Topic: Pros & cons of digital downloads vs physical media.

Posts 41 to 52 of 52


@Ryu_Niiyama Ordinarily I agree, but books and bookcases are a huge pain to pack and move. I've just finished packing ours. It was not fun. Gonna be even less fun when we get to the other side of the move. And every time I feel like complaining about it, my wife will be happy to remind me that she told me a decade ago to start buying e-books instead.

And since I started buying digital, I've really come to appreciate being able to carry dozens of books around in a tiny, lightweight device. Having the complete Lord of the Rings with me everywhere I go is a sanity saver.

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Prefer physical. It's usually cheaper, and it has resale value. With a lot of games not getting demos these days, the idea of spending £50-60 on a game I've not played with no chance of getting anything back if I don't like it is an absurd proposition.

I can see a film I like before buying it permanently (for much less than £50), I can listen to music before buying it permanently (for much less than £50). I've never paid £50-60 for a book and doubt I ever would.

I'll gamble on cheap digital games because if I spend £10-20 in a dud (hi, Mr. Shifty) it's not the end of the world. I'll sometimes sell my physical copy and buy digital versions of a game I play and really like. But the idea of spending £50 on a consumer product, sight unseen, that I can't return or get anything back for? I'd think I'd lost my mind. Nothing else about digital matters against that problem.

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@skywake I wasn't clear and I apologize. The reason I mentioned it was becuase I was thinking of books that come with a ebook version as well. So I'm aware of the fact that physical/digital formats are offered in other products.

I would disagree with your assessment for the reason to own the game in multiple formats. Nintendo was willing to sell boxes so for collector's to have the splatoon edition in some fashion, so they are aware of the fact that some gamers will hold on to physical merch no matter what. I have a few movies and games in multiple formats for preservation. I want to be able to play some games when I'm 90 so I have a few backups to ensure that since a digital storefront won't last forever.

Also physical games can be lost, damaged, stolen or anything else, a digital key ensures that a consumer doesn't have to buy a game over...especially long after that game has gone out of print. Of course your statement that you would sell your game is the abuse I was talking about. As the existence of the preowned market means the majority of people would flip their physical games to turn a profit rather than keep them for the same reason that prompted a physical only user to buy it in the first place. I'm not sure a decent work around for it that wouldn't involve DRM practices that defeat the convenience of my wish.

@JasmineDragon Haha, I understand that; I had 30 bookshelves in my apartment when I moved and 25 of them were for books only. Plus I'm currently building bookshelves for my home and I'm still trying to decide if I want to do built ins in my library or not. But for me despite my MASSIVE ebook collection there is nothing like the feel of a book and reading words on the page (less eye strain too) so I continue to expand both collections. My amazon list of books is somewhere around 2871 last I checked. And it grows and shrinks throughout the year. My goal next year is to stop gaming for a bit and see if I can get that list down to half.

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Well, giving away digital keys (or auto-rips) with physical music kinda makes sense as that music is very likely already available for free on YouTube or Spotify, so it's not that the artists are losing anything by making the mp3s available.
Besides, mp3s and streaming are of such an inferior quality compared to the real thing, that you're basically giving away just a very crippled version of the product. It's like playing a videogame through a steamy window.

I don't know if we'll eventually come to the point of publishers giving away digital keys with physical videogames. Obviously, if people keep buying digital at an incremented price simply because they can't be arsed to swap cartridges, they won't. However, if people stopped buying digital - or stopped buying so many videogames in general - publishers will have to give more for less money, like the film/music/book industries are doing now.

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@MegaTen Are you saying that :

  • the production of a cartridge in a factory
  • its transport to the store
  • the keeping of said store cold in summer, hot in winter and lit up all year round
  • the driving of a gamer back and forth to the mall
    (plus the fact that there is now a piece of plastic that at some point will be discarded by your grandchildren no matter how much you cherished "I am Setsuna" at some point)

Takes up more resources than :

  • keeping game data available on a server

Also, even though it is not the topic, a car running on electicity (which we know how to produce) is better for everybody than a car running on gas (which wars keep being fought over, and which we drain off the earth for).

No company cares for the environment, but each consumer can.



spizzamarozzi wrote:

Well, giving away digital keys (or auto-rips) with physical music kinda makes sense as that music is very likely already available for free on YouTube or Spotify, so it's not that the artists are losing anything by making the mp3s available.

I disagree with your next argument about the digital copy being lesser quality because I have seen some labels sell music on a tape with a instant download in flac. So what you were saying there isn't really true even if I did believe that a 320kbps mp3 was "lower quality" than Vinyl. But on this point here? I agree because that's kinda the point I was making.

There's value in having a digital copy of music/movies you already have a physical copy of. You can't play a CD on your phone or a BluRay on your tablet. But with games I'm making a choice between two options that both work largely the same on the same device. If you were given a physical copy of a game and a digital code? There may be some reason why you'd want one over the other. I can't think of any reason why you'd want to keep both

MegaTen wrote:

That's a myth. These games are still distributed through servers, and these have to be online 24 hours a day. More often than not, these servers remain online when (viable) physical distribution has ended (retail life-cycle). Servers require a lot of space, and also require resources. I'd argue that since you cannot resell, swap, or truly own anything, it is basically a waste of energy.

You're ignoring one key factor in all of this. These servers don't just distribute current games, they will hold the latest games as well. For all we know they're probably holding games from multiple systems. And because of the nature of digital storage it really doesn't take any more physical space or power to hold more content. You can easily store the entire game library from a system on just a handful of drives.

