Deciding whether to buy a physical copy of a game or to download digitally has been something that I’ve been torn about recently. Digital downloads have grown in popularity in recent years, and with games now requiring a lot more space, you can quite often receive as many as five disks to install your new game from, with slower installation speeds than an internet download.
Steam is the most used digital distributor for games, and I’m guilty of stocking up my library with more games that I know what to do with. The legendary Steam sales, especially the Summer and Winter ones, are just asking you to advantage for those 75% off deals. I’ve also recently set up an account with GOG for their fabulous Witcher series pricing a couple of months ago, which also boasts heavily discounted prices that I don’t think physical games can match. Lastly I created an account with CD Keys for their £25 deal on the new Sims 4, much cheaper than the pricing for physical game – currently £35 on Amazon.
Physical games of course do go on sale too, but as they are not simply a virtual download online, it’s rare that they ever drop as low, at least not until several years later when they are struggling to sell. Thinking back exactly to the last physical game I bought: Dirt 3 or Skyrim in 2011? It must have been Guild Wars 2 in 2012. Admittedly I bought the first Harry Potter game off Ebay in the summer but I don’t think that counts! The discovery of Steam in 2010 when Football Manager offered steam as disk-free software to play it has led to a huge decline in my purchases. Prior to this I’d been proudly filling my shelves with PC Games.
Why is steam so popular? I don’t know how it’s grown over the years but I suppose once you’ve become the most popular software, it becomes impossible for any rivals to match them as Steam must be the first platform everyone thinks of. I assume Steam was one of the first digital distributors and they took control of this now huge market very early on. I was attracted by the pricing of course, but also that it acts as a social network. Setting up a profile, communicating and the ease of playing multiplayer with friends, and of course steam achievements! My god they’re addicting. Why is it so essential that I collect them, I honestly don’t know, they don’t contribute anything to your “steam level” yet I make a disappointed grumble when a game I liked the look of doesn’t feature them. I could even go as far as saying it’s the achievements that have kept me attached to Steam despite finding other distributing platforms like Origin or GOG. Having a growing steam library is almost as satisfying as my shelf of PC Games.
Almost. This must be the one advantage I can think of that physical games have over digital. The map and manual that accompany your favourite RPG is just awesome. Thankfully I did purchase a physical copy of Skyrim, as well as for my favourite MMO series Guild Wars. Although it sounds weird, it just makes you feel a bit more connected to the world. Yeah I know, I should have a lie down… It is however only these RPG genre games that I really feel this way, am I as bothered about Football Manager or Total War games? Not really.
One thing I have found recently is that you can register select games you’ve bought physically on Steam. I suppose this is the best of both worlds but there aren’t a huge number of games currently on there.
This is the list Steam currently supports: https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=7480-WUSF-3601
So to conclude, the attraction of cheaper prices, immediate installation without any delivery wait, the popularity of Steam and their seasonal sales, makes a much bigger “sell” than what physical games can offer. I am sure there will be RPGs in the future that persuade me to pay a bit more but on the whole digital wins in every other case.