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Kikki
Post Posted: Feb 07, 2021 4:22 pm 
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This is often a very hot debate between devotees of physical copies and those who prefer digital. However, I don't intend this as a debate. If anyone wants to express their personal opinion by all means, go ahead. But what I really want to do here is create as definitive a list as possible of the PROS and CONS of each game format, since people often seem to ask which is better. There's no way I'm going to be able to come up with all of them myself, so if you guys think of any benefit or flaw of either format, please drop a comment about it! I don't know enough about the technical side of manufacturing or distribution of costs and so on, so I'm not going into detail on that. Also, some things are pros and cons at the same time, which gets a bit confusing.

Of course, the answer depends a lot on your own preferences, but...long list under cut!

Spoiler:
PHYSICAL GAMES

Pro:
  • You can display them/have them as a collection.
  • Being able to buy the game many years later does not depend on the continued existence of an e-shop.
  • They usually take up less memory space.
  • You can lend them to others easily.
  • You can resell them (and some games increase in value with time, though others decrease.)
  • Some games have special editions with physical extras like special cases, books, CDs of soundtracks, trading cards, plushies...etc.
  • You own the game and the company cannot revoke your license to play it.
  • You don't need an internet connection if the game is complete on the disc/cart. (Though it very often is not, these days, with patches, updates, DLC, etc.)
  • There's a small chance you will get your game early if you ordered it by mail.
  • If you're patient, many physical games take a permanent decrease in price after a while.

Could go either way:

  • Physical games require more manpower, since they must be manufactured and shipped, so it supports manufacturing and delivery service jobs. And retailers, too. If only digital games existed, your local game store would go out of business. (Or Walmart would no longer get a cut of your gaming money, if that's where you buy your games.)
  • Because they must be physically manufactured and shipped, physical games create more pollution.
  • The existence of physical games may help preserve their continued playability even after the digital versions are no longer available due to servers shutting down or etc.

Con:
  • Physical games are subject to physical damage. If you sit on your CD and snap it, or if your dog chews your cartridge, or if you simply lose it, it's gone...the company won't replace your ruined game.
  • Physical games can be slightly more expensive on release (or a lot more, if you bought a special edition.)
  • They're not as portable (and if you take them around with you with a handheld, you stand a greater chance of losing them.)
  • A physical game takes physical space, which may end up as clutter.
  • Discs make continual 'reading' noises as the console uses the information stored on them.
  • Physical games either have to be purchased in person, or you have to wait for them to be shipped to you, and they could be late, forcing you to wait days or even weeks beyond the release date, particularly if the game gets backordered.
  • You may still have to download a lot of data to play, even without updates or patches.
  • Some physical games obtain a rarity status that drives the price way up, should you decide to try to buy it years after release.

DIGITAL GAMES

Pro:
  • You get your game right on release day, no waiting, no concerns about backorders or slow mail service.
  • You don't have to leave home to get the game.
  • Digital games go on sale fairly often during seasonal events. (Golden Week, Black Friday, etc.)
  • No cartridge to damage or lose.
  • No cartridge to put in and take out
  • If your game data is corrupted, the game can be redownloaded.
  • They are entirely portable...you can have your games with you at all times.
  • No horrible 'reading' sound such as come from discs.
  • Digital games tend to run faster due to being saved directly to the system rather than a cart. (I think this is marginal, though.)

Could go either way:

  • No physical existence, so no manufacturing or shipping. Creates less pollution. Money that would have gone to manufacturers and so on instead goes directly to the game company. In theory.
  • Your local game shop gets no support from digital games. Though if your local game shop is a big box store, maybe you consider that a positive.

Con:
  • You don't own your game. It's a licensing agreement, which technically...by user agreement you have no choice but to accept to be able to buy the game...can be revoked. (Even though I've never personally had it happen, or know anyone first-hand who has.)
  • You can't sell your game.
  • They take up memory space on your console/memory card.
  • You may not be able to lend your game (though I have lent my Switch games to my sister by putting my profile on her Switch so she can play my games...I don't know if other consoles have that feature, and it does have limits.)
  • Digital games rarely see a permanent price reduction (mid-tier games seem the most likely to get permanent decreases a few years post-release, ime, rather than indies or AAA games. Some may tend to reduce the price of older games in the series, too.)
  • The ability to buy and redownload digital games requires the e-shop it came from to still be operational. It generally takes so long that the console is near obsolete, but eventually the servers will shut down.
  • You don't have to leave home to get the game. (Instant convenience can lead to more spending.)
  • Digital games don't get special editions and pre-order bonuses tend to be very minor digital content, like getting Olive Town's buffalo costume for free instead of having to pay $2 for it.

