Transitioning to the all-digital video game future

Transitioning to the all-digital video game future
The first look at what the PlayStation 5, and its all-digital sibling, will look like.

Sony unveiled several games and more information about its upcoming PlayStation 5 last week and there was a lot of information to dissect.

However, regardless of hardware, new game announcements feel familiar. I’m excited about Horizon Forbidden West and Spider-Man: Miles Morales among others, but getting excited by new game announcements and trailers is an annual thing during E3. Even seeing new hardware is exciting, but ultimately ends up being less relevant than the games you play on it.

The thing that has stuck with me the most is the announcement of two different PS5s, one version with a disk drive and one without.

This has been rumored for Microsoft’s new Xbox for months, if not longer, but we haven’t had official word of what the second console would be yet. Sony beat them to the punch with this announcement. So far, what we’re hearing is that it’s the same hardware that simply doesn’t have a disk drive.

The assumption is that removing the disc drive will allow for a cheaper price, especially as word of the upcoming consoles being expensive has been floating around for a while. If Sony and Microsoft are staring at expensive boxes, removing a disk drive is one way to minimize the price as much as possible. Microsoft came out with an all digital Xbox One S in the fall and it was $50 cheaper than the standard One S at the time.

We don’t know anything about storage yet. Would the all-digital version have a bigger hard drive because it would be relying on downloads more than a regular console? Would anyone go for the all-digital version if it had more storage but cost the same? That would certainly make it less appealing.

Console games have been shifting to an increasing importance of digital downloads for several years. Most indie games never have a physical release. Almost every game has post-release patches and/or updates. Then there’s the concept of DLC, which almost never has a physical release. With patches and updates, even games that you have a disk for can take a lot of space on your hard drive. One of the biggest downsides of going all-digital has been slowly eroded over the years as developers rely on post-release content more and more.

The other argument against all-digital is that games are cheaper with disks. Sure, you can play the used games market to get something back for a game you’ve finished and try to get a different game at a discount. The number of games you can do that with is shrinking with more and more major titles shifting to the “games as a service” model to keep you playing long after release.

By the time you’d be “done” with a game that you would be willing to sell, it could be a year or more after release. At that point, you’re not getting much from Gamestop. Speaking of Gamestop, who hasn’t had a bad experience with Gamestop? They may not be long for this world anyway.

There are plenty of sales on digital storefronts, although there is reason for concern that those would come less often if they are competing less with retailers.

We’ve seen a shift to digital come elsewhere. Laptops often don’t have disk drives anymore. That’s something I wasn’t thrilled with initially when I first bought a laptop without one years ago. I haven’t missed it once. By the time smartphones got rid of headphone jacks I already was using bluetooth headphones.

Digital always eventually wins and it will for video games as well. The infrastructure has been growing for years and it could and should be a smooth transition for anyone who takes that plunge with the next generation consoles. Let’s see what happens.

Filed under: Video games

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