Sick Of Physical Games

The day is here. That’s right, today is the day that I complain about physical games. No, not the effort it takes to change a disc or a cartridge, but the industry of physical video games. I hit a point earlier today where I realized that I’m over physical game collecting for modern systems. There’s a lot to dig into here, so let’s get started.

Those who have been reading my material for a while and understand my love of physical game collecting and my hatred towards the “all-digital future” are probably very surprised to hear me say this. I’ve been collecting video games for a long time now (since I was 5, if you count “keeping all of my games like a hoarder since I got a Game Boy”), but I really got back into it when I got my 3DS. I loved seeing those short, white game boxes; little pristine postage stamp-sized cartridges to go with the a tiny handheld console that fits right in your pocket. I got big into some DS games as well, and both the DS and the 3DS had so much love put into the physical releases. Every game came with gorgeous artwork, an instruction manual in most cases – the effort was there and it was worth every penny. The box was there to sell you on the game.

I continued this collecting trend when I got my Switch on launch day; my first time playing a console on release day since the Wii. I’ve had a fair time collecting for it, but it was the first time I noticed a tremendous lack of trying in the releases I bought. The insides of some boxes barely have artwork, if it wasn’t just left completely blank, and rarely if ever would you get a manual unless it was a collector’s edition or a limited release, or a re-release of a classic game. That being said, I still adored the sea of red on my shelves. LimitedRunGames put out some great releases too, with my personal favorite being the dual pack of Turok 1 & 2 with the reflective box art.

Turok 1 & 2 (Nintendo Switch) Limited Run Variants ...
By far my favorite box art in recent years, to two of my favorite games ever.

Now, I recently got my Playstation 5 and so naturally, I was left to decide: would I go back and collect all of the PS4 games that I played on PS+ for the sake of collecting? Ultimately I decided I would, but mostly because PS4 games are dirt cheap. However, upon receiving them, the plastic seemed very flimsy, and of course the box was completely empty, minus the disc. Thing is, the boxes to PS4 just don’t look all that great, in my opinion. There’s something missing – not just the inside being empty, either. They never appealed to me in the slightest. So, this was a double-dose of disappointment, as I was expecting to be “sold” on continuing to collect them, and it failed terribly.

I currently own 6 physical PS4 games, and it took precisely this many box open reveals for me to determine something: most physical games in modern generations are being created to appease people like me who reject the idea of digital, not to deliver a cool product in a pretty box. Like, this is some seriously low effort output. Most of these don’t even have artwork on the inside, not a single one has anything useful or special inside. One of them even has LEGALESE printed on the inside.

Don’t even get me started on the boring-ass FF7R spine.

Let me translate this: “Here you go asshole, you want a physical disc, well you got it, three days after release. Now run back to your dinosaur cave and insert the disc while the normal people have been playing the digital copy since it unlocked three days ago at midnight.” Do you see what I’m saying?

Let’s talk about the experience of buying a new video game. Recently, I went through a kerfluffle in an attempt to pick up two games from a local Best Buy that I nabbed for dirt cheap – but, I never received them. It’s a long story that I won’t get into but the end result was me having to file a dispute against some credit card charges, something I am still screwing around with fixing over a measly $21. In other news, I am officially boycotting Best Buy.

Ladies and gentlemen, the “we don’t give a shit because this stuff just gets you into the store” section!

This got me to thinking: if I’m boycotting Best Buy, where are the other options? The way I see it, in the 2021 state of video games, these are the options if you want to buy new games:

  • Amazon
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Best Buy
  • Gamestop

Notice something about the above list? Yep – they’re all gigantic conglomerates who essentially own the entire world of commerce. And quite frankly, I’m sick of handing my money to any of these companies for absolutely none of the same experiences I used to have going to real game stores, to buy no effort boxes, with nothing to care about or hold whatsoever. I want to give my money to the small shops, except they no longer get most of the larger releases because they are exclusively sold at Major American Conglomerate Inc.

I’ve got a game store close to where I live called J2games, and while I have yet to go into the place due to discovering it during COVID, the pictures I’ve seen of the interior are glorious.

Remember when game stores were COLORFUL and had people who gave a shit about video games running them?

I’d love to go inside and buy some games once COVID is over. In the meantime, I’ve grabbed a few retro games for them for curbside pickup – but as soon as my GCU account ran out, I redirected my gaming funds toward them for the newer releases. I tried getting MX vs ATV: All Out, but they told me their distributor wasn’t offering copies at anything less than 100 copies per order, which clearly is too much for a small retro shop to ever sell. I called them up when I heard that CrossCode was being released physically on the Switch; nope, that one was only available at Amazon.

In short, unless I want Madden or Call of Duty, smaller game shops are simply out of luck, because the profit margins on new video games are so bad, they need to purchase in bulk or they won’t break even.

So this leaves me with one option: I keep sending Amazon or Gamestop my money, and they keep pushing out the stores I like, until they eventually disappear. I get an empty box, with a disc that’s pointless, with no manual, and no attachment whatsoever to the thing I just bought.

Sadly, I don’t see much of a point to continuing to do this. I’m consistently disappointed with regular physical releases, and buying newer games has started to feel more like hoarding – i literally “throw it on the pile” when I get a new game, after popping out the disc or cartridge, and I never look at it again.

