re too bulky and you don’t have the space, sell the case online and make some money. People like me will buy them for their loose games!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What do you do with new games that buy on your Xbox or Playstation? You download and install them from the disk. You can’t just pop a game in your console and play them like you could with the PS3, and 360. Physical games are on the way out, but some people fail to see that since you can walk into a store and buy a game. And I’m assuming that you don’t know that you can play any PC game (outside of MMOs or online only games of course.) offline. Steam,Origin, Uplay, and GoG all have offline modes that allow you to play all of your games without a Internet connection.

    I have over 400 games on PC. Only 7 of them I brought physically and that’s only because I used to be like you and I wanted to see my game collection on my shelf :). And buying games digital is a lot cheaper than physical by the way. When Mad Max first released (for $60) I got it for $20 on PC so…

    All of that stuff about not buying digital because developers can take it away can be applied to physical games too because… you download, and install them to you console once you buy them. And physical games don’t even save you on hard drive space anymore. They’re the exact same size as digital games because technically they’re digital too. Physical games aren’t what they used to be and I have no problem with that. As a father of four I can’t tell you how much better my gaming experience is because I don’t have to worry about my kids finding my stash of games or one of them accidentally breaking one of their games because they’re all digital.

    I do miss my old game collection though :(… Great article :).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The physical medium dying is something that I’m prepared for, yet still a little sad about. I currently use Steam and GoG for my PC games, but I try to buy my games directly from the developer if I can.

      My point about internet connections wasn’t about being required to be online to play the game, but more that if I don’t have a connection, I can install disk-based games without issue. The digital option requires the connection to be able to even install the game. Granted, there are physical games that require online activation even if you have the disk (to hell with those games), but it still stands as a bit of a strength of physical games. Console gaming in particular is a good example of this.

      As for price, I know there are ways to get new releases rather cheap, but I tend to steer clear of the grey market (assuming you got Mad Max from a key reseller?). Through more official storefronts, the option for digital has generally been full price options only, with discounts offered being rather small and only offered for preordering.

      Now when it comes to kids, I can TOTALLY understand the benefits of having digital games over physical games. I’d hate knowing that my disks have been damaged and be required to repurchase the game just to be able to play it again. That said, storage is more of a concern for me when it comes to digital games (especially on consoles) because with a physical game, I can at least get the majority of the game installed without having to rely entirely on my internet connection (which is ridiculously slow). That problem can be mended by moving, but it is still a major issue for the majority of Americans at least.

      That last point just highlights the infrastructure issues that we have as a country right now, and makes me kinda sad.

      Thank you for commenting by the way!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Loads of people will continue to collect hard copies. I am one of them. It is just so nostalgic when you open up the case and inhale that “new game smell.” No matter how digital the community gets, there will always be a space for the rebellious few who want the disks of their favorite games.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. If I have the choice, I’ll always buy real copies. But with so many freebies with Gold on Xbox, my digital catalogue outstrips my physical one by far. Mostly because I download them and then forget they exist… I’ve pretty much been forced to keep my 360 because there are certain Sega games that I have downloaded that Xbox no longer has the licence to. It’s rather annoying.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Physical Copies becomes a problem when your bookshelf is filled with games instead of books! 😀 But to be honest, I don’t mind if they’re not physical copies. The words is evolving, lets adapt 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I get the thing about physical copies, it’s so much more satisfying to buy a physical copy of a game compared to buying the digital version. You nailed it when you mentioned the cover art. It’s simply amazing sometimes.

    As a PC-gamer, I have access to online retailers though. This means G2A games, instantgaming, … allowing me to purchase games at a ridiculously low price. Buying a game at 3 euros when the retail version is around 20 reminds me of the perks of having a PC.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I prefer physical copies, this is because of the requirements of digital games; the space it takes in your game console, the data used to download it, and the fact that most of them are online games.


    1. I know, right? The smell of cellophane, the crinkle of the wrapper, the instruction bookl… Well, maybe not the manuals anymore. I’m sad they stopped making them.

      But yeah, I have to admit that it’s nice to not need to worry about disks with digital games.


      1. With all things on the table I’ve had had several games destroyed by various means. Cracked, chipped, stolen, scratched, urinated on(destroyed the case only but still). So games I really love and have been following since they’ve came out I’ll go out of my way to get a physical for nostalgic reasons new IPs which can be iffy I’ll resort to digital.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. I prefer physical copies, this is because of the requirements of digital games; the space it takes in your game console, the data used to download it, and the fact that most of them are online games. It’s definitely a contentious […]

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I prefer physical copies, this is because of the requirements of digital games; the space it takes in your game console, the data used to download it, and the fact that most of them are online games.

    I get the thing about physical copies, it’s so much more satisfying to buy a physical copy of a game compared to buying the digital version.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I like physical copies for the same reason that I buy actual books. I like to fill up a shelf. Plus, owning the physical copy means that you own it. There was a report that a pool game that was released for the Xbox 360 will no longer be playable through the digital store and it basically hosed anyone who doesn’t have the physical copy. Even though it is a pool game and not many would care; it’s still a pretty scary thing that companies can do. Got to read the fine print.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I like digital more actually. One of the reasons is that you have them all put in your console or pc so that you can’t lose them or something like that and i think you can still use you’re account with the games on you’re friends unit so for me there is only wins by having them digitaly but of course there could be a satisfaction by having the game in you’re hand.

    Liked by 1 person

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