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Posted: Aug 31st 2011 3:09PM (Unverified) said

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I keep my boxes only as collectibles and have 'unboxed' them so that I can file them in my filing cabinet (yes I still have one, it holds up both ends of my desk and handles all the .gov paperwork (yes... they still use paper...).

Nowadays I get most of my single player games via steam or their own download sites (minecraft, dwarf fortress, cave story...) and usually play the free or cheap ones the most.

I think indie games benefited the most from the increased use and speed of the internet, as they can now distribute their games at the cost of bandwidth alone. Some games may have never have seen the light of day without such increased use of digital distribution.

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 3:35PM Issmir said

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I don't know about unconsciously moving from boxed to digital goods. My wife and I made the conscious decision to do so however. We live in an apartment in Brooklyn, and frankly trying to find more and more space for books, Bluerays, CDs and games got out of hand.

So now we use e-readers for books, streaming services like amazon that allow us to own movies and TV shows without needing physical space for them and digital download services for our games.

And everything was hunky dory until Hurricane Irene popped up. For a couple of days, we were faced not with the danger of flooding or property damage, but with the threat of a power cut. yes, our greatest fear was being trapped in the apartment with no access to any form of entertainment.

Seems we traded the convenience of not needing space for a reliance on our internet connection. Totally worth it though.

(And Irene left us pretty much alone, so we spent the weekend playing Champions)

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 3:40PM LucentWolf said

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I'm probably in the minority here, and more than one or two people will flame on me for this, but I still enjoy having physical copies around. I like having hardback books. I like being able to hold them, and see them on my book shelves. They seem more personal to me, than on a little electronic device.

Same goes with my games. I still have my original copy of Final Fantasy VII, the game that -really- got me into gaming. I spent like, two weeks reading that game manual before actually diving into the game. I was scared of what it would do to me, I knew it'd change my life. ( soppy, I know ) That's not the only games that I still have physical copies of, I actually have less games on a cloud than physical ones.

My point here is that, I do see that gaming is going digital, and more than likely it'll be for the good. I for one though am saddened by this. Soon there will be no more children unwrapping life changing games for christmas. I think we'll both gain and lose something out of this.

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 5:57PM (Unverified) said

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@LucentWolf
I'm not sure you're a minority, and if you are, then I'm part of it too. The way I see it is that if I pay for a game I like to own the CD. I've paid for games before that were digital downloads only to lose the computer where it was and never be able to get the game again unless I paid for it again.

Ofcourse this has happened also with CD's where I've lost them too and then I was screwed (I shall always miss thee, Neverwinter Nights).

In any case, if it's F2P MMO's i'm a lot less concerned about not being able to get it again since as long as the game is alive I'll be able to get it, and if it dies I wouldn't be able to play it even if I owned the physical media for it.... but for single player games (i.e. Torchlight), I gotta have it. I paid for it and it's mine even if the company goes under.
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Posted: Sep 1st 2011 1:34AM Stormwaltz said

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@LucentWolf

Then I'm part of the minority too.

@Beau Hindman

To answer the questions you posed in your article:

"Think about the last time you bought a boxed copy of any game. Think hard."

I don't have to think hard; it was only six hours ago. Deus Ex: Human Revolution for PC, through Amazon, with a preorder of Mass Effect 3 PC.

Before those, Strategic Command World War I and PT Boats: Knights of the Sea from Battlefront.com, two weeks ago.

"Now, think about why you bought that box. It was probably because it offered some fancy cloth map or a neat little statue..."

I find the recent trend of super-expensive collector's editions build around gimmicky merchandise to be off-putting. Though I would have liked to get the artbooks and soundtracks in the Skyrim and SWTOR CEs, there's no way I'd pay twice as much for the dubious bonus of a statue my children would break in a few days.

So why do I prefer boxes? There are a few reasons. One is because I like the "presence" of physical media. I like my shelves of books, my racks of CDs. I can look at them, hold them in my hand, and know that I actually got something for the money. Digitally distributed anything - music, video, text, or games - is ephemeral. No matter how many times I load it up, I never truly feel I own games bought through Steam, GOG, or Gamersgate.

Another reason is, ironically perhaps, security. So long as I don't lose that box, it's available to me forever. I still have my physical copy of Master or Orion, and installed it on every computer I've owned in the last 15 years. Hell, I still have the physical copy of the first PC game I ever owned (Stellar Crusade, bought in 1991) and the first Commodore 64 game I owned (Silent Service, which I got in 1986). If the internet goes down in my area, I can still install and play those games. If Comcast - the *only* ISP in my area - decide to be dicks and lock me out, I can still install and play those games. If, god forbid, Valve, CD Projekt, and Paradox were to go out of business tomorrow, I'll still be able to install and play the games I have physical copies of.

