It’s not as pretty as it looks.
One of my new favorite internet shows as of late is “The Final Bosman” on GameTrailers. It’s hosted by the one and only Mr. Kyle Bosman, a young, quirky lad who talks about the recent hub-bubs in the gaming media and adds some insightful (and humorous) commentary to it. Think of it as Destructoid’s “Jimquisition” but only less, err… intense.
Anyways, a recent episode of The Final Bosman touched on the thought of moving to a digital-only future. I think we can all agree that at some point gaming will become solely a digital experience and that retail chains will no longer sell boxed copies of our favorite video games. I mean, it all makes sense for the publisher, right? They won’t have to spend all that money to manufacture discs and boxes anymore, and they won’t have to sorry about you reselling your unwanted games. And for the consumer, there’s no longer a need to “store” games on a shelf; everything will be up in “the cloud,” ready for you to play on-demand whenever you want.
Personally, Steam has spoiled me when it comes to downloading games digitally. It’s just so convenient to open up Steam and find whatever game you feel like playing, and then starting up the game with just a click of the mouse. And so the “PC Master Race” has already pushed ahead into the digital-only sphere years ago. Why are consoles still so far behind?
One of the most common complaints you hear about digital-only gaming is that you no longer have a the box in which game discs usually come in. At first glance, this argument seems… dumb. Would you really trade in the conveniences of a digital-only library for the mere tangibility of a retail box that’ll just sit on a shelf for the rest of your life?
I poke fun at the tangibility argument, but it actually has somewhat of a valid point. The idea of “owning” a video game is for some reason relegated to only what is physical. Take for example television. If you have a the entire first season of Dr. Who saved on your DVR, you wouldn’t say you “own” a season of Dr. Who, but rather you have instance “access” to it. But if you have a real, physical boxed set of the first season of Dr. Who, the story would be different, because in this case, you actually do physically “own” that set of DVD’s.
The same applies to games. Do you “own” the games you have on Steam? Technically, yes you do. However the feeling of ownership is not the same. When you hold that box containing The Last of Us in your hands, it feels valuable. You actually feel like you have ownership of a product you can see, smell, touch, and (if you want to) taste. That feeling isn’t transcribed when you’re watching that download bar reach 100%.
And that leads to my next point in that we lose a chunk of our gaming culture if we one day we indeed go all-digital. Bosman used a personal example in his video; I’ll use one for my blog.
I don’t remember every Christmas in which I got something I wanted, but there is one Christmas that I do have fond memories of. I was still in my elementary school days when I had, for some reason, asked my parents to buy me Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, despite knowing almost nothing about the game. When Christmas came, I rushed to the Christmas tree only to be disappointed by the fact that none of the gifts were shaped like a video game box. But of course, when I opened that final present… surprise! Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga! My parents had wrapped it along with the game’s Nintendo Power guide, which was why I didn’t recognize it before I unwrapped it.
The point of this story is to illustrate something that could never happen in a digital-only future. The feeling of receiving an actual box with a game inside simply could not be replicated even if I had received a download code for the same exact game. And talk about the guide book! Nobody buys guide books anymore. We have GameFaqs for that now. Nobody brings GameFaqs to read on the toilet.
And think about all the other things we’d lose too! There would be no more midnight launches at retail stores. There would be no way to bring Mario Kart to your grandma’s house for a family gathering. You wouldn’t be able to trade video games with your friends like they were Pokémon trading cards anymore.
A digital-only future is inevitable, and we all know it. It will mark the beginning of a whole new chapter in this industry we love so much, giving us access to games in ways we could have never imagined. But it will also mark the end of an era of tradition that is deeply rooted in our gaming culture. The people who say “I want my kids to experience what I experienced as a child” may never be able to accomplish that wish anymore. Those who strive to collect every video game box in existence will finally reach the end. Game stores will become extinct, just as music stores have in the past fifteen years, just as book stores have in the past ten.
And what can I say? We are sacrificing tradition for convenience. It is our future. Whether or not you choose to embrace it now is your choice.
So tell me, MyIGN. What are your thoughts on a digital-only future? Are you going to miss that traditional gaming experience? Sound off in the comments below!