***Sorry for the podcast break over the holiday. A new episode is forthcoming!***
I hate the idea of an all digital future for video games. I don’t like any of the obvious downsides, from a financial perspective (no trading in games) to the old man perspective (I want something I can hold in my wrinkly ass hands!). Still, the convenience factor would/is going to be fantastic. Can you imagine how much grief would’ve been avoided if all my old 8- and 16-bit games were digital? My quest for a complete copy of Earthworm Jim: Special Edition would’ve ended before it even started, because I never would’ve been without a copy. Then again, complete copies wouldn’t be a thing. Kind of like now where thing cheap ass plastic cases and lack of a manual are the order of the day, but I digress. Steam users don’t give a crap, so why do I?
I always liked having a library of games for a system whether it be big or small. Your friends would come over and rifle through the games you had that they didn’t, and everyone would appreciate each other’s collection. It’s still that way today but those moments are fewer and farther between as you get older, what with silly things like jobs and chores and venturing outdoors. Also with adulthood comes the need for space. My gargantuan shelves displaying all my flea market and yard sale acquisitions over the years would serve me better frankly were they simply not there. I like “stuff” though, as much as I despise this fact about myself.
Physical games are fun stuff, therefore I want more of them. Digital codes feel so impersonal to me. Steam users do it all the time though, and publishers have already embraced an all digital platform for PC games. Download a copy of Civilization V and you’ll have no want for a physical manual as thick as a college textbook. The game seamlessly tutors you through each new gameplay aspect you encounter. Part of me still favors a physical tome that I can sit on the crapper with, but this new way is probably better.
What other ways might I warm up to an all digital future? Well for one I think in a roundabout way gamers may enjoy simply being offered MORE games for zero cost to them. Here’s what got me thinking:
Bioshock: The Collection is an overpriced remaster of the entire series thus far. You know what’s great though? During the Steam summer sale the original versions were only a few bucks apiece. Why does that matter? Because the devs are promising that if you have the original versions purchases you will get the remastered versions for free.
Extrapolating this example to a period in the coming years when eventually all video game sales are digital, if other developers follow suit with this format then that will mean that any time an HD collection or whatever amounts to an HD collection in the future is released, you’ll probably get it for free assuming you bought the original game a few years prior. No one has to worry about figuring out who once owned a physical copy or anything. Your purchasing foot print is kept in perpetuity, so there won’t be a need to go out of your way to obtain the COD4 or Arkham Asylum remaster. You’ll just receive it.
Why would companies do this? Because they know that charging for a remastered edition of a game people already own will yield minimal sales and possibly ruffle some feathers in the community. It won’t be worth the risk. There won’t be a market containing people that regrettably traded their copy in anymore. The only markets will be people that bought and own the game and people that haven’t. Companies would still be free to charge if they want, but the negative press and disdain of the fans won’t be worth it. On the flip side, free remasters to original buyers will foster good will and the cost still recouped through people that have yet to experience whatever the franchise in question.
The big caveats with this are: Will the bean counters at these publishers see this potential? On a contemporary basis these companies are traditionally bad at seeing anything other than hard, short term numbers. Any ambiguous gains seem to be promptly ignored in favor of microtransactions, collector’s editions, and whatever else yields immediate profit. From a business point of view gaming is very much a “sort through the bodies later” type of venture, or at least that’s the sort of venture these companies prefer.
The point is that terms such as “good will” and “long term” don’t seem to be of particular importance, so maybe that blows my theory wide open. Still, 2K Games obviously believes there’s value in this method so hopefully we will see it in the future once console games migrate to more of a Steam-based purchasing platform.