Third, as games get higher definition and more multimedia, their size balloons. It's an open secret that SWTOR's client is around 40GB due to the size and quantity of its voiceover files. That can take hours to download on an excellent broadband connection - and most of America does *not* have have access excellent broadband (an ITIF study from a few years ago famously ranked the US internet infrastructure at 15th in the world, with an average download speed of only 4.9 Mbps). Further, many broadband users have bandwidth caps. For Comcast users, downloading the SWTOR client consumer 16% of their monthly bandwidth cap of 250 GB. Sixteen percent... before you even get to play the game.

If you want to get all your new games, music, books, and movies through digital distribution, and back up your data using cloud storage, there's a growing likelihood that you'll be rationing your bandwidth, choosing what you download and upload every month based on what your ISP permits you. My DVD-ROM games, music CDs, and Blu-Ray movies consume no bandwidth.

Finally, I don't think physical media is that much riskier than digital copies. You can reasonably point out that I may lose a CD or have a book ruined by rain. I can just reasonably point out that you can have your Steam account hacked, or leave your laptop too close to a magnet.
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Posted: Aug 31st 2011 3:47PM Carolina said

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I used to be afraid of buying games as downloads, thinking that if the company disappeared, the game would also. But today I think that, even if the company disappeared, it wouldn't lose the chance to sell its games to someone who'll continue to make money out of it. GOG has been doing at, at least, and it is how I got some wonderful games I love and had lost their CDs during a move. So, in the end, the download was much more reliable then having the physical media.

As for online games, it makes much more sense to just get the downloaded version, since if the game closes, you won't be able to use the physical media anyway. What needs to be done is smarter downloads, clients that are updated so that you don't have to first download the game and just then patch at a slower download speed.

I am all for reducing "stuff" too, specially since, at some point, the "stuff" will turn into some kind of trash that is not always recyclable.

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 3:51PM tk421242 said

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The divide will be more clear between lifestyles than anything else I think. Those that live in more high speed internet accessible areas and have less space (such as Issmir above) will move quicker and more eagerly to this lifestyle. Those perhaps that have more unreliable internet and are not as pressed for room may hold on to physical media longer just out of habit. I myself have switched all music to digital, but my movies are still physical and games are digital but only if I can make an offline hard copy when I buy it.

Overall, it is nice at first to think of all my media not being around my house taking up space, but I like the idea less of my media being accessible only so long as everything works on the network as it should.

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 4:01PM Tezcatli said

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I'd rather have a physical copy. Instead of downloading it. Which considering the size of most games, would take an overnight download on my internet, maybe 2. And if they ever go through with their idea of selling us bandwidth like phone minutes, it'll be impossible to DL games for those of us too poor to afford a good line.

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 4:10PM redsolar said

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I'm with Tezcatli on this one. I prefer to have hard copies around just to save on the majority of the massive download. I could probably live with downloading something around in the 5gb or less range. Depends on how much I really want it and whether it is available in stores yet.

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 4:37PM HokieKC said

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Something like only 20% of all video games sold are digital with the remaining 80% being physical discs. And the whole cloud-based thing sounds great in theory but runs like total ass in reality.

Gamers as a whole still prefer hard copies to digital formats. And I'm not sure that's going to change anytime soon.

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 4:48PM Beau Hindman said

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@HokieKC I'd love to know where that information came from. Considering how popular services like Steam and D2D are, I would bet that's far from the truth.

Also, you would have to clarify what you mean by the bad service of cloud services. Cloud services account for banking, renting movies (NetFlix style services) and hundreds of others. I brought up cloud services mainly for sharing information, etc. OnLive does not run perfectly, but I was not talking just about streaming games.

Beau
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Posted: Aug 31st 2011 5:13PM HokieKC said

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@Beau Hindman - Recent article with exact number (I was off by 9% in my educated guess): http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/36516/Physical_Game_Sales_Percentage_Saw_Steep_Decline_In_2010.php

"Physical discs still the most common format - In the fourth quarter of 2010, 71% of video games purchased by consumers were in physical formats."

And I like Netflix but I just don't see it replacing discs. Plus, Netflix's contracts are all expiring so their selection will either get worse or prices will keep going up. They have few new movies digitally as it is. Will people be willing to pay for two digital services to compensate? I certainly won't and will go to a Redbox for a physical disc before doing that (and save a lot of money in the process vs. two cloud-based movie services).

Cloud-based gaming services run horrendously right now. The U.S. isn't South Korea. We simply don't have the infrastructure to properly support cloud-based gaming. Maybe in 15 or 20 years but certainly no time soon.
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Posted: Aug 31st 2011 5:33PM Beau Hindman said

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@HokieKC Cool, thanks for the link. Luckily the future hasn't been written yet, and the fact that we already have the cloud-based services and disc-free gaming that we do have is proof that it will continue to grow.

Hopefully the day will come REAL soon. lol Thanks again!


