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Your Move: Digital License vs. Physical Release

I usually purchase physical copies of all my games. There are some distinct advantages to having the game on a disc or cartridge, instead of living as a digital license on some cloud server somewhere. 

I can lend the games to friends or family, or sell them. (I don’t sell them, but it’s nice to think that I could.) All other things being equal, I’d almost always prefer to buy my games physically.

But in times like these, not all things are equal. Even though Gamestop tried to argue they were an ‘essential business,’ going to the store to shop for a video game is probably irresponsible, so that’s out. Amazon is still an option, but non-essential items are sometimes taking weeks to ship, so that’s not ideal, either. On top of that, some new games are encountering logistical difficulties with getting copies manufactured and delivered. Final Fantasy VII Remake, due out this week, was released early in Australia because its publisher was unsure they’d be able to get it out at all if they waited longer.

And here, my preorder of the game from October looks like it could be delayed a week or more. So yesterday, I cancelled my pre-order and bought it digitally, instead. It downloaded immediately, and it’ll unlock on Friday, which is the official release date.

For a big game like that, I’m not too worried, as I think it’ll be available indefinitely. But some games, like 2010’s Scott Pilgrim, were never available physically, and due to licensing issues, can no longer be purchased. So, no matter how much money you have, there’s no legal way to buy it.

So, right now I’m buying games digitally, but I hope to get back to physical releases as soon as I can leave my house again.

Samuel McConnell is a games enthusiast who has been playing games in one form or another since 1991. He was born in northern Maine but quickly transplanted to Wichita.