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TAY Debate: Physical Vs. Digital

Nintendo Twizer’s collection of every Wii game ever sold

Today, we currently live in an age where we don’t have to go into a store or even order our games online. Yet many of us still do. Let’s explore reasons why we should hold on to our physical disc/ cartridge roots or convert to the digital age.

Back in the day, you had no choice. Back when gaming was just getting actually good (in my book, NES-era), you had to go to a store and pick up a game. First, they were in big, bulky NES cartridges, but they slowly became smaller as time went on. Then there were discs with the PlayStation era, but you needed, like, three of them or something to play Final Fantasy VII. But eventually, that stopped too. Today, we still have physical games, whether it be the single discs of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One that still require you to download the game even though you have the disc (!), and the 3DS and Switch, which still use cartridges because of their portable nature, albeit very small and (in the Switch’s case) not very tasty ones.


The digital age of games was very experimental in the beginning, with Netflix-like services such as Sega Channel and the Nintendo Satellaview eventually being discontinued, with the Satellaview not even making it out of Japan. Around the Wii/ Xbox 360/ PlayStation 3 era, digital games started to become a thing, but the larger AAA titles usually had to be bought physically because of the somewhat-limited storage space of the time. In today’s current Switch/ Xbox One/ PlayStation 4 era, however, storage space capabilities have dramatically improved, with almost every game being sold in a store being able to be bought on the console’s store without needing the hassle of going to the store, or switching discs/ cartridges each time you want to play a different game.

And thus, a debate has started on whether games should be bought digitally or physically. Let’s go over some key arguments before handing it over to the comments:

Most people who are pro-digital cite the convenience as the biggest reason to go digital. As I just said, you don’t have to get off your butt and switch out your games: they’re all right there, a few button presses away. And the same is true for buying the game itself! You don’t have to drive to a store or wait for it to arrive in the mail. You buy the game on the console’s digital store, wait for it to download, and there you go. For people who want to play a game as soon as it comes out, you don’t have to wait until the morning or go to a dreaded midnight release! You can get the game at midnight from the comfort of your own home. You also don’t have any clutter. No discs and cartridges littering the place, or, if you’re tidy, no need to organize them all. There’s no risk of a game being lost under a couch, or cracked, or getting scratched.

On the other side, people who still prefer to play games digitally, such as myself, like being able to really own our games. Because I own almost all of my games physically, I can lend any of them to my girlfriend, which I do often. She’s been able to play a ton of great games that she probably wouldn’t have payed for, and we’re able to talk about our experiences with those games and bond over them. There was one time, however, when I had to give up a game that I didn’t want to because it had been bought digitally. For my younger sister’s birthday, I gave her my old 3DS XL. It was really special to me, but I would be fine giving it to family, if nobody else. However, there were a few games on there that were digital. There was a Super Smash Bros. demo and Donkey Kong Country 3D that I got from Club Nintendo, which I thought she might enjoy, but also A Link Between Worlds, because a digital code for the game came with the 3DS I got. She is still too young to get past the first dungeon, and I don’t think I can transfer it over to my New 3DS XL without taking the other digital games with it. And even if I wanted to, transferring data from the 3DS to New 3DS looks like a pain in the ass! To make matters worse, I have Mario Kart 7 from Club Nintendo digitally on my New 3DS, which I never play but she would love, but I don’t believe there’s any way to transfer games from the New to old versions. None of these problems would have happened if I had the physical versions.

Here are some other quick reasons:

Video game collections look cool. I might be weird, but I like organizing my game case collection!


If I buy a game physically, I can sell it later. Digitally, that’s not an option.

External drives cost money, but physical games usually cost the same as digital games.


For consoles like the Switch that don’t have cloud saving, if you break or lose your system, all of those games are gone with it. Yikes.

But that’s enough from me. Get to arguing (politely) in the comments below! If you want, the debate can even extend to media other than video games. Paperback books vs. ebooks, movies on discs vs. digital, etc. There’s plenty to argue!

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