Digital or physical? It’s a topic that has come up on the NXpress podcast quite a few times over the past year. Both options have pros and cons but personally, I’m a member of the pro-physical camp. I’d much rather buy a physical copy of a video game any day over a digital copy, even if it means spending a bit more money. Apart from just being an avid collector, I like being able to show off my collection. If someone visits my home they can easily see what my interests are by sorting through my games, vinyl records, DVDs, BluRays, and more. There are of course other advantages – the most obvious is that it can be shared with others. If my nephew wants to borrow a game, I have no problem in lending it to him knowing he is still a student and can’t afford to buy as many games as I. And of course, I can also borrow a physical copy of a game from him or someone else. Meanwhile, if I buy a game that I end up not liking, I can always sell or trade in the physical copy when buying something else. And selling old games isn’t the only benefit of buying physical copies. I can also buy them cheaper on the resell market and sometimes I’ll find bundles of older games on Ebay for the same price as a new release.
The most common rebuke I get when discussing this topic is that physical games take up physical space in your home. I can’t argue with this sentiment but I do believe it isn’t too hard to hide the clutter either. All one needs to do is take a trip down to a local IKEA and you’re bound to find dozens of options that will help keep your home nice and tidy. And yes, physical games can be lost or stolen but that doesn’t stop you from buying anything else which can also be damaged or taken away from you. And please don’t bother telling me that a digital copy will save me the trip from my couch to my console when having to switch a game – because trust me, I’m in perfectly good health and young enough to take a few steps forward and back. Strangely though, after years of friends and family trying to convince me to change my ways, nobody has ever mentioned the one and only truly good reason why buying digital would be better. You see, if you’re gaming on a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, the actual disc you buy at the store doesn’t really do much since the games need to be installed on your system’s hard drive. Since the consoles can’t run games directly off of the Blu-Ray discs, the discs themselves don’t really do much beyond producing plastic waste for basically no reason. So from an environmentally friendly point of view, buying digital would be the better choice. That said, the video game industry isn’t Mother Nature’s biggest concern.
There are many other reasons why I don’t like digital but the purpose of this article isn’t to try and persuade anyone that one is better than the other. It really boils down to preference and whatever you choose is fine by me. In fact, despite my personal stance on digital games, I still purchase digital copies since digital game vendors like PlayStation and Xbox have a vast library of indie games that just aren’t available to buy in physical format. But here’s the thing, various studies conducted over the past two years have all claimed that while most gamers recognize digital downloads are the future of games sales, a whopping 85% of gamers prefer physical.
When Nintendo of Europe sent out a press release earlier today and announced the Metroid: Samus Returns Legacy Edition, Nintendo fans across the internet pretty much lost their minds when reading the news. The set includes a physical version of the game, a Metroid II: Return of Samus download code for Nintendo 3DS, a steelbook styled after the original Metroid 2 cartridge, the Samus Archive sound-selection CD featuring 25 tracks from across the Metroid series, a gold “S” Mark pin, a Morph Ball 3D keyring and a 40-page artbook. The bad news, however, is that this special edition is only available in Europe. And as with all Nintendo collectibles, the special edition is already a hot item and no doubt, you’ll be able to find it on Ebay selling for well over the initial retail price in a couple of months — which brings me to my point.
A few weeks ago on the NXpress podcast, I stated that Nintendo should really embrace the physical format, and I even went so far as asking for a special edition box set of their next Metroid game (once again foreseeing the near future). Nintendo fans love collecting anything Nintendo, be it amiibo, old and new games, memorabilia, clothing, gadgets, soundtracks and more. It didn’t take long for the first batch of amiibo to sell out and it didn’t take long for the NES Mini to sell out either. And even two years later, many amiibo still sell out long before they even arrive on store shelves. What I (we) love about Nintendo is how they more often than not, do their own thing, even if it isn’t always a success. So while other companies move away from the physical format, I see no reason why Nintendo shouldn’t embrace it. Nintendo fans are used to the company’s collectibles going in and out of stock quickly, and while it is unfortunate when many of their fans end up missing out, from a marketing point of view, these much-wanted collectibles only create more of a demand – thus free advertisement (remember how many blog posts about the NES Classic flooded the internet a few months ago?). But that isn’t even the real reason why Nintendo should continue to push physical copies on their fans. The bottom line is, Nintendo fans love buying physical copies of games and if Nintendo is actually listening to their fans, they should give them what they want. If you ask any die-hard Nintendo fan to choose between buying the special edition of Metroid: Samus Returns over any other game in digital format, I guarantee you, every one of those fans will choose the former. Why buy a digital copy of Metroid Samus Returns or any game and miss out on everything the box set includes? But back to the point, I made above, unlike the Playstation and XBox which use Blu-Ray disks, the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo 3DS use cartridges thus avoiding having to install the game on your system’s hard drive. This also means no load times, longevity and no scratches. It also means more reason to buy physical copies of games.
Nintendo lives off nostalgia and there is no better way to celebrate the past than by having an artifact from the past in your hands. As a fan of the Big N, I try my best to purchase a physical copy of each and every Nintendo game knowing one day I’ll pass it down to the next generation of kids, much like my older brother handed me his NES back in the day. There’s just something special about booting up an NES cartridge on my Nintendo Entertainment System, a feeling I just can’t get when playing a digital game on any of my current gen consoles, and I imagine the feeling will be the same when future generations boot up a Breath of the Wild cartridge on the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo seems to slowly be giving fans what they want, so let’s hope they continue to embrace the physical format and give us more special editions and memorabilia included with the physical copies of games we buy. As of right now, Nintendo is doing an excellent job releasing special editions for games like Breath of the Wild and Fire Emblem Echoes, but they could still do more, including cheaper versions and bundles for other properties as well. If you’re listening Nintendo, we’d love to see game manuals make a return, maps, more special editions, guides, stickers, amiibo and anything else you can throw our way.
- Ricky D