Food for thought

I think about the digital revolution a lot. I've even written about it on here before. But the other day I had a new thought. When it comes to Xbox, PS3, Wii U, PS Vita, and 3DS (the major gaming platforms) most people buy their games at a store, take them home, and play them (except for the DS and Vita, you break that bad boy open in the car and play on the drive home.) But when it comes to PC games a majority of players download their games right at home. This disconnect has always just seemed like a cultural difference between the two communities. I have a new theory though. The fact that you can trade and sell your old console games holds people back from buying digital.

Ever since I started seriously gaming, about 10 years ago, there has been no way to sell my old PC games. They came on CDs that were easily burned and shared (I remember having a burned copy of StarCraft and using the number 3 to fill in the CD key). Speaking of CD keys, that's another reason you can't sell your PC games, the next user would not have a valid CD key to use when installing the game. So this was long before steam and all that, but my argument is that Steam and other download services would not have started so easily if PC games were easier to trade and sell. 

Now I feel that before I go much further I need to leave this disclaimer again. I work for GameStop, but my thoughts are only that of my own and not of GameStop. Now the reason I bring up GameStop is that they are the worlds largest buyer and seller of new and pre-owned videogames. What GameStop doesn't do though is buy or sell pre-owned PC games. Since they have been around for a long time they have had a hand in shaping the gaming market we see today, and that is a world where it is not easy to buy, sell, and trade used PC games.

When you buy a PC game in it's physical manifestation it is yours forever. After you're done with it the game has really no value to anyone else. But when you buy a Xbox game for example, after you're done it still has value because someone else can take it home and put it in their Xbox and get some value from that experience. Now on the digital side, if you buy a digital PC game you're in the same boat as before, after you have played that game it has no value to anyone else. On the flip side when you buy a digital Xbox game and beat it, this time it has no future value. This model incentivizes people to buy physical games over the digital. I'm not trying to say that one way is better than the other or make those kinds of claims, all I'm trying to get at is people buy digital PC games because it gives them the same if not better value for their dollar, and that we could do the same on consoles if we wanted.

Personally I find it hard to justify buying a game digitally that I could also buy physically. I do enjoy the convenience of digital games and, yes sometimes I'm lazy and would rather play something off my Xbox hard drive then swap a disk. Something I can't get past though, is when it comes to digital games why spend the same money on something that I can never get rid of? Putting a disk in my machine might make me get off the couch but it's a worthwhile handicap compared to being stuck with a digital game I'm not very fond of. I buy a lot of Xbox Live Arcade games which are digital, but only because they are not offered on physical disks and they are cheap. So if I buy a bad one I'm only out $15. But I buy very few $60 games since they are so pricy. So if I tossed out $60 on a shiny new game and didn't like it, there is at least some consolation that I can get anywhere from 20-30 bucks off another physical game. In the digital space I'm screwed. 

As I have said before, the digital age is catching up with videogames. More and more offerings are out there for digital console purchases. What we need now is a good reason to make those purchases. What do you all think about this? Do you fall on one side of the fence or the other when it comes to digital gaming? Leave a comment below, and I'll respond promptly. Until next time...


  1. Your thoughts are actually part of a larger discussion going on in the world about the value of a digital product. It's similar to being able to lend someone a music CD that is completely legal, but if you copy your files over to someone else's computer, it suddenly becomes file sharing and subject to prosecution.

    Essentially, lawmakers and lawyers are hashing it out over if digital items are actually property you can own similarly to an actual CD/DVD/Game. If it is, then it's perfectly legal for us to share those things with our friends. The problem comes from our ability to duplicate those 1's and 0's with no real cost to ourselves.

    The law hasn't caught up with the current technology, but it's searching. Your thoughts parallel a debate smouldering through the legal system.

    1. Do you think it should be legal to share your digital goods?

    2. It doesn't send any reply notices. Most uncool.

      In the grand scheme of things, yes, I'd love to be able to lend my digital goods to people. Sometimes I want people to experience the same content I have but what I want most is to hear how that experience was different from them. Sharing it lets me do that.


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