Digital content is definitely king in today's game industry. Bite-sized games like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Where's My Water? have made people comfortable with buying games online, and triple-A games like Call of Duty and Gears of War thrive on their DLC. But there's a big difference between paying $2-15 for a small game or map pack and paying $30-40 for a full game. Though it is certainly convenient to buy a game from the comfort of your own living room, it may not be the best choice for you as a consumer. Find out why you really shouldn't be buying your full games digitally.
They Don't Have Any Outside Value
I'm not the biggest supporter of trading used games for cash. That said, sometimes you just know you are never going to play a game again and you'd like to trade it in at a store or sell it on eBay or Craigslist. If you purchase a game as a digital download, you forfeit the right to get any money for it after you've played with it. This might not be such a bad thing if you only paid a few bucks for an Arcade/PSN title, but when you are plunking down $40 for a title and you end up hating it, it's a crappy feeling to know that you won't be getting any money back for it.
Retailers Get Cut Out
I don't think major retailers need much help in the current game marketplace, but you've got to adopt a long-term view here. When you cut out retailers, you make it less profitable for companies to ship physical copies of games, which means less will be produced. Before you know it, stores like GameStop could cease to exist, and big-box retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy would receive fewer copies of games, leading to sellouts and higher prices. It may sound a little bit paranoid, but you only need to look at what's happening in the music industry with digital content to know that the same fate may not be that far away for video games.
They Don't Always Transfer
This is a big issue with me because, unfortunately, I have been a victim of lost digital games. Back when I bought my Wii in 2006, I figured it would last forever, so when the WiiWare and Virtual Console services debuted, I went crazy buying games. All told, I probably spent about $150 downloading and playing games. (Don't judge me; it adds up fast!) However, when my Wii died in 2010, I called Nintendo and asked what I could do about all my lost content. Their answer? Nothing. They couldn't reimburse me because they had no proof of my purchase, and couldn't transfer the content to my new console. Now, Sony and Microsoft are a lot better about allowing paying customers to re-download content, but that doesn't make me any less upset about having to repurchase Mario 64 for the third time.
Renting It Is Cheaper Anyway
The only way I would ever consider buying a digital game is if I knew I only wanted to play it once, as that's the only way it is really cost-effective. However, even then, there are better options available. Renting a game from either a mail service like GameFly or a brick and mortar store like Blockbuster is a lot cheaper, and will allow you to play your game without shelling out the cash to "keep it" on your console. Even if you just want to play one game, a single-month subscription to GameFly for one game is less than $10, and you can always cancel it when you're done. Sure, you'll have to log on to their website a few times, but that sounds a lot better to me than shelling out $30-$40 for a game you'll only play once.
You Lose Backward Compatibility
Services like Virtual Console and PSOne Classics exist because people like to play old games. If you hang onto physical copies of old games, you won't have to re-purchase them. Now, some console-makers are moving away from putting backward compatibility in new consoles, but the Wii U will at least play old Wii games. It's not crazy to assume the first models of the next Xbox or PlayStation will include at least some measure of backward compatibility as well. But even if they don't, who says you have to get rid of your old console when new ones come out? Buying physical games and hanging on to your gear ensures that you'll never have to purchase and re-purchase games digitally. This saves you money in the long run, making you an oh-so-savvy consumer.
I'm not against buying anything digitally. In fact, there are plenty of games out there that only work as digital downloads. However, choosing to go digital when there is a physical copy available isn't a very good decision. Buying full games digitally may satisfy your immediate game-playing needs, but as long-term issues like backwards compatibility and inability to transfer come into play, you may find yourself regretting your decision. Do yourself a favor and buy (or rent) physical copies of games whenever possible.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
Senior Contributing Writer
Date: January 20, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*