The transition from physical discs to digital downloads isn’t advancing quite as fast as publishers, Microsoft, and Sony had hoped but that doesn’t mean the ultimate goal has changed. In the recent financial call regarding last quarter, Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen discussed digital growth for the company and the desire to reach an all-digital future.
Shifting as many customers to digital as possible is obviously appealing for publishers. They make more money off every game sold that way. The middle-man is cut out while manufacturing and shipping costs are completely eliminated – they just have to account for the increased bandwidth instead. It also removes the used game market which they’ve felt damages their bottom line to the point where they keep trying to implement ways to reduce the value of used games or remove them completely from the picture.
Consumers have not totally bought into the idea of digital, as evidenced by the backlash to the Xbox One’s original plans, and the slow uptake in those who choose to download them instead of buy them in the traditional manner.
Skepticism towards digital is certainly fair – the latest example of a big game release was MLB 14: The Show which was late going up for download by 15 hours and then still took considerably more time to download and install after finally being made available.
Benefits to consumers who buy digital are few. Immediacy is the initial draw – the idea of getting it the minute it’s out – along with not having to switch discs when going to a different game. The trade-offs are more evident as they involve potentially gigantic downloads (The Show was 47 GB), hard drives that could fill up, publishers having total control over the pricing so fewer sales are seen after release, and the lesser value inherent in the product considering there is no ability to sell the game when done and recoup some of the costs. Somehow many of the pre-order bonuses aren’t made available to those who buy the game digitally either.
There’s even now the issue of data caps to consider. Some people already face that conflict with their internet providers limiting data on a monthly basis and charging exorbitant amounts for overages. Others many come across that in the near future. Just last week Comcast stated they expect all customers to have data caps within the next five years.
Are you open to digital downloads when physical copies are still an option? Do you anticipate going more digital in the future? Or is the idea of moving away from discs just completely unappealing? Leave your thoughts in the comments!