In the last six months I have bought maybe six games on two platforms, my Playstation and my PC. For those on the Playstation I traded some of my old games, but I didn’t leave the store with another disk, I left with PSN credit and I bought, downloaded and installed my new games from the comfort of my sofa, as I have done with all of my recent purchases. This is the future of game shopping and very soon it will be the only way to buy games.
“So what?” I hear you ask. Well aside from the inevitable job losses from the business of games retail, the next generation of gamers will lose out on the (as Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon put it) “oh-so-satisfying journey from discovery to desire to possession.”
For convenience (and perhaps a slightly lower price tag) we sacrifice the experience; it’s the difference between a train journey and teleportation, sure you’ll get where you’re going faster, but you won’t enjoy the ride. Let us take this time then to reflect upon the wonder of the physical game.
The first video games that I had didn’t come in neat little packages that could be stacked or tucked away, they came in boxes that could easily have contained War and Peace, occasionally with a flap at the front revealing information about the game.
I remember megadrive and N64 cartridges requiring a swift clean with a breath and then a firm shove into the slot and the crossing of fingers as the power button was pressed.
And then the Playstation and its disks black as vinyl coming in those fat CD cases with the most fragile hinges ever created. All of these gave way to the variations on the DVD case that are so common today, the last of their kind. We all have different gaming memories of different games over different platforms, but the ability to hold that game in your hands is a common denominator. There’s also the whole experience of buying a game from a shop. The browsing of titles, looking at the crap on the back mainly for the screen shots and because of the God awful cover art on the front.
Then taking it home and writing off the rest of the day to game time, or perhaps being forced to wait as trivial things like education or work held you back from your purchase. Either way, the anticipation is palpable and all centred around the physical manifestation of the game.
Perhaps the death of physical games will be slow, like that of music, or maybe it will be precipitated by console makers or perhaps an event like the closure of a major distributor. However it happens, physical games will one day be a thing of the past and I doubt too many people will mind, but every so often I’ll miss having something tangible to connect me to my purchases and I’ll reminisce about the good old days when a game was more than a piece of software.