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We buy more and more digitally. Sony’s results say it all

To think it all starts with armor for the horse. Bethesda has been ridiculed for such an absurd DLC that, released at the current market standard, would have passed without any critical publicity. As digital distribution began in the computer and video games industry, theories emerged that the industry would eventually abandon physical editions in favor of digitally acquired editing.

Today this theory works. Traditionalists still like boxes, but we are getting smaller and smaller. We become comfortable, shopping through distribution platforms eliminates the issue of waiting for shipment, etc. Just wait for the content you want to download. Recent data disclosed by Sony confirm these assumptions. We prefer digital purchases. I belong to the group of people who have always put the physical edition above the rest. Recent years have also changed my approach to the subject, even if the title I throw in the basket will never belong to me.

The question of ownership

Digital distribution

At the beginning, it is worth exploring one quite important topic. Does the game producer sell us his game or just some kind of license? We are, in this specific case, the end user. EULA, i.e. a type of agreement between the licensor (game publisher or distribution platform owner) and the buyer specifying the terms of use. When buying an item that interests you, e.g. from PlayStation Store, do you read the contract before finalizing the transaction? If so, you know this issue, others should be aware that if you buy a game from platform holders, the owner is actually selling us a license to use the application. This principle is not only valid in our industry. Hence, purchasing games in physical editions has the advantage of actually owning the game, as the publisher will not magically make the title suddenly stop working or vanish. Digitization, which has been progressing over the years, is becoming a loud topic of discussion about the future of the interactive entertainment industry. Let’s take a closer look at the quite interesting case of the unfortunate PT, i.e. the would-be Silent Hills by Konami.

The producer suddenly saw it and the game previously downloaded to the HDD of our PS4 ceases to be functional in any way, because the owner firmly decided to cancel the entire project. This situation quite clearly shows that digital distribution means much greater control over the software and its users. Of course, we downloaded the PT demo for free, but the procedure itself is quite brutal. Konami even blocked the ability to run the application on PS5, which some managed to do before the Japanese publisher knew. Why is this happening? Every digital purchase is not about ownership, but about the use of a license. Another case is the successful action-rpg from Obsidian Entertainment, Alpha Protocol. Still released on PS3, PC, X360 was withdrawn from digital sale at the request of the publisher, Sega. This time, the license took its toll on the publisher, because one of the music tracks in the game has expired in the contract. The game was abolished from all digital distribution platforms. Those who previously bought the product could still use it, but the rest is left to buy the boxed version. Sega did not plan to renew the license, because the interest in the game dropped to almost zero after years. How many more titles await a similar fate?

We recently wrote about problems with selling several Metal Gear Solid games, also due to licensing reasons. In other words, dozens of licenses bind the digitization of game sales. When we decide to buy a boxed version, we may resell the game with some profit or minimal loss. The situation can be observed during the premiere of new games, especially those dedicated to Sony consoles. As the publisher raises the price of the games, about a week after the debut, auctions are swarming with offers for used copies. There is no shortage of people willing. For software developers, the digital model eliminates the problem of used games. An interesting fact is that the interest in physical versions is drastically decreasing. Microsoft put the stick in an anthill years ago when it was announced that the Xbox One would not launch used games. And it ended there. Today, for publishers, this is an issue of absolute secondary importance. Our approach to buying games has changed. How many titles have you purchased from the beginning in numerous promotions and how many in the box?

A question of tradition

PS Plus

Back in the day, when I didn’t have my console connected to the Internet, I collected games like all of us do. They were still cheap, since I paid PLN 109 for Resident Evil 2 for the Nintendo GameCube. Today, the amount is five times higher for a used copy. Hence, we are seeing higher and higher prices of boxed games. We also write very often about the sudden increase in interest in collector’s items. Recently, the entire run of collector’s editions of The Last of Us: Part I was sold out. There are still traditionalists who regularly accumulate games in physical editions. In a way, it is some kind of investment in the future. Digitization grows stronger each year, so there will be fewer boxes if the pace of digital sales growth continues. There is also the question of subscription, the greatest convenience for users.

Will there eventually be a situation where the boxed editions will reduce the runs only to special, collector’s editions? It is too early for such negotiations, but the growing interest in digital distribution over the last few years prompts reflection on the future of the gaming industry. I am already seeing opinions according to which the ongoing generation is “the last one”. It’s probably about the presence of drives. PlayStation 5, a driveless model and PS Plus Premium in the annual subscription variant. I think that many more interested parties will decide to take this perspective. Microsoft has already achieved greater success in this matter by choosing the Xbox Series S, a cheaper but very effective alternative. A risk was taken that simply paid off. And nobody complains about the inability to run the game from disc. Do you also use the digital model of selling games more often or are you traditionalists? 79% can’t lie.

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