I suppose similar arguments and points could be made for films, TV & music too. But for this rant, I’m going to be using games as my medium of choice here.
We now live in an age where we do not need physical copies of games (or films, TV & music) as everything is becoming more and more digital.
There are plus points and negative points to owning both physical and digital copies.
Some people, myself included, just like actually owning something physical. Having the box for the game with the inlays, instructions, posters and other tat they often throw in is a nice thing to own.
Having rows and rows full of physical copies is often nice to see and even a talking point (you should see my DVD/CD collection).
You can swap and lend out to friends and family. Lets not forget the fact you could always sell on via the second hand market later, which of course works the other way too as you can often find a good bargain if someone else is selling.
Yeah owning a physical copy has its perks if you enjoy that sort of thing.
But then there is digital owning. Its quicker as you can download pretty much whatever you want whenever you want it. You don’t have to worry about taking up space on shelves, just space on a hard drive. Still modern gaming now you HAVE to install he game to the hard drive even if you own the physical copy, so this is a moot point. Of course there is the downside of not being able to sell on with digital or buy second hand copies, which ties into my biggest problem with the digital concept…money.
Now more and more developers and publishers wish to see a complete 100% digital future, and for a lot of reasons it does make a lot of sense. But its the pricing of digital goods that is the main problem for me.
First let’s look at the benefits of digital gaming from a publishers point of view.
Lower production costs as they do not have to print covers, inlays, instructions, etc. Nor do they have to worry about boxes.
Then there are the logistics of getting the finished product into stores for you to buy or having games delivered to your door. No cost there on having to load up trucks and paying delivery companies and so on, its also better for the environment as there are less vehicles on the road.
So then, the publishers must be saving a fortune for digital gaming, right? Which must mean they pass these savings onto us the consumers…or do they?
As I said, pricing is my biggest problem with digital gaming and this is precisely why. Because those huge savings they are making are not passed on to the consumer at all. In fact in most cases not only are digital games just as expensive as physical copies, they are often actually more expensive.
Allow me to give one of my most recent purchases as evidence.
I pre-ordered Fallout 4 as soon as I was able to. It was announced in June of this year at E3 and I placed my pre-order in July just a couple of weeks later. This pre-order guaranteed delivered on the day of release, so for that kind of service you’d think that would cost me more than the RRP. But it didn’t, in fact my copy of Fallout 4 cost me £36 including delivery on launch day. £36 for a brand new release of a AAA title with delivery for launch day is amazing to be honest.
It’s been a little over a week since Fallout 4 launched and you can pick up a new copy for around the same price I paid for it with my pre-order, if you shop around. If you don’t shop around you’ll pay around the £40 mark for a copy.
So how much is the digital version, which is exactly the same game only without all the extra overheads the publisher would have had to have paid?
On the Xbox marketplace right now, Fallout 4 is selling for £50 (£49.99, but I rounded up my £35.99). £14 more than the physical copy I brought.
So how does that work then? We pay more for the exact same game, only it has less overheads for the publisher. Its not just Fallout 4 that is guilty of this either, pretty much any digital version of a physical copy costs more and the higher price seems to stay the same longer too.
Convenience, you pay the extra for the convenience of not having to go go the shop and buy a copy, that’s an argument you hear a lot.
Just to refresh, I pre-ordered my Fallout 4 for £36 and it was delivered in time for launch day, it was sitting there waiting for me when I woke up. The only inconvenience I had was open in the damn shrink wrap.
So why are digital versions of games with their lower overheads more expensive than physical copies with higher overheads?
Does this make sense to anyone?
Now that is not to say you can’t get a good digital deal. I myself have several digital games I have downloaded, but I always got them at a great price and cheaper than the physical version (always check). But these digital deals are often few and far between.
Part of the reason I write this whole thing was because Microsoft have announced their Black Friday sales on digital games. But seeing as the digital versions are almost always more expensive, the sale price often works outside to about the same as the physical price…and it just should not be this way. It is not much of a sale if its around the same price in the shops.
Pretty much every major company involved in gaming want a digital only future, and you can see why. As it means they can rip off the consumer by charging more for a game with much less overheads. But why would anyone want an all digital future when they are charging more for the games?
Digital games need to be cheaper as a standard than physical copies.