Discs vs Digital

Digital distribution of games might be becoming more popular, especially on PC, but according to Sony, “Disc based content is still very much what the consumer is used to and wants”

Speaking to the PlayStation blog about content delivery, SCEE President Andrew House acknowledged that while discs are still popular, improved technology is making digital downloads an increasingly attractive option.

“There has been a change in attitude and technology that is making digital delivery far more feasible and far more attractive. It is our job to ensure that consumers have the choice between the two where possible.

How this area will evolve, I can’t really say at this time, as we are relying on many things outside of our control, such as broadband speeds. Things are changing quickly and we have to make sure we are ready for those changes.”

So while discs remain the dominant force on consoles for now, it appears Sony will be keeping a close eye on how the ability to distribute digital content delivers in future. Indeed, only this week it was revealed that the PSP2 could be a download content only device.

However, at this moment in time it seems farfetched that a PlayStation 3 or an Xbox 360 could become completely download only. Industry analyst Michael Pachter even goes so far to say that there’s “No chance in hell” of this happening, and explained:

“PCs are probably about 95% connected to the internet but my guess is with the Xbox 360, it’s maybe two-thirds, with the PS3 it might be as high as 85%. And with the Wii my guess is it’s below 50% but probably closer to 35%, so it’s all the guys that are NOT connected that are going to keep games from ever being mandate downloadable.”

He raises a good point. Perhaps the PC market could become a fully digital industry at some point in future just due to the very nature of how a computer works. A brand new PC has a massive hard drive and this can easily be upgraded as time goes on in order to store more content. Consoles on the other hand have limited space. What would happen to a game that needed to be uninstalled to make room for a new one?

It’s this question that’s one of the main reasons that I personally prefer to buy my games on discs. I can access them any time I want just by picking them up off the shelf. It’d be an incredible hassle to constantly have to re-install older games I may want to go back to.

Of course, both the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live allow you to download smaller independent games – one a Train2Game student could develop – but even this can take a long time. It could therefore take most of a day to download and install, say a digital version of Red Dead Redemption onto a console.

Yes, I occasionally use digital distribution through Steam to download PC games, but at the end of the day, I still prefer to have physical copies available on my shelf not only for me to pick up and play whenever I want to, but also just to sit there and look nice in exactly the same way books or DVD’s would.

Digital distribution does have advantages, a cheaper price for the consumer and an easier way for an aspiring Games Developer, Games Designer or Games Artist to get their work out to the market. But personally, I believe that discs will be around for a long time yet.

How about you? Do you prefer to buy games as a physical disc in your hand? Or as a digital download? How do you think this will develop in future?

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