How You Want Your Games Served: Digital Or Physical?

Digital delivery has been getting more and more popular in the past years. I have recently bought 2 games: Assassin’s Creed (digitally via Steam) and Kane & Lynch (physical copy). There is something strangely nice to actually have the Kane & Lynch DVD box here… but it kind of feels like stone age to actually put the DVD inside the computer.

In Steam, I cannot sell my old games, and the 8 gigabytes load times are bit long for my 2 meg connection, but since I really don’t buy nor play games so often it’s okay for me (I’m more interested in how certain stuff works in the game, and then I usually move on… to make my own game).

To me, I kind of feel that the time of physical copies is coming to the final end. I’m ready to get only digital copies from a reliable distributor. I know there can be some issues with digital distribution, but to me it feels like that’s the way how games will be delivered in the future (if they even are delivered, rather played using some master server…).

This is of course just me thinking, and don’t know what will happen – and when. But I prefer digital ones over physical copies.

How about you, how you like your games delivered: digitally or physically?

[poll id=15]

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I preffer using Steam for pretty much everything, I know that Steam’s DRM actually works, there are no discs to worry about/loose, and the Steam community (EG: the built-in chatting and stuff) is a great way to communicate with friends. You may not be able sell your games, but that’s just business, isn’t it? ;)


  2. Thomas: how many 10 year old games are you playing today? :)

    Pretty interesting results – almost split votes. I thought it could have been bigger pro-digital already.

  3. Steam reminds me of another problem with downloads: What do I do with my downloaded game if Steam is down 10 years from now and I want to play, say, Bioshock (This is more of a problem with DRM, but still).

  4. Digital, because as long as you have your email account that is secure if you reformat you can just redownload it (steam) if you break your disc, your screwed looking for a torrent (some torrents aren’t safe because they could steal your serial key)

  5. I prefer digital download, as long as it is done well. I don’t mind long download times, and I prefer not to have to hunt out the disc when I want to play a game. As long as I can install it anywhere, can download it an unlimited number of times if I need to reinstall, then I prefer digital. I can browse online stores more easily than real world stores, I am more aware of what game just came out or what is on sale, I can view reviews and trailers while at the ‘store’.

    Basically I am a raving Steam fan.

  6. I like digital download as long as it has a digital locker connected to the sale. Steam is example of a system I like. I can play the game when I like without hassle, at any time, even years later, I can install and play. I have noticed lately that not all the games they sell now work that way. It’s too bad. I almost bought “Dawn of Discovery” yesterday through Steam, but when I noticed they used a different DRM system I passed.

    As for the price point, in the end if people are willing to pay $x for a game, the form it comes in doesn’t matter to most. So, unless you can convince most gamers digital downloads should be less, I doubt they ever will. Most consumers are simple making the “is this game worth $x” decision. Ancillary issues don’t enter the formula for most.

  7. I like both but I went for physical copy. The collector in me likes to have actual object to touch but if I can install the game by downloading it, I will.

  8. A few other factors to consider…

    Environmentally it’s much better to download. The production of plastics and consumption of fuels used for the creation of packaged materials and delivery of products is really not worth it for me. Think of how much waste is produced and fuel consumed for all of the boxed video games purchased in one year on this planet. And very little of it is really necessary. Keep the servers running so I can download, that’s all I need. The factories and shipping vehicles I don’t.

    Second… the middlemen. I purchase from the developer when possible, and keep the chain as small as possible when I can’t. It’s 2009. Do I really need to pay Gamestop or Best Buy (US retail stores) for their services when I really don’t need them?

  9. For me, it depends.
    Depends on the game, depends on the box I will get.
    Today, most boxed games comes with a simple plastic case, and a really small or even no actual manual.
    If a game has a cardboard box, with nice art work and if the game is something I am really excpecting(*cough* Diablo3), I will more likely buy a boxed version. I will possibly buy the special edition.
    But if its a game I want to quickly start playing, and I have no need to build up my anticipation, I will prefer to buy and get it as quickly as possible. Usually that means via a download purchase.

  10. I’m with Thomas D. Especially if the controls are fairly complex, it’s nice to be able to have the manual open to the Controls page. If I had the option to install the game to the HDD completely so that the disc isn’t required that would be great. The industry for some reason still doesn’t understand that requiring the disc to be in the drive just to play the game (even if the game is completely installed to the HDD) is idiotic and doesn’t stop pirates.

  11. Download is okay for small titles, but overall, shelf space is cheaper than HDD space – especialy on my 360, as I am not a PC gamer. And also, shelfs are easier to navigate at a certain point of a growing collection.

  12. Hmm, I think I’ve bought from Steam using dollars (at least Left 4 Dead). Now as you say that, I’m not totally sure what it was for Assassin’s Creed… could have been euros…

  13. Taking everything into account, I prefer physical copy. If a digital download comes with lower price compared to the boxed version, or without any DRM, I like that, too. Steam in particular has a BIG downside: here in germany, they charge € instead of $ like 1:1. Which makes their games overly expensive, in fact, they are clearly more expensive than the boxed versions. Contrary to that, I really like gog.com…

  14. Logan: Yep, strange but I kind of have the same feeling:
    – For some unknown reason, I feel that the digital delivery should cost bit less (well, actually it often does since I buy stuff from Steam and $50 game costs 50 eur (about $75) here in stores)
    – And download sizes indeed take always longer than buying from the store

    Also… the lack of physical dvd box is what troubles me. Somehow I feel that for example Kane & Lynch (physical copy) is more “mine”. Assassin’s Creed (digital download) I feel is like… bit owned by somebody else.

  15. I prefer digital download, but one thing that really bothers me is that often people are still charging the same for the digital version as they are for the boxed version. They avoid the cost of packaging, manuals, etc., but they’re still going to charge me the same for it? A download is somewhat more convenient, but I feel that’s offset by the download time (which will pretty much always take longer than running out to the store).

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