For some time now, everyone in the video game industry has been going on and on about how digital games are going to take over the world and the evils of Gamestop and the like shall be banished from the earth and sent to live in exile in the deepest depths of hell. OK, maybe it isn’t always phrased exactly like that, but you get the idea. PSN, Xbox Live, and of course Steam are seen kind of like the iTunes of video games. Here to replace old fashioned physical discs and cartridges with digital downloads. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to say that isn’t true. Steam has already “won” it’s battle for PC gaming, but I can’t say that consoles can follow in the same fashion. Not yet, at least.
You see, there’s several reasons why digital downloads aren’t immediately taking over on consoles. The usual suspect is some people would just rather have a physical copy than a digital copy. With a physical copy, no one can take the game away from the player, and it can look pretty on a shelf as part of a collection. This isn’t the only reason, though. If a great game is released and everyone loves it, people will buy it whether or not it is available as a physical copy. The problem is, some people won’t buy a digital game simply because, well, their internet sucks.
Yes, somehow even in the year 2015, it can be extremely expensive to acquire fast internet. This mainly depends on where someone resides, the United States being one of the worst offenders in the developed world. Sadly, it can be significantly quicker to drive to the store, buy a game, and go back home than it is to simply hit the download button and wait. Actually as I type this, I just went to do a speed test on the Xfinity WiFi I’m currently borrowing, only for the speed test website itself to take so long to properly load I gave up and considered the results pretty freaking bad. In small towns, internet costs can reach $100 without even being properly fast. Hell, I’ve often gone to play a multiplayer game and then change my mind when the PlayStation Network informs me the last few months of patches will take over an hour to download (looking at you, heists update for GTA V).
So, obviously, those of us who either don’t have affordable access to fast internet or simply can’t afford it want to stick to disc based games. Publishers are of course aware of this, and therefore it will be quite some time before any AAA games release as digital downloads only on consoles. These games could lose a significant number of sales in the States, as well as many developing countries that have very little, if any access to reasonable internet speeds.
Internet speed isn’t the only reason physical copies are still very crucial to the video game industry, but it a reason that is very much overlooked. When all video game discussion comes from the internet and those who live in big cities with lives centered around video games, it’s easy to see how quickly those without the same internet access as themselves are overlooked.