Why an all-digital gaming future would be a bad thing right now

Why an all-digital gaming future would be a bad thing right now

There have been clear hints of the industry looking for new ways to develop itself in ways that involve leaving behind physical game discs. Where Steam basically already succeeded in this, Microsoft is an entirely different story. Their ”test project”, an Xbox S remodeled to an all-digital edition, does seem attractive with a lower price that feels good on your wallet. A fair price for a fair sacrifice, one would say, as an all-digital edition like the name suggests does not include a disc reader. This comes at a steep price with little positive sides.

No more piracy

First, let’s start with one of the most positive parts when everything becomes digital. Just like with Steam, it’s very easy to get to games and purchase them on demand. People buying these games often don’t mind not pirating certain games as Steam often has good sales where the buyer’s favorite game will be theirs forever. And more money to the industry and developers often results in more (good) games, especially from indie studios that you’ve grown fond of. Sadly, Steam also takes 30% off each purchase to keep for themselves with relatively little effort. They can do this because they basically have a monopoly on digital games. This brings us to a first major flaw: arrogance and greed.

Overpricing and monopoly

Microsoft already has a tendency to ask ridiculous prices for some of its major games that are digitally available to purchase. Where a physical copy of a well-known title might be 60 euros/dollars already, the same price might have a price tag of 70 euros/dollars on the digital store for no reason at all. When there is a sale, it’s hardly comparable to the steep discounts that Steam offers you. Further digitalizing without physical copies will slowly wipe out the competition as there is no real competitor besides ”shady” sites such as G2A that sell keys of games. To give such a company exactly what it seeks by granting it even more power is dangerous. It’s safe to say that on the Xbox, there’s still a lot to learn about its consumers market, where sometimes Microsoft even seems afraid to take chances and always chooses a high price over a high number of sales for a normal price. As long as money seems out of balance with the consumer’s wishes, it’s dangerous for us as well as the company itself.

The Xbox One S ”all-digital” edition


No more collecting means no more ownership

For the already steep digital prices, you don’t get anything physical. This means no secondhand products. To make sure you are a full owner of a product in an all-digital world, you would need a full digital secondhand market as well. If we would go all-digital right now it would be an ideal place for a company since it can fully decide what everything is worth up until the end of each product’s lifeline. But with a secondhand market at least we have full ownership over our own products and would be done with it. This also comes at a price though. With so many titles that are all stapled together digitally on personal accounts, the competition in numbers can be so fierce that there’s no value left on your own products. And on top of that, if a company such as Sony or Microsoft will own this marketplace, they will probably be inclined to ask you 10% of your own profit… from a product you already bought from them.

Slightly convenient, far from ready

Judging by these observations, which would quite certainly present a danger to gaming as we know it now, an all-digital future is something that takes time and careful planning if the market is not to collapse. Will we ever see a world where the upcoming generation of consoles will be the last collectible physical copies and the rest just being all cloud storage and streaming services? Who knows. But only a fool would rush in right now to surrender their everything to such capitalist testing grounds.

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I'm a game designer, developer, and reviewer. I've been reviewing for 3rd-strike.com since 2017.

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