Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Go All Digital

Video games have had a rough transition into the realm of digital distribution. What with the slow rise of broadband Internet, data caps, increasing game sizes and limited storage options. But that’s not to say that it’s an entirely bad idea. There are many perks that come with going all digital: wider selection, better sales, and less clutter in your home. But not all platforms offer the same digital experience. In fact, there is a stark divide between PC and console gaming when it comes to digital distribution.

Fiber-Optic Internet is most ideal but not always available.
Fiber-Optic Internet is the most ideal but not always available.

The first thing you should probably consider is whether or not digital is truly a viable option for you. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you have a decent Internet connection? Is it reliable?
  • Is your Internet connection a steady 20mbps or better?
  • What kind of data cap does your service provider enforce, if any?

If your Internet is constantly floating in and out, and you can’t fix it with a new modem or router (or both), digital might not be for you. While many digital platforms don’t force you to be online in order to play your games, this could change in the future. And certain services do require a connection for various functions.

If you have a steady and stable Internet connection, how fast is it? While 20mbps isn’t required by any means, it certainly makes for a more pleasant experience. Not only that, 20mbps is a small feat for many since many Internet providers offer speeds that are far faster than 20mbps. I, personally, have a 150mbps connection and it obviously works great for just about anything. The reason this is so important is due to the rising size of games. Many modern games are 20-50GB in size while also requiring 10-30GB patches. A slow connection means that these games may take a very long time to download.

Lastly, what kind of data cap does your service provider enforce? If you have a small cap, like 100GB or 200GB, this could mean that you could only download a handful of modern games each month.Obviously, you could go with smaller, and older, games but that data cap could still be problematic – particularly if you plan to stream a bunch of Netflix or Youtube. I’d make sure you have at least 500GB at your disposal if you want to go digital.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s consider your platform of choice. Are you a console-only gamer or a PC gamer? Because there are numerous pros and cons to both options.

On consoles, you will almost always be dealing with restrictive storage options. Sure you could get some mileage out of a 2TB hard drive for your Xbox One or PS4 but it will fill quickly if you buy games on a regular basis. And, as of this writing, many people have had a difficult time using larger hard drives with these systems (that’s not to say it’s impossible).

On the flip side, the PC platform has practically no storage limit. You could use a 2TB, 4TB, 6TB, or a few of each. And the drives aren’t very expensive. There isn’t much else to say on this topic.

Another consideration for the console route: your games, while locked to your account, will also be locked to that console – for the most part. Meaning that unless future iterations of consoles support backward compatibility with your games, you will be forced to play them on their original console.

On the PC, this is a non-issue. You can bring each and every one of your games to your fancy new PC and they will likely look and run better than before. Of course, this route isn’t perfect. There are always some games that don’t make the jump to a new version of Windows quite as gracefully as you’d like and can, therefore, be somewhat “lost” as a result.

Steam sales can be insane...
Steam sales can be insane…

Price is another talking point for this topic. I’ll just be frank: console game prices typically don’t hold a candle to their PC counterparts. Steam sales and the like often have year-old games for $5-10. And these aren’t shallow indie games or anything: these are top tier games. I bought the 2014 Thief game on launch day for $32. And I got The Witcher 3 for $30 shortly after launch. These prices are very real folks.

Consoles, on the other hand, only have occasional sales that contain deep discounts. Sony’s flash sales have caused me to buy a number of digital titles. And while these sales currently are somewhat seldom, they are only likely to occur more and more often. Especially with the PC market drawing in so many new players.

PSN Flash sales are great but certainly aren’t as enticing as Steam sales.

Last, but certainly not least, is the question of space. While digital goods certainly take up less shelf space, they also lack the feeling of ownership sometimes. You might buy a few Humble Bundles and a handful of Steam Summer Sales games before you accidentally purchase something you already own. You might call it “too much of a good thing”. But if you are low on cash on a regular basis and have limited shelf space, digital games can be the thing dreams are made of.

One last thing I feel I should mention is the fact that some digital games simply disappear. Take the Scott Pilgrim game. Or the TMNT: Turtles in Time remake. Those games were great games on Xbox Live and Playstation Network but due to licensing issues, both were inevitably removed from those storefronts. If you do buy a game that ends up getting removed, it is likely that you will still be able to redownload it in the future but there is no telling just how long it will remain available.

A digital-only future seems inevitable but that notion is bittersweet. While it has many perks, it also has many pitfalls. Do you download your games exclusively? Maybe you download the occasional game while still buying most games on disc? Or perhaps you are shunning the idea of digital goods altogether and only buy physical media? I’d like to read your thoughts! So let me know in the comments below! Happy Gaming!