Do You Buy Physical or Digital Games?

The Internet would have you believe everyone purchases games digitally; that we are one fiber optic cable installation in Iowa away from the entire population being connected and destroying their ties to physical media. This is obviously not the case. Some fans still prefer records over MP3’s and we see publishers remain reliant on big box retailers to deliver their products to fans.

Supporters of physical media fear the ambiguous cloud and potential of publishers reaching into their database and removing purchases. Instead of owning the media, they are merely leasing a copy which can’t be leant to a friend, resold or inherited by future generations. The digital revolutionaries would counter with ‘old game is old’ or that all of these possessions merely clutter the home.

Each side has merits worth considering but for me the debate can only be answered with another question – which version is cheapest?

For PC gamers (the self-proclaimed master race) the answer is digital due to Steam, indie bundles, discount codes and a never ending supply of free to play games. Digital is the obvious choice – digital is the only choice. I don’t think you can buy a physical copy of most games released on PC, outside of marquee titles from Blizzard.

Console gamers, such as myself, typically find the physical version discounted before the digital. PS Plus or Games with Gold do generate free (subscription-based) content and sales which sometimes beat the store versions to a lower price point, but typically the boxed version will be 50% off within 3 – 6 months; with used copies costing next to nothing within a year. Double this with the potential to recoup part of the initial cost through trade-ins or the second hand market and physical copies remain dominant for console gamers.

Which do you prefer – digital or physical? Why? Is it a matter of space, price or necessity?