The big PlayStation 5 reveal revealed at least one revealing fact about the hardware: there will be more than one hardware, and one version won’t do discs. It’s not the first time there’s been a digital-only version of a console of course – indeed Sony’s own PSP Go was, ridiculously, more than a decade ago.
The value of the ‘Digital Edition’ will come down mainly to price, on which Sony are helpfully saying absolutely nothing. The Xbox One S is an interesting current case though: on Microsoft’s own store, the ‘All-Digital’ version is Â£50 less, but the ones with a slot come with a game, so the saving is pretty small. Sony will have to do better than that.
Because physical games do bring certain advantages, most obviously resale. Like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which I recently flogged for more very slightly more than I bought it for, due to the vagaries of supply, demand, and eBay.
A little fiscal boost isn’t the only benefit of selling on a game either: there’s something to be said for the finality of it. Animal Crossing is a good example again. I ended up having to conclude that it’s not a good game for me to have, because of the way I played it – which is to say being more concerned about things being tidy and my debts being paid, than any creative endeavours or actual enjoyment. That’s absolutely my stupid problem, but it means that getting rid of it removed any temptation – or rather compulsion – to play it, and I can get on with something actually, you know, fun. Sometimes it’s good to move on.
It works the other way too though. Take No Man’s Sky. I played it at launch, got enough out of it, and sold it. The game has changed massively since then though, and if it was sitting there on my hard drive I’d have dipped back in now and then. But it isn’t, and I’m not going to buy it again because of all the other games in the world. Which is a bit of a shame.
What about the physical object? I don’t think game boxes have been particularly appealing for some time, with a few notable exceptions – the cardboard edition of Ico, for example. As for the contents, it’s rare to get an instruction manual to not read these days. And compared to a digital download, it’s a waste of resources. Not that downloads are without environmental impact.
It’s complicated, then. Pros and cons. The only thing that’s clear is that, unless the ‘Digital Edition’ has some sort of digital surprise that you don’t get in the standard edition, then it’s going to have to be a lot cheaper to be worth considering.