There's A Reason Only 16% Of Gamers Play Downloaded Games Exclusively

Posted: Feb 22 2014, 10:16am CST | by , Updated: Feb 22 2014, 12:25pm CST, in News | Gaming

There's A Reason Only 16% Of Gamers Play Downloaded Games Exclusively
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There’s a new report out from the NPD Group called “Exploring Digital Gaming” which says that 16% of American gamers download their games exclusively, favoring digital and ignoring disc-based games altogether.

Elsewhere in the survey, 25% of respondents said they preferred downloading games while 30% said they liked discs more. 45% had no preference at all.

In my estimation, this 16% of players must either be avid PC gamers (who rarely, if ever, need to buy a disc these days) or phone/tablet only players, where discs are obviously not part of the equation. Despite Microsoft's initial attempt to make the Xbox One heavily digital, that didn’t come to pass, and discs function on both the One and Sony's PS4 the way they always have.

Consoles are still relatively far behind every other form of media when it comes to digital consumption of content. While it’s easy to download/stream movies, TV shows, music, books and PC/phone games, that is not yet the case with consoles. While you can often download games on consoles, it’s often far more of a pain to do so. Huge file sizes don’t match up with relatively thin hard drives, and overclogging of the internet tubes around launch day can often make a lethargic digital download a worse alternative than a quick run to the store.

And then there’s the “pawn shop mentality” that still influences console gamers and their desire for physical discs. Many buy hard copies of games assuming they will indeed be trading the game back to Gamestop in a week for at least 50% of the purchase price, which they can then use to buy other hard copies or cheap used discs at the store.

So far, the digital console market hasn’t come up with a good answer to the cheapness and savings that can come with physical discs and their resale value at places like Gamestop. The digital price of new console games is always $60, but there’s no such thing as a trade-in. The best consoles offer are on sale (or sometimes free) digital copies of older games, which is a good start, but it’s not disrupting the disc-based, trade-in, used games economy that players see as an innate benefit to discs.

Of course, downloadable games are pure profit on the developer/publisher/console manufacturer side. With digital copies, they’ve eliminated the troublesome cut of each game going to materials, shipping and of course the middleman, Gamestop, but are prices any lower? Of course not. Since players are used to paying $60, they’ll continue to charge that and split up the newfound extra money among themselves. It works out great for them, but if digital games aren’t cheaper than their physical counterparts, and don’t come with the trade-in benefit, it’s no wonder that even in this overwhelmingly digital age, lots of console gamers still prefer discs.

This isn’t a problem in other industries because there’s no large trade-in market for used physical copies of CDs, paperback books, DVDs and so on. But the gaming industry has entire retail stores practically dedicated to this very concept, and it remains a huge part of the industry.

I’d love an all-digital future for gaming, and I think we’ll get there someday. But for now? All it’s doing is giving consumers less choices for the same prices.

Follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my Forbes feed, and pick up a copy of my sci-fi novel, The Last Exodus, and its sequel, The Exiled Earthborn.

Source: Forbes

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