Aaaaaaaaaand...I'm tired now, so I'm stopping, though I'm sure there's more. Help me out if you see anything I missed or that is incorrect. As can be seen from this list, what is a pro and what is a con is pretty subjective. The conveniences that matter to you, the risks that matter ... it's gonna be different for each person, so while other people can share facts, no one can ever really say which is better for YOU except you yourself. Depends on your situation!

I personally am not bothered by the licensing thing since it seems to be extremely rare that anyone would have theirs revoked (barring hackers and stuff like that) and I love not having to deal with cartridges. I never resell my games, and I'm not prone to overspending due to having games available for purchase at the push of a button. I'm very careful with my console...even my Wii U and PS3 still look brand new...but I easily misplace the games themselves. And I don't have any local game store except Walmart, and I get very uptight when my games are late! So digital games play nicer with my kinks than physical games do.


Last edited by Kikki on Feb 09, 2021 5:30 am, edited 3 times in total.
 
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Katgirl
Post Posted: Feb 07, 2021 6:46 pm 
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Well one of the cons of digital games overall is that once the market place they're offered on goes down they go with it. Meanwhile for physical games, you can still find used physical copies of games from decades ago (tho some of them can get pretty expensive but they're still there.)

Storage is also an advantage of physical games. Tho there is a trend of even physical games requiring multiple GB of storage for their data :/
 
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Kikki
Post Posted: Feb 07, 2021 7:09 pm 
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Thanks, I'll add those two tomorrow :) And yeah. I happened to get FFXV in physical due to a big sale a few years ago, then when I went to play it, it installed a HUGE amount of data. I think it was 25GB! I was gobsmacked. It still reads the disc like crazy (another con of physical in my books...I can't stand listening to the machine read the disk, like a DJ that can't quite get their groove going properly.) even though it has such a huge chunk of data installed to the console itself. And then there are 50+ GB in patches, updates and DLC! That may be one of the more drastic cases, but I was stunned that having the physical copy saved me hardly any storage at all. Saving memory space was always one of the main reasons I still bought physical when I was in the transition phase, and FFVX may have pushed me to convert to digital faster than I otherwise would have.

Physical copies age out, too, in various ways. I still have the floppy disks from the games of my childhood, but no computer these days can play them. Even a computer five years later, back then, lol...I put Bubble Ghost in and it ran SO FAST that the ghost just smashed into the wall over and over before you could even press a button. (Though computers were evolving so insanely fast at that time, they don't go nearly so far out of date that quickly, now.)

I think you can get Bubble Ghost on Steam, now. Digitally, mind you, but they must have remade/ported it to work on modern computers.
 
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Mikodesu
Post Posted: Feb 07, 2021 10:20 pm 
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Katgirl's response got me to thinking...storage can be a con, also? Physical media take up a lot of room - which is good for display purposes, but bad if you don't have a lot of room.

And...I'm not sure how exactly this could be worded, but...physical media come with the possibility of being MADE digital, at least. Media preservation is a big issue, and, I tend to find consoles die a lot quicker than their games stop working, even cartridges. But at least by having that physical copy it's within your rights to dump a copy of the software onto your computer. Your consoles pooping out on you should not stop you from being able to play your games!
 
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Kikki
Post Posted: Feb 08, 2021 3:34 am 
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Ah yes; I've never had enough games for physical storage to be an issue, so I didn't even think of that one, thanks :) Though I was about to add the new stuff to the list and have had to pause because...I don't actually understand your second point, Mikodesu. You can make a physical copy of a game into a digital one? *cue derpy look of confusion* How can I turn my physical copy of Animal Crossing New Leaf, or Trio of Towns, into something I can save digitally on my computer? And even if I could save it there, I wouldn't be able to play it...they only work on the console they were designed for.

I mean, I know I can save my stuff onto my computer with digital files. I've done it multiple times when transferring to a newer, larger memory card...copy the files all to PC off the old card, then copy them back to the new card. But it doesn't sound like that's what you mean. I want to add your point to the list, too, but...I don't understand what you mean well enough to write it in.

