Physical Games Media: Time To Catch Up

Physical storage media for games that you buy from a brick and mortar store is under fire, mostly on Nintendo Switch due to downloading the remainder of big games that don’t fit, or cheaper developers skimping on costs, but this is the case on all systems.

 

So what spurred this? Well two things. One is Resident Evil Revelations Collection news a few days ago, where Capcom Europe announced that again, like usual, they won’t have a physical run of the game in the EU due to costs. These costs involve paying PEGI and other ratings boards, shipping, distribution, localisation, it’s a bit of a mess to be fair. But even in other regions (Except Japan allegedly), the two games come as such: 1 on a card (The smaller game I might add) and the 2nd game as a download code.

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This isn’t uncommon. The “Switch Tax” as it has become known is just a laundry list of third-party games that cost more on Nintendo Switch, attributed to cartridge costs. L.A. Noire, RiME, the list goes on. Is this entirely true? Not…really? Without official figures on costs we will likely never know, but one idea is that it is simply just price gauging a new market, which is normal. But the inclusion of goodies like OST keys and pins in physical editions shows developers and publishers (Indies, typically) want to sweeten the deal for physical buyers to offset that price.

The next issue with the game cards is actually publishers like Take Two, who have released LA Noire, NBA 2K18 and WWE 2K18 on the horizon. Each game is “Playable” without downloading the remainder, but there has been widespread panning of this move, instead with people preferring to pay a little premium and have the whole experience on a 32GB card, as opposed to what is right now, a 4GB or 8GB card, with the rest as a download.

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In the case of something like DOOM, this is handled quite well. The game fits all single player and DLC content on the card (16GB) and offers all the multiplayer as a download. This way you don’t miss any of the “Main event”. With Take Two though, it’s been revealed that the backlash against the Switch copy being only “Partly physical” should also be levelled at the other editions.

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On PS4 and Xbox One you use Blu-Ray discs, that hold up to 50GB of data. Most games fit on this, and L.A. Noire most certainly would. However, interestingly enough that game actually only has a small amount on the disc, the rest as a download. This is a mirror of what happens on Switch. Why? Simple: It’s cheaper. While full capacity Blu-Ray discs are cheaper than the 32GB cards on Switch, publishers, as noted by Take Two saying the following, want “Maximum Profits”:

“We’ve said that we aim to have recurrent consumer spending opportunities for every title that we put out at this company. It may not always be an online model, it probably won’t always be a virtual currency model, but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board,”

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The truth is the digital storefronts of Xbox Live and PlayStation Network offer something physical games don’t: More money per sale. The prices are often the same regardless, but one of them won’t factor in costs of production, shipping, retailer cuts and so on. On PS4 and Xbox One this model of Digital Only is being pushed heavily, as both systems, even if using discs, just install them to the hard drive anyway, making the disc just a form of DRM and to save you downloading all of a game, instead (In this case anyway) most of it.

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So what does this mean? Well your internal storage is being eaten up anyway, why not just go digital and be more convenient on yourself (Until the game gets pulled from the store…) and you can even get those Digital Gold Editions publishers like so much. In the end, more money for them. Take Two is the most brazen with this, as their games come piece meal regardless of format.

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But sticking with Xbox One for a moment, let’s loop back to the complaint you have to download most of these third-party Switch games to get the full and best experience (OR complete experience) even when you buy physically.

The Xbox One X recently launched, and with it comes the ability to use actual UHD (4K) assets, which I assume (I haven’t got one of the boxes, I’m not rich!) look amazing. The problem with these are the file sizes are enormous, with HALO 5 and Forza Motorsport 7 passing 90GB to 100GBs each! Final Fantasy XV on PC is 170GBs, so that won’t fit on ANY current disc.

The catch here is to fully utilise your new shiny console, to get the best experience you can, you will have to download a good 50GB of game, or more heaven forbid. Why? The games have to come on standard Blu-Ray because they ALSO need to work on the basic Xbox One and One S. So what does this mean? These huge games require downloads, because the storage medium can’t hold them.

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To confound this issue further, there IS a storage medium that COULD hold them. UHD Blu-ray. They go up to 100GBs. In fact, looking at how long regular Blu-Ray has been used for gaming (Since 2006 with the PS3), one would expect UHD Blu-Ray would be used by now, but an issue there would be cost. At which point no matter which option you take, you have the same issue as you do on Nintendo Switch: Games are too big for the medium flat-out, or the medium is too costly to use to store a full game. Sure it’s a little different, where the devices don’t even support UHD Blu-Ray (Well, the Xbox One S and X do for movies…) but the problem even then still persists when some games on the basic PS4 and Xbox One go over GB anyway!

 

The third-party publishers want a digital only future. Consumers are leaning to it from convenience. Console makers can’t keep up with the scope of games due to costs. A digital only future is most likely coming down the line. Physical media is already outdated on PS4 and Xbox One, skipped out on with all systems by publishers wanting to save costs, and too expensive on Switch and for UHD to hold the games being made in their entirety.

Let’s just hope they include bigger hard drives in the next ones right? 1TB in the Xbox One X…eesh.

 

As always if you enjoyed this give a like and share on social media, and I will see you next time! Happy Gaming!

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