Poll Question 334 – Digital distribution or bricks and mortar?

30th December 2015

With recent hiccup regarding online security, it has brought to mind the problems with digital distribution. There was any actual security issue but due to a cache issue some users were being shown other users details – although nothing serious is my understanding.

I love Steam and being able to just install and uninstall at any time is so nice. I trust Valve but there is always a chance something bad could happen. In the old days, I could buy a game, install it on my system and that was that. IF my disc was stolen or broken, it was my fault. Now, getting your account hacked is possible.

Just before the hiccup mentioned above, LambdaGeneration reported that Valve is moving into the retail space. Good for them but I fear that eventually games and movies will only be available via digital distribution.

I hope for a time when boxes return and even more collector’s editions are released.

Anyway, I haven’t bought a game in a physical shop for over ten years.

What about you?

Time to Vote


  1. grabbie

    Everything I buy is done by digital distribution (games/music). The only time a physical copy is purchased is when it includes a collector’s edition for the extras, for example Diablo 3. These purchases are done online via amazon or bought on kickstarter.

    Most of the time the retail copy requires steam and forces you to redownload a majority of the game anyway. So it’s not like it’s saving you time.

  2. I still buy the occasional box copy of a game, if it’s not available on Steam or Origin. That said, I usually by from Play or Amazon. My problem with high street game stores is that they tend to focus on console and mobile gaming, with PC gaming taking a back seat. They also charge considerably more money. It’s been that way for a while which is why I lean towards digital distribution. The 24/7 availability is a major factor as well as automatic patching when games are updated. Digital distribution simply eliminates a lot of the inconvenience related to PC gaming.

    1. I haven’t visited Play.com in a while. I used to buy from there but I think they stopped sending to Spain, which was a shame.

  3. i have a massive libary of physical pcdvd roms however they are pretty much extinct as i replaced most of the decent games with a digital version from steam ( and gave the physical disks to a young lad next door ) ..
    steam,origin and uplay are the way to go and the main advantage of buying games this way is patching … how many times did you spend hours looking for a patch to fix a game and in some cases a game you just purchased,however this is done for you with steam and origin and you no longer need to worry about updating games
    allthough origin and uplay are good game clients “steam” is light years ahead and by far the most popular game distribution service …

  4. I buy almost everything online, except food and everyday items like soap and stuff.

    There are exceptions though. WHEN Half-Life 3 comes out I’ll buy the physical copy, and a digital copy so I can have the box, with the plastic on, in a frame on my wall to show my grandchildren.

  5. AI

    I usually buy my stuff from Steam, but I have a massive archive of all the games I have bought over the 31 years I’ve played games! I also have all the “old” game and proggie files from the site (BBS) that I helped with from as they say “back in the day” anyone like real “old stuff” ???

  6. Zekiran

    I’m mostly an online buyer of things which HAVE an online component, be it DLC, updates, mods, or content which is geared toward a digital medium. Games, music, etc – though not videos. If I’m going to be buying a movie or tv show I prefer it to be in a box.

    Since I used to run a comic shop, I have a huge preference for ‘art’ in a physical medium. I have a selection of webcomics I browse daily, but in the long run if I buy a comic it’s going to be from a store and with a physical copy in hand.

    There are exceptions to both sides of that, obviously though. I like getting swag from specific editions of games or movies, though I can’t really afford either right now I will certainly buy a physical copy – and if I can afford it, a special ed if there is one – of any given Half Life game. I picked up one of the store-specific versions of Fear 3 because it had a limited weapon in it I really wanted. (…. did I actually do that, or am I remembering not being able to? I am pretty sure I have the Hammer weapon, though…)

    Overall, for me, games are online purchases. The limitation on overhead for the company is a huge concern for me – I would rather see a small company go with an exclusively digital distribution than worry about whether they paid their coders or artists in favor of buying a manufacturer or warehouse to store all the copies they’ll never sell. Packaging, plastics, manufacturing and energy / pollution concerns are compelling reasons in my mind to go all-digital. Marketing and shelf space are in my mind just annoyances to get past, in order to get a copy of a game.

    As far as the ‘security issues’ that some sites have had – remembering that this is hardly unique to Steam’s services at any point in time – if you’re online, your security is gone. Period, plain and simple. Worrying about whether some yutz just bought a game on your account is a very, very very small price to pay in my eyes, for the service itself being as convenient and easy as it is to use. Every site and every company doing digital distribution has had trouble at some point, so I don’t blame the companies responses, or their so-called ‘lack’ of response when they don’t immediately try quelling the ‘sky is falling’ crowd. It’s not their doing: its hackers being jerks, blame them.

    That said, I have had it in my head that Steam could use a ‘delayed sale card’, where you buy a “sale” like a coupon to use at any time other than a sale, in order to start helping lighten the load on their poor servers. You’d think at some point though, that they’d take their forum software off that same damn server, because every time their online services are hit, their forum is locked down too. To me that’s more annoying than not being able to grab something in a frantic sale.

  7. It’s a total first world problem, but I wind up buying most games digitally now because I hate floundering around for the disks. Even on consoles, it feels silly that you can’t install to the console and never have to deal with the disk again unless you uninstall it.

    People might argue that without a physical asset, you’ll have nothing when the service goes down. And that’s true. But, I guess my thought process is that there are few games these days that are worth keeping around for years and years. Very few design for longevity anymore. Most design for, at best, their one week of social media fame and that’s it.

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