To use a different example consider Netflix. The entire Netflix library can basically fit on a single server, literally. Your ISP probably has one of these sitting on a rack holding pretty much an entire Netflix Library:
There are thousands of these scattered around the world. Why? Not to store more videos. There are multiple versions of them sitting around to distribute the load on Netflix. And that load is the same whether everyone is watching a different video or if they're all watching the same thing.

Basically what I'm saying is that keeping old content on these servers doesn't really use up any more resources. The only thing that may use up more resources is more users hitting it all at once. And in any case we're talking about a handful of servers shared across hundreds of thousands of users setup once and running 24/7. Do you think that retailers don't also have multiple servers running 24/7?

As for your last point well most people don't really care about the DRM because, to be frank, we're used to being just as restricted with a physical copy. When I brought Gameboy games back in the day I didn't expect them to work on my SNES or PC. People buy a game with the intent of playing through it maybe once on the system they currently have and soon. To the extent that reselling/swapping the game is a thing? Well sure. But if those things didn't exist then the cost would go down anyways.

Edited on by skywake

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I had a quick read of these two articles and there are a few points worth making here. Firstly both are based on an assumption that the power for digital is not coming from a renewable source. If they are then the argument falls apart entirely. Secondly it's not entirely clear whether or not they're including the impact of distribution for the physical copies. From what I can tell they're mostly talking about the packaging itself. It's kinda hard to tell for sure because one of the sources is behind a paywall and the other is a dead link.

In any case for the CD vs Streaming article? They're talking about the carbon emissions of one physical CD package vs the carbon emissions of streaming an album 27 times. It's unclear whether they're including the energy required to play a CD 27 times. They also explicitly state that they're not taking into account the fact that streaming services will cache your recently listened to albums. In any case 27 times is oddly specific and if streaming 27 times is the same as a CD package? Then based on their own numbers downloading an album is 27 times less emissions intensive than producing a CD.

The game example appears to be just as cherry picked. It appears to be based on the amount of power consumed while downloading a game on a PS3. The number they come up with is 27.5kg of CO2 which from my power provider (mostly gas) would mean about 32kwh. You could charge the Switch's battery from 0% to full 2000 times with that amount of power. If the download took a full day your setup would have to pull 1300W to consume that much power. For perspective the PS4 in standby downloading pulls 70W, Switch does <5W. And before you say "what about the server!", well the article makes a point of saying that almost all of the carbon emissions are on the end-user's device. So I'm not sure how they've come up with that number.

Edited on by skywake

Some good Aussie musics: King Gizzard, Pond, TFS
"Don't stir the pot" is a nice way of saying "they're too dumb to reason with"


To counter your assertions with a well thought out response once more. I didn't say anything about landfill or distribution of physical goods because the articles you linked to ignored those factors. Factors which would as you rightly state push the scales even more against physical goods. But even then they still only barely managed to get digital to look worse with a lot of massaging of figures.

In terms of HDD replacement on servers? A simple googling comes up with a few articles saying that after 4 years 20% of HDDs in a server environment will fail. My own experience with HDD longevity would line up fairly well with that figure. But even then you need to remember the number of servers that would actually be required. We're talking one HDD being thrown out for every 100k users or so over the entire life of a console.

As the articles you chose to link to said, pretty much all of the resources expended with digital distribution are on the end user side. And they're right to say that. All I'm doing is following their lead and questioning whether their numbers actually lined up. They don't.

Edited on by skywake

Some good Aussie musics: King Gizzard, Pond, TFS
"Don't stir the pot" is a nice way of saying "they're too dumb to reason with"


Tibob wrote:

@MegaTen It's always tempting to find a source that helps us justify our habits. Here's a more recent article though :

Interesting to read what figures that article was based on. So they came to the conclusion that the balance point for digital vs physical for environmental impact was 8.8GB. But the figures they used:

1. Impacts on travel are largely negated because you're buying 9 items at the shops
2. Your internet speed is ~5Mbps (2010 UK average)
3. The console you're downloading games on consumes 140W while downloading
4. Transportation impact based on the distance required for distribution in Europe

They're blown apart when you realise that...
1. Sometimes you do drive to the shops just to buy a game
2. The average internet speed has improved 7x since 2010
3. The power consumption of the Switch when Idle is ~50x less than the launch PS4
4. Not every country is as small as the UK (the US is 3x less dense, Australia is ~100x less dense)

If you combine all those numbers.
8.8GB x 9 x 7 x 50 x 3 -> 80TB.....

and even if you combine a couple.
8.8GB x 7 x 50 -> 3TB

Edited on by skywake

Some good Aussie musics: King Gizzard, Pond, TFS
"Don't stir the pot" is a nice way of saying "they're too dumb to reason with"


I think for me, I've decided to do mostly physical games with some few chosen ones as digital. For me, I play a lot of sports games and competitive games that usually get replaced in a year or more so I typically try to sell the old game right before the new one comes out so i can get more value for it. I don't have any interest playing the old game once a new one comes out so the extra money helps pay some into the new one right off the bat. The exception to this is Rocket League. I will never try and sell it so I'm gonna get that one digital and it will be nice to always have it ready to be played. I also don't want many digital downloads because I don't want to buy more memory unless I actually need it. Typically I don't take up much because I usually play the same 3-5 games a year and then a new one comes out and I erase the old saves. I know I'm probably a lot different than most people on this forum though. I'm not a true Nintendo lover, I've had almost all major systems released and the switch is the first one from nintendo that i have loved since nintendo 64 in the old days.



On the subject of digital download vs physical disc/cartridge, its disappointing to learn that the physical version of NBA 2K18 is being released almost a month later than the digital version.

My personal preference is physical media for games that get updated yearly (sports games).

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