Disk to Digital: 10 Ways Gaming trends are Changing

May 15, 2021

I’m old enough now to watch a couple of iterations of how gaming trends in how be buy games play out. There has been a shift, and not all of it beneficial. My first video game was a hand-me-down Atari with cartridges. Move through the generations to Wii, which evolved to disks. We still bought games on a separate item. 

Fast-forward, and many people decide to buy their games digitally, where the game and purchase information is stored in the cloud. Some games are only available via digital download.  I’m authoring this article from the viewpoint of someone that buys/shares their games legally. I know there are ways, but that’s a different article. We explore this as if we’ve converted to digital games. 

Let’s start out with System changes 

1 – Unlikely to lose a game.  

This is up for debate with most “Old School” gamers, but multiple servers back up our information. The odds of losing the games you purchased is negligible compared to human error. I’m notorious. I can lose just about anything. I love taking games with me to friends’ houses or on vacation. My most recent disaster was losing my game case while traveling with my Nintendo 3DS, and don’t even get me started on how I’ve bought two copies of Paper Mario only to be left with no Paper Mario. 

2 – Games don’t get damaged.  

I haven’t needed to work a SkipDr in years; remember those? or blow in a cartridge for that matter! The same principle applies here as the last gaming trend. Human error or just time will dictate that your disk or cartridge gets damaged and becomes unplayable at some point. Distributors can always update games, which we touch on now. 

3 – Most games get updates and even DLCs that enhance them after release.  

There are times when games release… well, not in prime condition. Beta testing gets you only so far. Mass release will inevitably mean bugs. We can even update hard copies now because most of the game is still downloaded to the console. Then, there is Downloadable Content (DLCs). These can be free or paid, but they are usually fun add-ons. This has been a fun gaming shift.

4 – External drive support has become crucial with this gaming trend.  

There is nothing like buying a game only to discover that you have run out of space only the drive. Luckily, external drive technology keeps up with gaming nicely, and space isn’t as expensive as it once was. I tend to just buy the biggest drive I can afford. My Switch was new once, and I wasn’t sure how much I needed. That drive filled up quickly, and I was left evacuated for a hurricane with no way to download my new game. I know; first world problem, but it is a factor now. 

5 – Games are the money maker instead of the console.  

There was a time that the consoles were unaffordable for most people. Local vendors traded and sold games people didn’t want anymore. So, once you had the console, games were easier to come by if you knew where to look. Now, a gaming trend is that major consoles sell at a loss to get them into homes knowing they have structured the way we buy games to make their profit. Games are still expensive and often have little in the way of a trial before purchase. There is no trading a game that you didn’t care for. Companies are making multiplayer games knowing that that means selling more copies. 

An old gaming trend of Disks laid out just begging to be scratched

Now, we’ll take a look at some social aspects of the new gaming structure. 

6 – No borrowing a friend’s game to see if you like it.  

Gone are the days of when we could resolve coveting a friend’s game by simply asking to borrow it for the weekend. It’s replaced with a strict structure that only allows the purchaser to ever play that game. Just ask poor Game Stop. There are systems that help such as Steam, which allows family members to borrow games in your library while you aren’t using them. One benefit of this is that the game is yours forever. You can always go back to it, but borrowing games was a nice feature of disks.  

I have an Origin account knowing that I don’t get to keep the games but feel that I don’t really want to keep most of the games I buy anyway. I will either get tired of them or bored. They can’t all be winners. The Hubs has his own Xbox subscription that allows us to play games like Need for Speed Heat as a family. My son has made the decision to buy his first subscription for the same reason.  

8 – Microtransactions are a thing. 

With the dawning of the digital age came the “free” game. You either paid in frustration as it was virtually impossible to get addicted to the game and not want to buy whatever it is the game is selling. You know they are selling something: apples, gems, coins, etc. These games almost always had a way to get something in game through buying the game currency with real money. The previously mentioned subscription services do this too. I’m looking at you EA. Microtransactions can bleed you dry. Just ask my 9-year-old’s piggy bank, due to his love of Roblox. 

9 – Families wind up with multiple copies of the same game. 

As my boys age, this one has become painfully obvious. We have multiple copies of so many games because we want to play together and need to have the game on each system. I get it; if you must play together, you must pay together, but damn this gaming trend hurts my wallet. 

10 – Everyone that can afford a game can score a copy. 

My friend and fellow GWW contributor reminded me that there was a time that you didn’t know if you would be able to score a copy of a game. Now, it’s the consoles. Once upon a time, you went to the gaming store and hoped not to see the “Out of Stock” sign instead of your beloved game. Everyone has the same access to digital games that can afford a copy. 

Overall, it doesn’t matter what side of the debate you are on. Gaming trends are changing whether you decide to change with it or fight the system from the inside. I decided to just go with the flow but know many an “Old Schooler” and would cringe at my gaming habits. I totally get the appeal of a disk though. It’s kind of like the book debate. There is just something about holding something in your hand and knowing it’s yours. It’s the same debate over and over that we’ve had in our society like cash or card.