So that’s that. I am done collecting modern games.

However, there is a silver lining here, and a small plan going forward. The trend I noticed here is that, like with anything else, when you do something all the time, it becomes completely unspecial. I may have some collector’s fatigue and I’m fully aware that constantly adding games to my collection was eventually going to get old. Pair that with the fact that I just moved (as in, I sold my house and moved in with my in-laws, putting all my stuff in a storage unit) and I have seen in a stressful environment the sheer bulk of the things that I own.

But I don’t plan on leaving the hobby of collecting games, either. Going forward, I will only be buying physical games when they are special editions. No, not those $185 bundles of dollar store crap, I mean the limited releases of just the box, manual, and disc. LimitedRunGames, Strictly Limited, Play-Asia (with the limited releases, or Japanese releases when they contain more goodies than just the disc [they usually do for the Japan releases]) – these are the companies I want to support.

There are a few games I’ll still get physically. Playstation 5 games from franchises I adore (Sackboy and Ratchet: A Rift Apart stand out), big-time RPGs (when I actually have time to play long RPGs again), and first-party Nintendo titles on the Switch. But in 99% of situations, third-party games will be purchased digitally going forward. And strictly when they’re on sale, because I refuse to pay full price to rent a game.

How do I even end this article? Well, I look at it this way. The reason that retailers such as LimitedRunGames did so well is because they celebrated video games in their favorite way – by creating the high quality physical releases themselves that they remember from their childhood. But the key is offering a very small selection of games. It wouldn’t work if they put out 5 releases a week. And you know what? Every LimitedRun release I own is super special to me. Dust: An Elysian Tail is still one of my favorite Switch games. So, I’d like to end this on a positive point: it never was about filling a shelf, it was about having a wall that spoke to me and the games I love. Collecting less going forward means that the ones I buy will have more meaning. And that’s something to be positive about!

3 comments

  1. Jeez, I wholeheartedly relate to everything you wrote in that post. In fact, I could totally have written said post myself, if not for the final outcome. 😜 Just like you, I’ve been sorely disappointed by the disappearance of gaming manuals, feelies, and basically everything that made physical games awesome; but instead of retreating towards digital games, I reacted by getting rid of boxes and holding onto cartridges only, after ordering a bunch of dedicated cases from Unikeep to pimp up my new plastic-free collection.

    This was a hard Rubicon to cross; but now that it’s done, I don’t regret it one bit. Getting rid of plastic cases actually allowed me to focus more on the games themselves, and kinda renewed the act of collecting for me. Cherry on the cake, my collection is now nicely compact, and I can peruse many games at once. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good read Geddy.

    I remember the days when little independent stores sold physical games. There was one in Liverpool that I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called, just off Bold Street. Literally amazing, had stickers of all the games you could buy all over the walls and then kept them in the back. I used to stare in wonder at them all (PS1/N64) at the time.

    I still love collecting physical games. My Vita collection is hefty. But my interest has definitely deflated over the years. I think Limited Run Games and the like had a lot to do with this actually. Vita was one of those platforms that looked like it was going to reach end of life very quickly, so every release was a novelty and I wanted it. Then LRG, eastasiasoft and the like came along and were releasing things that wouldn’t have previously got a physical My mind was BLOWN. Octodad on a cartridge? Little games like Hue? Bigger Japanese titles like Ray Gigant? Absolutely amazing.

    But over time, as is inevitable, quality went downhill. EAS recently released a title called ‘My Aunt is a Witch’ which is quite literally an unfinished visual novel. Tonnes of 2D platformers like Mutant Mudds that are absolutely fine, but play once and forget about. I don’t want them in my collection.

    I think once I got over that “must have everything” desire, I was in a much better place. Now I just buy what I want.

    I agree with what you’re saying about cases being so little fun to collect these days. I will say that a lot of the stuff from the localization houses and limited run companies is still very pretty. Stranger’s Wrath on Vita has a gorgeous case. Trillion: God of Destruction is one of my favourite gaming covers ever. Same with Natural Doctrine. Even if they don’t have manuals, I just like them for the aesthetic aspects of the box. But the AAA space is filled with, like you say, legalese and images just to appeal to a certain demographic without the same artistic flair.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Kresnik! Always a pleasure hearing from you. You are certainly the Vita collecting master and that console in particular has seen MANY “limited edition” releases, especially for the smaller titles. You’re right though, too much of a good thing typically results in staleness, and the plethora of lackluster titles getting the physical treatment is definitely silly to me.

      I’ve got two LRG vita titles I still need to play – Bastion and Cosmic Star Heroine – each classics and they fit right at home on Sony’s final handheld. Again, they are quality releases though, while some of the releases (can’t believe I forgot to mention eastasiasoft….) are just terrible and have no business in physical form. But, I also have Stranger’s Wrath on Vita from LRG and it’s amazing! That was a fantastic release, I only wish I had gotten into Vita to grab New n’ Tasty when LRG launched it during their beginnings.

      I think this will mark a big moment in my collecting, when going forward I aim only to put together a “best of” collection, rather than “here is every single thing I ever played”.

      Thanks for the comment, hope all is well over on Vita island. I’m sure I’ll be back 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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