It has been clear since E3 2013 when the Xbox One and Playstation 4 were announced that Microsoft and Sony wanted this generation of consoles to be mostly, if not, all digital. This was apparently when Microsoft fumbled their presentation saying there wouldn’t be any used games (which they later walked back and rescinded). Also both systems require you to install the entire game onto your hard drive, no more popping the game in and playing when you first get it, nope it needs a lengthy install.
We are living in a digital world now, most of us have had an all digital music library for about a decade now (I almost never buy physical copies of music unless it’s a lot cheaper than the Mp3 album, which I then upload to my iPod and promptly lose the CD), and many people download their favorite movies or just stream them off of services like Netflix and Hulu. Shoot most PC gamers have been digital with their games since 2003 when Valve’s Steam showed up on the scene. Now consoles want in on that, shoot there are rumors Nintendo’s next console or an update to the Wii U might be all digital.
So with this move to all digital why are we still paying the same $59.99 for a game as if we were getting the physical copy? When the 360 and PS3 came out game prices were raised from $49.99 to $59.99 causing so much outrage by the gaming community. Game developers defended the ten dollar increase by saying that it was due to the increase in production costs for the newer discs. We didn’t like it but accepted it as a price we’d have to pay to enjoy the next generation of gaming.
This generation there was no price increase on the games, at least not one we took notice of. This generation, most people I know have been buying their games digitally instead of going to Best Buy or Gamestop, but yet they still pay the same $59.99 I am when I buy a physical copy of the game (I can’t help it, I like to actually have a disc). Though I have purchased a few digital games when they’ve had steep discounts.
I accept my $59.99 price tag for games because there is the packaging and disc (no more user manuals though, sad face), but if I buy the digital copy shouldn’t there be a bit of a discount since there is no packaging and no disc. Granted I don’t know how much it costs to make those things, but by not having them, I should be entitled to a couple of bucks off the game, shouldn’t I?
Not to mention that I can trade my game in when I’m done playing it. For instance, right now I have a copy of Batman: Arkham Knight, because I’m a Best Buy Gamer’s Club Elite member I save 20% off of all new games, so I paid $47.99 for Arkham, and if I wanted to trade it in today I would get a grand total of $38.61 back in credit because the trade in value for the game is $27, plus Best Buy is offering an extra 30% credit when you trade a game in and my elite membership grants me an extra 10% on top of that. So if I buy a game, beat and don’t want to play it anymore I can get a pretty sizable chuck of my original investment back, for Arkham I would have only lost ten bucks on that deal and could but that $38 in credit towards another game. You don’t have that option with buying it digital.
One thing that keeps PC gamers coming back to Steam is that games are usually cheaper there than on console (most launch between $39.99 and $49.99) but they also offer steep discounts from time to time on games, some new and some old. If Sony and Microsoft are serious about going all digital and pleasing game makers by pushing out the used game market then they should follow Steam’s model and offer digital games at a discounted price, not to mention offer up sales on the games from time to time along with sales on DLC.
So to answer the question I posed as to why console digital games aren’t cheaper than their physical counterparts? It’s easy, they don’t have to because people are paying the full price for these digital games. As long as those sales are strong then the prices will stay up there.