Are you referring in part to how digital Nintendo Switch games are locked to purchaser account?
 
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Bluie
Post Posted: Feb 08, 2021 8:14 am 
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My personal thoughts on physical games is they're good to share between people, but an individual game that I have and no one else is gonna want? It's cash towards my next purchase. There are very few games I want to own physically, and off the top of my head I can only think about a small collection I wish to own only for displaying purposes.

Digital games are such a godsend for me, someone who likes to have their new releases as soon as I wake up in the morning of release day. I don't want to drive across town in traffic and come in contact with the locals who hang out in Gamestop like its their hobby to get a hunk of plastic when I could have it immediately instead. Same goes for ordering it online as it's not the most reliable way to get your games asap either.

Of course digital isn't the be all to end all. Memory cards are expensive and can fail. Thankfully there's cloud saving now to prevent loss of important data. I think my one exception for going and getting a game on release day is when there's a midnight release for a game both my husband and I want. I had a really fun time the last one we went to and I'd do it again.
 
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Mikodesu
Post Posted: Feb 08, 2021 8:39 am 
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Kikki wrote:
Ah yes; I've never had enough games for physical storage to be an issue, so I didn't even think of that one, thanks :) Though I was about to add the new stuff to the list and have had to pause because...I don't actually understand your second point, Mikodesu...

Snip? :lol:

Basically I was being choosy about my words to avoid "Very Bad Thing" language. It boils down to emulation, which is perfectly legal if it's you, ripping a copy of your game, off of your cart. And that part of it I very much support because computers will always exist but no matter how sturdy the original console is it will die eventually.

Nintendo in particular is disgustingly bad about supporting their legacy content - probably the worst in the industry. (Imagine if we had access to digital copies of physical games registered to our accounts? Even for the convenience factor you could have the physicals you want and DECIDE to download digitally.) Sony is far from perfect but...even getting Nintendo to Sony's level (not having to repurchase EVERY GAME on every new console) would be a step up.

Emulation wouldn't even be necessary if Nintendo would go that far. I understand the logic of not wanting to/having the budget to support every single title they make twenty years down the line, but it's kind of moot when they support nothing. And at least having the original, physical copy of the game that is an option available to the consumer. (Doesn't make it easy, but it exists.)

(I also have NO idea how to boil that down for a pro/con list, so don't worry. If nothing else my ramble exists.)
 
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Kikki
Post Posted: Feb 08, 2021 9:22 am 
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Bluie...ah yes, sharing games. A primary 'pro' of physical. But because of you and your SIL recently losing one of your games after she borrowed it, I was thinking of also adding the ability to share games as either a con of physical or a pro of digital, since I too have had lent items get lost. (Permanently, in my case, though it was a cassette tape in middle school, not a game cart any time recently. I get on people's cases before the fact, so that they know that if they lose or damage my stuff, they will be buying me a brand new replacement.)

~

Mikodesu...I put it under the 'could go either way' category since I can think of different ways to include it, particularly since some people tend to not be so scrupulous about crossing the line on some legalities, but went with this: The existence of physical games may help preserve their continued playability even after the digital versions are no longer available due to servers shutting down or etc.
 
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cinnamon_yuki
Post Posted: Feb 09, 2021 2:37 am 
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Currently, I'm torn whether to get SoS Pioneer of Olive Town in digital format or physical form this time around because traveling to our local game store is a bit of hassle during this times and the uncertainty of getting the copy on release day. My PC games are all in digital format now but when it comes to Nintendo handheld, I always go physical copy since they might shutdown the eshop server once NSW discontinued.
 
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Kikki
Post Posted: Feb 09, 2021 5:39 am 
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Ah, you reminded me of the portability issue, cinnamon_yuki, which was a silly one to forget :)

~

I don't actually think my (now our) list is going to necessarily help anyone decide. It may even complicate their decision, heh. It's really just all food for thought, to help people make an informed decision. Pros and cons of the two formats are honestly pretty evenly matched, imo...it just depends on how you use your games and what your issues are. Hate the reading noise? Love to be able to display your games? Tend to only play your games once and then might as well resell them? Need portability? Afraid of losing the ability to play a digital copy due to servers shutting down one day?

It's just slicing them all up and throwing them on a scale to weigh out what's best for each individual. I don't think there's any such thing as better or worse overall, since it entirely depends on person and situation.

