With Prime Day deals in full swing, you’re going to see plenty of video game deals floating around over the next few days. If you’re the type of person who owns an all-digital media library, you’ll have to decide if the price cuts are worth having a bunch of plastic enclosures taking up space in your home.
While physical media may seem obsolete in 2022, this week is a reminder that you don’t own any of your games unless you can hold them in your hand. And you should take advantage of it while you still can.
There has been growing tension in the gaming world for over a decade around the rise of digital marketplaces. Increasingly, gamers are trading in their tangible game discs for the convenience of owning their library digitally. Physical media advocates have warned that such a move creates a murky ownership issue, fearing that any game purchased digitally could one day disappear.
It’s always been a boogeyman story, but we saw the reality of it this week. During the weekend, Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD was removed from Steam at the request of Ubisoft. What’s notable about it, however, is that Ubisoft said even owners of the game wouldn’t be able to access it in September, only to later clarify that it wouldn’t be after all. It’s a particularly bizarre move given that the game is a single-player adventure, not an online multiplayer game that relies on servers and an active playerbase.
This is an unusual case, but one that should serve as a bit of a red flag. Whenever you buy a game on Steam, you’re essentially renting it. At any time, a publisher like Ubisoft can revoke your access to this game, and there is nothing you can do about it. It’s not a scary campfire story; it’s a sad reality that players are facing right now.
The tradeoff of physical media has always been ownership over convenience. Do you like Ring of Elden and do you plan to come back every few years? In fact, buying a PlayStation or Xbox copy of the game will allow you to do so at any time, as long as a future server shutdown doesn’t completely break it.
Digital marketplaces are not something to rely on. We especially learned this year with Nintendo. The company is currently shutting down the Nintendo 3DS market, making an entire generation of games inaccessible. Imagine if you wanted to play Pokemon Legends: Arceus 10 years from now, but there was just no way to do it legally. This is the kind of frustration Nintendo fans are currently experiencing when it comes to digital-only 3DS titles like Pocket card jockey and Dillon’s Rolling Western.
Usually, I would completely overlook something like Prime Day. This comes right after the Steam Summer Sale, where I tend to load up on digital PC games. But this year, I’m looking at the list of reductions a little more seriously. If I want to be sure that I always have access to Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade – one of my favorite games of all time, but one that I only own digitally – maybe I should really get married snagging a physical edition.
Don’t think of it as buying a boring plastic box; you buy peace of mind.