Well folks, the impossible has happened. As a die-hard enthusiast of the art of the physical video game, as well as the self-proclaimed champion of keeping the collecting scene alive, I have decided to go entirely digital for the PlayStation 5. I have put a lot of thought into this lately. Too much, probably. But I’ve come to the conclusion that due to a number of factors, I don’t have any urge to collect (most!) physical copies of games for this console.
It’s been lingering on my mind, in fact, but due to the sheer volume of PS4 titles I missed and what was provided for free with my PS+ subscription, I hadn’t even had the chance to consider buying a new game. I knew the subject would come up eventually but I pushed it out of my mind and figured I’d deal with it when the first PS5 game came out that a) was not included with PS+, and b) I was in enough of a gaming drought that I would pull the trigger on a new game.
I did end up grabbing a digital copy of Monster Energy Supercross 4 a few months back, but that makes sense with racing titles since once you’ve spent your time in there, a sequel is probably around the corner and you’re about done with them. The same can be said for any sports title, I suppose. But it didn’t sting at all knowing I would not want to play this game past its expiration date.
Today was the first day I decided, “I’m going to buy a PS5 game.”
To be honest, since picking up this pristine piece of kit back in November and being blown away by the blistering speed of the game loads and the interface, I knew that adding in a disc-swap would only serve to disrupt what was and is the smoothest gaming and multimedia experience I’ve ever enjoyed.
The fact that games load so quickly, and that you can have one Media app along with a game fully loaded into memory at any given time [hence you can switch between a media app and a game without closing either] is an amazing feature for user experience. The whole interface just screams “fast”. There’s also the “Activity Cards” that let you jump straight into the action, different levels, multiplayer etc, but none of that works if you have to keep swapping discs. So why screw up a great thing?
Though, it wasn’t just disc swaps – in fact I’ve railed against people going digital for this reason, calling them lazy for not wanting to get up and swap a disc, “trading ownership rights to save 30 seconds,” etc. Yes, it’s true – I’m man enough to admit my own faults, and I certainly have no shortage of them, but to me, the act of switching a disc or a cartridge was part of the fun of physical games. No, now I finally understood the convenience that people were referring to. Jumping between games that all load at breakneck speeds just doesn’t work if you have to pause to go switch discs. The whole speed gain is negated when you add the extra step. I paid $500 for a system built to do things extremely quickly, and I’m adding an unnecessary step to make it more complicated.
It’s like splurging and buying a Tesla, but saving some money and buying one with a 12 mile battery range. What’s even the point of spending the money on a cool electric car if you can’t even use it how it was intended?
And you know what happens then? You don’t play as many games because you have to keep swapping discs! I never would jump into Monster Energy Supercross for a quick race, then over to The Witness to knock out a puzzle or two, then back into Ys IX for a half hour. I would pick one, play it for some varying amount of time, and then turn it off. One thing I’ve noticed is that, as just about all of my games played on this thing so far have been digital (typically from PS+), I’ve gotten to enjoy lots of games I probably would have never checked out – and I’ve logged more gameplay time because I can switch games in seconds.
Of course, there’s more to the story here – there is the issue of digital rights that I struggle with, and I’ve championed the battle against the conglomerates that no doubt want full control over your gaming licenses. This awful culture we live in where digital game availability is directly tied to the reception of lunatics of Twitter posts by employees of companies that publish the games is material truly deserving of a Lifetime Original Series. Bitter ex-girlfriend of a project manager at a game publishing company reveals he said a racial slur 14 years ago? Game’s gone, good luck!
I’ve seen games disappear for nonsensical reasons like the aforementioned one, but there’s also the simple case of license expiration (music soundtrack licenses, anyone?) which is likely why you won’t find any old-school sports games with soundtracks available anywhere.
That being said – I am willing to risk it going forward on my PS5. If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize, particularly in the last year, it’s that companies are making bank releasing the same damn games I grew up with, usually in remastered form. Seriously – I can play probably 4 out of every 5 of the Super Nintendo, N64, and PlayStation 2 games I have, in a remastered version, on either my Switch or my PS5. That’s incredible if you ask me.
And that, my friends, is the journey I took today. To anyone who hasn’t read my ramblings on the subject before, this may not seem like a big event, but this is a huge deal to me. Even my wife whom is only as informed about gaming as I let her in on (which isn’t much at all) was surprised when I told her.
But what happened was, I was out walking the kids this morning and listening to a gaming podcast, and they started talking about LittleBigPlanet. It was then I realized I never got around to playing Sackboy: A Big Adventure.
I decided it was time to finally check out this game I had been looking forward to (I LOVE LittleBigPlanet), and as I was mentally planning a motorcycle ride over to Gamestop around lunchtime to pick up a copy, it dawned on me that I had a full hour of free time before work. “Maybe I should just get the digital copy?” is what I thought. And ultimately, that’s exactly what happened, before arriving at the conclusion you just read about in this diatribe.
And just to further validate my decision, let me tell you about the experience I had right afterwards:
I opened the PS App on my phone, bought the game in two taps, and started remotely installing it to my PS5. All of this took less than 30 seconds, less time it would have taken to peel the tape off the pointless box that would likely have no manual, and no love put into it. By the time I walked in the door after our walk, my watch dinged with a notification:
Holy mother of pearl, it’s already installed and ready to go. It took like 8 minutes! I sat down and spent an hour playing this awesome game. Within 10 minutes of apprehensively and truth be told, begrudgingly pressing Purchase, I didn’t even care that my physical game collection did not grow in size.
And that’s the story of how Hell froze over. Thanks for reading, ya beautiful maniacs!
I’ll tell you what, Geddy: this is your life, your gaming career and your PS5, and you can do whatever the heck you want. So it kinda contradicts what you professed earlier? Big deal — a wise man changes his mind sometimes, but a fool never. Heck, even I got rid of all my games’ plastic cases and manuals after years of fetishizing them, so… Just follow your instinct, my man. And enjoy your games, digital or physical.
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Very interesting article!
I’m the physical games advocate myself as well, but the fraction of my digital games collection is growing with each passing year.
There are a few different ecosystems at play though; I’m not fully ready to go 100% digital (yet?). I still buy most games on Nintendo consoles physically (though that too is slowly changing), but my Playstation collection is primarily digital by now, thanks to 8 years of PS+ and very tempting deals on the Playstation Store.
I like having my games physical (well some kinds at least) but I find that the pros of physical games are fading. Sure, I like to collect special editions but I don’t like buying glorified codes. Buying a case with nothing more than a code inside is some real nonsense. Those are two extremes though and there is a million points to consider when I make a purchase (I tend to overanalyse).
The PS5 seems designed to work with digital games and that is a huge factor into going that route, as you mentioned. If(when) I buy a PS5, I’ll have to think more about this… Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject!
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