I really hate dealing with cartridges. I really hate it! Lol. I got mad about it again this morning when trying to swap BotW for Ys VIII. I also can't stand the noise that is made by consoles reading discs (some are quite quiet, though...the Wii U is NOT.) Every time I have to swap cartridges, I feel annoyed that I didn't buy digital of that game. I've never regretted not buying physical of a game, but I often regret not buying digital of the games I did get in physical. And the biggest worries about digital, well...servers take so long to shut down that it's not really a worry for me since I know from experience that even if you have a hard copy of a game from twenty years ago, you're still probably not going to be able to play it...and licences get revoked so rarely that not only has it never happened to me, I've never even personally known anyone who has had it happen to them. I'm clearly meant to be a digital buyer.
 
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String
Post Posted: Feb 09, 2021 5:59 am 
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Hi. I am very confused about something. I thought once you buy a game digitally (specifically referring to the 3DS), it's on your memory card forever even if the servers get shut down. Did I miss something? I'd hate to re-buy all the games I bought digitally once the servers shut down.
 
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Kikki
Post Posted: Feb 09, 2021 6:03 am 
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You can still play them if you still retain a copy of them saved to your console or a memory card. But if anything ever happens to your card or to your console (since digital games are tied to buyer account on Switch, at least. 3DS too.), or if the data gets corrupted, you'll never be able to redownload them if the server is gone. Data getting corrupted and consoles taking damage, or simply failing due to age and use, is relatively common.

Mind you, physical copies can also be corrupted or damaged. *shrug* It's a risk of both formats, though in different ways. It's just about which way seems riskier to you. (For example, someone with the mechanical or technological skill to take apart their console and repair it if it stopped working, even if it was old enough to have become obsolete, or someone who could hack the system to make the games work even if they no longer had an account to use it with or something...they'd be on a totally different level than regular gamer shlubs like myself, who can only look blankly at a broken console or corrupted memory card and say 'oh well!'.)
 
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Shan O 123
Post Posted: Feb 10, 2021 8:27 pm 
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Lately, I’ve found digital games more as a pro. Especially on my switch considering I have all of my games with me in bed. The only physical game I have is AC and I rather not switch the card every time I want to play something.




Also, I’ve lost physical copies before, it’s very easy.
 
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Daikon boy
Post Posted: Feb 10, 2021 9:54 pm 
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I tend to prefer physical copies for cartridges (ie. Switch, ds, etc. Especially for older Nintendo consoles where the game is saved to the cartridge. I almost never choose digital over physical then unless there isn't much of a choice, or it's the best choice available.)
It's half and half for the switch, but I only have 13 gbs of space left so I only intend to buy physical copies for the switch I have from now on and save the last bit of space for dlc and any necessary and unexpected storage needs. I have a big sd card but it filled up much faster than I thought possible comparing game sizes between the switch and the ps4.

I like digital games for the ps4 way more because I'm always irrationally worried about snapping the disc in half or doing something else horrible to it. I have 4tbs of extended storage hooked up to it for all potential storage needs. (I have a physical game that takes up 100 gb easily, so it's necessary even if I only bought physical games.)
 
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Bluie
Post Posted: Feb 11, 2021 5:12 am 
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Shan O 123 wrote:
Also, I’ve lost physical copies before, it’s very easy.


This too.

Kiki, You already mention my SiL losing my game, but I have other instances too.

I lost one of my Gameboy games as a kid in my dad's lazyboy chair. I had it in my lap while I changed carts and it must've slipped away while I was playing. No one believed me until YEARS later he sat down rather violently and there was CLANK-CLUNK on the hardwood floor. There it was.

Another was from my DS days and I thankfully found it again, but panic mode was on. Was visiting a far away church with the youth group so I brought my DS along for the long drive. After the service was over and I was orgnaizing my purse, I noticed one of my cartridges was missing somehow. Just as I start to panic, I look back at the pew I was sitting in and there it was on the floor underneath it. Still have no idea how that one happened as there was no holes in my purse.

Back then I had no choice as digital games were still a new thing (especially on handhelds and consoles not made by Sony). Even if I were to lose my whole console in this day in age, I could still get games back providing my account is safe. That is a really big drawback though, having your account hacked or compromised, but fortunately there are ways to prevent those things now. They're not foolproof, but they're getting there.
 
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