Following up on the Digital Revolution Post..

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Some interesting feedback from my last article. We had a range of opinions and some interesting comments on where PC Gaming is, and where console games are likely going.

I asked over at a forum I hang out at regularly,  Front Office Football Central for thoughts on whether the Steam model for PC made them more willing to buy digital downloads on consoles. There was a range of opinions, and I wouldn’t take this as emblematic of gamers as a whole (in general, this group tends to be older then the average, and plays some esoteric games, and since it is a forum for a PC Sports Sim series, most everyone plays PC, while not everyone plays console.).. but I got some really good feedback.

Here are some general types of feedback I got:

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1) “Thus far in my house it’s basically been the more important the game is to us the less inclined to buy it digitally we are.”

Makes sense here. This generally means that only games that catch a fleeing interest or hit a sale that maximizes the interest for price value are bought digitally. For the key games however (the example given in this conversation was Fallout 4 for console), they prefer the disc version, and mainly for two reasons. First, the reason that folks want to be able to play the game as long as they can.. referencing things like Konami’s removing of the Silent Hills prototype from the store, so it could not be redownloaded and the fact that if you lose data from the original Xbox DLC now, it’s gone forever as Xbox Live 1.0 is permanently shutdown. There’s a matter of trust that the console companies do not have yet that Steam earned (especially with its promise that if/when it goes dark, it will first send a signal to stop checking DRM) The other reason for physical being the ability to make a few bucks in trading in games after you’ve beat them, either towards new games and new consoles. Even these folks however, seem resigned to the fact we’re heading to a digital-only world.

2) “PC digital all the way, but need consoles to move forward to trust consoles.”

For these folks, the ease of use on Steam and Origin (much more the former then the latter), make buying a physical copy on PC nearly unimaginable these days. In fact, I had a couple respondents tell me that if they couldn’t get the game digitally for PC, they were just plain not interested. The main thing that folks needed to feel safe going forward with consoles? Hardware, believe it or not. The PS4 and Xbox One come with a 500GB internal Hard Drive (and then reserve as much as a quarter of it for the operating system and internal use. In an age of 50GB installs, that space disappears FAST. For the Xbox One which is down to 362GB of usable space after setup, that’s seven games. That’s not a comfortable position. While the systems can be upgraded in space (the Xbox One via a USB connection, the PS4 requires the system to be opened to replace the hard drive), the main feeling is that until we have just as much space on our console as we do on the PC, then digital will be more of a pain then physical. Especially in the days where some internet companies continually try to float the idea of monthly data caps.

3) “Prefer Digital over Physical”

These folks are the early adopters. Since most games require a massive day one patch ANYWAY, why skip the middleman with a lengthy disc-based install? Just get the game digitally and have it automatically kept updated. Also, I noticed that folks with kids are much more willing to go digital, because that means it’s a lot harder for kids to destroy their purchases accidentally requiring a second purchase. If you suffer a hardware failure, just get a new box, sign in, and redownload, done! And a couple folks take this to a different level. Steam has everything they want. They’re not interested in travelling outside the Steam ecosystem. Mass Effect 3 is ONLY available through the Origin Service for PC, so these folks just said “Not going to create another account on another service (doubling the risk of financial information being exposed)” just for the privilege of playing one game. If it ever comes to Steam, though, I’d buy it.” Again, the one-stop-shopping closed digital network of Playstation Sore and Xbox Live will be more comforting for them.

4) “Physical based media? How Primitive”

This is basically item 3, but its natural conclusion, and mostly on PC. One respondent said in his latest PC build in 2014, that he didn’t bother installing a CD/DVD drive. A couple others haven’t remembered buying any physical media for PC in a decade or so. Steam convinced them that this was the way to go, and the ease of use, ease of install, and the easy ability to replace the games should a hard drive fail or system rebuild sealed it for them. In a world that increasingly turns to electronic media, yesterday’s torrent downloaders are glad to have a legal alternative in a digital store for everything today.
 I think in the long term, this is where we are going, but I don’t think that for THIS console generation we will see the discs go away (at least for the AAA titles).. but the next one.. that will probably be the dawning of the digital-only era. If you look at the PC versus Console market for say, Fallout 4 or Metal Gear Solid V, the Console market was heavily disc based with full installs from disc, while the PC versions physical copies were less then complete (Fallout 4 PC required you to download 19 of the 24GB via Steam and not from the disc, while MGS V PC was simply a disc with a 9MB installer that told it to use Steam. This is the future. We need to be ready for it.

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