10 Reasons to Buy Physical Copies of Video Games

The world is going digital; that much is obvious. With Blockbuster gone and CD sections in stores shrinking faster than a week-old balloon, it’s clear the world is heading toward a digital future, when all media will stream or download to our devices. If you’re a PC gamer, you’re probably already there, thanks to services like Steam and Good Old Games.

But over on the console side of things, it’s slower going into the digital future. Retailers like GameStop and Walmart still hold a lot of power, so game companies keep cranking out physical versions of games. There are plenty of good reasons to buy digital copies of games over physical copies, but the opposite is also true. Here are reasons you may want to keep buying games on disc.

1. To be sure they won’t disappear

A ghost woman appears in P.T.

A ghost woman appears in P.T. | Source: Konami

Remember P.T., the “playable teaser” Konami released on PlayStation 4 for the game Silent Hills? Unless you downloaded it to your hard drive during its brief window of availability, you can’t get the demo anymore. It’s gone, vanished from existence, all because Konami flipped a switch to remove it from the PlayStation Store once the company cancelled Silent Hills.

If P.T. had come out in physical form, you’d still be able to get your hands on a used copy, despite it being out of print. In an all-digital world, there’s no such thing as a used copy, short of buying a PS4 with the game pre-installed on it, under someone else’s account. Right now, if you want to get a look at P.T., your best bet is to watch a walkthrough on YouTube, which is less than ideal. If it was a physical game, you could find a copy and play it yourself.

2. To sell back

Breaking Bad characters lying on a pile of money.

Money | Source: AMC

Digital goods are convenient, but that convenience comes at a price. Once you’re done with a digital game, there’s no way to sell it back, or trade it in for something new.

But with a physical copy, you can head over to GameStop, Best Buy, or sites like Amazon or eBay to sell the game or get trade-in credit for the next game you want to buy. That’s a great deal if you’re not a collector and you won’t want to play the game again.

3. Returns

GameStop logo

GameStop logo | Source: GameStop

On a similar subject to trading games in or selling them back is returns. You can generally return games you buy to retailers for a full refund if you decide you don’t want them. That’s not the case with digital games on consoles, where all sales are final. Even if you pre-order a digital game on console, there’s no easy way to cancel your pre-order. It’s not consumer friendly at all.

4. It can be cheaper

Sale sign

Sale sign | Mario Tama/Getty Images

You can often find sales and deep discounts on physical games earlier than on digital games. After all, the physical version of the game is usually available from multiple retailers, each of which competes with the others to get customers.

Better yet, if you’re a member of Amazon Prime or Best Buy Gamer’s Club Unlocked, you get a 20% discount on all games you pre-order. That rarely happens on the digital side of things.

5. Special editions

Contents of the No Man's Sky Explorer's Edition

Contents of the No Man’s Sky Explorer’s Edition | Source: Sony

They’re not for everyone, but if you love games and fancy yourself a collector, special editions of video games can be a huge selling point for keeping your gaming media physical. Special editions often come in large boxes and contain things like statues or physical versions of iconic in-game items, like the ship from No Man’s Sky or Master Chief’s helmet. These can look great on your gaming shelf, right alongside all of your other physical copies of games.

6. Lending to friends


Friends | Source: NBC

Let’s say you’ve finished a game that your friend wants to play, too. If you have a physical copy of it, you can simply hand the game over and your friend can play it. If you bought the game digitally, things are a lot more complicated. The easiest way to lend out a digital game is by giving away the username and password to your account, which is generally a bad idea for any number of reasons. Physical copies of games are much more versatile to use and lend out however you want.

7. No DRM

Caution tape

Caution tape | Source: iStock

Generally speaking, Digital Rights Management (DRM) limits how you can play digital copies of games. DRM can include limits on how many devices a game can be installed on, or require your system to “check in” with servers to authenticate your copy of the game to make sure it’s legit. In general, it’s a pain to deal with for anyone who bought the game legally. With physical copies, you may not run into this problem as often.

8. To build a collection

Michael Thomassen and the world's largest video game collection

Michael Thomassen and the world’s largest video game collection | Source: Guinness World Records

There’s something special about seeing a shelf lined with fantastic video games. For whatever reason, it’s much less special to page through a digital library, especially if it’s cluttered with free games you didn’t necessarily want from services like Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus.

9. Less reliance on the internet

Telecom network cables are pictured - Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Telecom network cables | Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re planning to download a 50GB game and your internet connection speed is on the slow side, it can take a long time between when you start your download and when you can play the game. Worse yet, if you have a monthly data cap, game downloads can eat away at your allotment of bytes. In either case, buying a game on disc is a better way to go.

10. Ownership

The cover of Super Mario 64

The cover of Super Mario 64 | Source: Nintendo

Ownership is the running theme behind many of the items on this list. When you buy a physical version of a game, you own it. When you buy a digital copy, you don’t technically own the game. You only own a license for the game. Licenses can be revoked in circumstances that have nothing to do with you. Discs and game cartridges can’t.

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