Beau
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Posted: Aug 31st 2011 5:05PM ApathyCurve said

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I will agree physical media are Good-n-Dead when services like Steam finally get offline modes working reliably and consistently. I've had several problems with it -- usually during a cable service outage or when the router's ethernet port goes tits up, like happened last week. When I tried to open the Steam client, a popup box informed me that the user name was not registered on that computer and that I would not be able to access the Steam client and games until I logged back on and verified the account.

That is the only computer on which I play Steam games. 172 games, to be exact. Which I paid for. And then was locked out from playing, despite the fact I'd just been playing a Steam game on that computer an hour previous and the system hadn't been powered off or even in sleep mode since that point.

Clearly unacceptable, whatever the technical reason. I installed GTR2 from a CD and zipped around the track for a few hours while cursing Gabe Newell's ancestry.

The technologies involved and the surrounding technical issues are not mature. Download-only is convenient, but susceptible to major problems that haven't been addressed. Until the entire planet is on one giant bulletproof wireless network operating at 5,000 Gbits/sec, (see: William Gibson), I don't see physical media going away.

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 5:14PM Ryukan said

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Of a mixed mind about this, I can see good and bad with it but I know that ultimately it will probably become the mainstay with physical discs going the way of the dodo.

Pro Disc - I like having the physcial disc to install the game vs. having to download the whole game which can take hours upon hours sometimes.
Pro Digital - I don't like DRM that requires having the disc in the drive to run the game, no need for that with digital downloads
Con Digital - I don't like DRM that requires constant online connection to play the game, which is becoming a thing with digital retailers more and more.
Con Digital - I don't like the lack of physical game that can't be returned if the game is crap or won't run/buggy as hell
Con Disc - I don't like that if the disc is damaged enough it could stop working thus, no game to play
Con Digital - I don't like the fact that I might end up with games spread across multiple digital retailer platforms where some games are not available on some platforms.
Con Disc - I don't like having a horde of game boxes and discs taking up drawer/shelf space

Just some examples of pros and cons I see with both methods of acquiring games. I would prefer to get physical copies of the game when I can, but I won't stop gaming if it just becomes digital retailers.

That being said I will stop gaming if it becomes an issue of ONLY Cloud gaming in the future, because I have no use for that crap. You can take Cloud gaming and toss it out the window...ugh. I am only referring to Cloud gaming, not movie and tv show streaming, I don't mind that and use it, but the day I can't INSTALL (whether from a disc or from a d/l) the game onto my computer and play it from there...yeah screw that.

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 6:34PM Graill440 said

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Physical media? Thats a broad statement in todays tech. Is physical media the transformation of a record...to a disk....to a chip, or what you go to the store and buy of the shelf, be it cd or chip? The definitions boggle the mind and the big companies spin the spin to get you to try their method of using "digital" media.

Needing the internet to use a piece of entertainment is a nogo for me, as is not having a physical copy.

It is far far cheaper to make and distribute downloadable digital media, yet people pay the same price is most cases to the physical counterpart, its a wonder people do not see this, again profit rules over what people want, and the companies will shove what they deem most profitable down your throat.

I prefer to actually walk around a store with friends or go alone and simply browse, you cannot do this online. Of course hermits do not complain about the vast amount of downloadable content available either. (laugh)

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 6:36PM wookiehole said

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Im slowly getting to the point where i could do either or. Sure i like having the game discs to show off in my computer room and all, but there IS the convenience of just being able to download a game on a whim.

BUT.. I recently finished a 36gb (give or take) of a particular beta client for a soon to be released game....which on my 20mbps cable connection took overnight to finish...

that made me kind of wish i had physical media to install it with because it would have probably been faster.

Posted: Sep 1st 2011 4:55AM GW2waiting said

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@wookiehole

@wookiehole 

Agreed. Those of us living outside the states pay with blood just get a decent download speed and/or monthly limit. In Australia we pay huge dollars to get any decent download speed. I myself gave a cable connection and pay $60 a month for a 12GB limit. Any decent online game would take many many hours and it would be faster to go down the shops and buy the disc. I could be playing within the hour if not two with patches. I can only hope that the new optical cable to the home National Broadband Network will mean faster speeds for us. I have my doubts though.
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Posted: Aug 31st 2011 9:11PM Laephis said

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Bandwidth caps on our high speed internet connections make your "snickering" look shallow and short-sighted. (much like the majority of your articles)

Posted: Aug 31st 2011 9:20PM Beau Hindman said

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@Laephis I'm not sure where I am snickering at anyone's inability to have good internet service. The fact is that I am trying to find games that are low bandwidth and lo-tech. It's a recurring theme in my current writing.

Also, I have paid a lot for my internet connection, around 150 dollars a month. Is it not possible to pay for a higher cap? If not, sorry, but I can assure you I was not laughing at lower speeds.

Beau
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