Digital Vs. Physical

Dig vs Phys Tau

With the Steam sale currently in full swing, I think now is a good time to bring up the discussion of Digital vs. Physical.  Keep in mind that in this post I’m not going to be discussing things such as the whole Steam as DRM thing, I’ve already done a short piece on that topic for my blog, I just want to talk about the, let’s say, emotional attachment to a Digital or Physical collection.

Well straight up I’m going to say that I think a physical collection is preferable to a digital one.  It’s just generally a better feeling to be able to hold a game in your hand, take out the disc and pop it into your console or PC.  It’s really exciting when there is a game you’ve been waiting for and after a long amount of time waiting and following news and hype, you finally get to take it home and pop that thing in for a good long session.

There are other great things about ‘physical’ too, like receiving a boxed game as a gift feels way better than getting a crappy little scratch card for PSN credit or whatever.  Also there is that new game smell when you buy something new, that awesome aroma of a fresh disc and manual that you get whenever you open a new game for the first time, it’s absolutely amazing.

Above all, the physical collection just looks impressive.  If you go and do a Google search for old game collections, people who have cartridge upon cartridge jammed into an old shelving unit looks amazing.  All the boxes, loose carts, collector’s edition stuff and god knows what else all put in once place and on display looks fantastic to any avid collector. It’s really all any serious retro gamer strives for.

But even with all that gushing about having a physical collection, there is a down side. Instead of just listing reasons I’m going to tell you a story of something that happened to me just about a year ago.

When I finished university, I had a massive collection of Wii, Xbox 360, PS2 and Gamecube games.  Now, I was about to go and start working in Japan for a year, so it wasn’t a realistic idea to take all that stuff with me, so I thought I’d do the smart thing and mail it to my home in Sweden.

So the arrangements were made, I boxed everything up, slapped the address on everything and watched as a bald man with a thick northern English accent took all my stuff away.  I then hopped on a plane and got my ass over to Japan to start my new Job, happy in the knowledge that my collection would be there upon my return to Sweden.

Oh how wrong I was…

(I never expected this man to sway my opinions so hard)

(I never expected this man to sway my opinions so hard)

About a month after living in Japan I got a call from my mother that the boxes had arrived, but most of the stuff was missing.  No consoles, only a handful of the games and a few other random bits and bobs.  It had all been replaced with silverware cutlery, Jay-Z CDs and little dolls of Bill Clinton.  The only things that had survived were a few PS2 games, my PS3 games that I had with me in Japan and my Gamecube titles.

It was at that point I realised that while having a physical collection is great, a digital collection is absolutely the safer option.  After doing some digging around we discovered that my stuff had been stolen rather than “misplaced” but once I got over the whole missing packages thing, I sat down at my computer and had a realisation. Despite a huge chunk of my stuff being nicked, I still had all my Steam and GoG games, along with everything else that I had got digitally.

Thanks to the power of Steam, I was able to restore a good portion of my stolen collection with PC versions. These came with all sorts of DLC that I had never played before because I was too lazy to get it on my consoles and I was able to do it for extremely small amounts of money.

So I for one welcome our new digital distribution overlords.  In an ideal world, physical collections would be just as easy to preserve as digital ones, but shit happens too easily and it’s completely soul destroying to see it go.  At least if my Steam collection vanishes I know I didn’t spend all that much money on it really. So roll on more great Steam sales with more great games for £10 or less!


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