Let’s Get Digital

Aug 27, 2014

These days it seems everyone has an opinion about digital versus retail purchases of video games. From DRM to backwards compatibility, much can be said to argue in favor of traditional physical copies. A recent combination of events has led me down the path to finally choose a side in this important battle that we all must face. We briefly discussed it during Episode 151 of our Games Podcast with Ian Sherr.

In 2011 I argued there are 4 types of gamers. One of them being the Collector, who are highly analytical and compare not only games and consoles, but also generations. I am a collector. I’m proud of what I own from DVDs to video games and there are moments where I’ll take the games out and read the box art, or dust each DVD individually so they look pretty. There are many games and movies that I own because it helps me feel closer to the title. Collecting was easier a few years ago when Blu-Ray wasn’t around. I didn’t have to compare versions or consider migrating my Burn Notice collection from DVD so all of the seasons can be in the same section of my bookcase. Consider this: on the movie front, I have season 1 of Person of Interest on DVD, season 2 on Blu-Ray, and season 3 on Amazon (digital). This is a nightmare scenario for a Collector. Although, a friend has had season 1 for over a year and hasn’t given it back yet. For all I know their dog has buried it in the backyard – that’s a great argument in favor of digital.

The accessibility of digital content has added yet another obstacle for Collectors. Frankly, it’s hard to show it off. But a huge advantage once reserved for iTunes is now becoming more and more common: early access. For TV and movies, outlets such as Amazon and iTunes are increasingly offering content weeks ahead of physical media release. The prices are not typically better, however. Video games do this as well, but on a much smaller level: you can download a game on Steam before release day and then play it at midnight of release day. Smaller scale, yes, but still exciting for those who can stay up that late playing games. I played Half-Life 2 at midnight on launch day – I’ll never do it again. At the time, I was in college and I didn’t like the way the numbers looked in calculus at 8am that morning. Even if you choose to experience the benefits of digital content, there is another struggle happening that polarizes consumers: eco-system.

We’re an iPhone family. Not an Apple family. The distinction there is subtle but allow me to be clear: we do not own any Apple computers running Mac OS. For my wife, the iPhone is great. She can FaceTime (video chat) with me and her family to show off her latest designs or our newborn. Other than that (and her snappy calendar app) it’s just a texting device. For me, I’ve enjoyed it – cross app purchases with the iPad and AirPlay streaming to the Apple TV were fun but hardly ever used. After a recent reset to factory settings, I’m down to just apps for my bank, which can be found on other phone operating systems. In short, we were not truly taking advantage of all the things Apple has to offer. At no fault to Apple. I believe their OS is weak and not intuitive (I owned a MacBook for 9 months). For a few years Blu-Ray movies came with a digital code for iTunes – I have a solid library on iTunes. But before I got further down the rabbit hole, I had to make a decision about my future. Would it be Apple or some other provider?

Allow me to explain why I chose Amazon. It really comes down to 3 key reasons you should also consider for your family:

  1. Amazon Prime: this is the greatest value in entertainment available. Access to hundreds of thousands of books, movies, TV-shows, and eventually games. Not to mention the included 2-day shipping option on almost all of the products we typically buy. Combined with an Amazon Visa card, you’re receiving more cash back than other credit cards offer (assuming you shop near-exclusively at Amazon for regular household and some luxury items).
  2. Technology: if you’re a Wall St. nerd than you know Amazon is a terrible stock. They don’t profit very much. Their revenues are almost all injected back into investments. They’re doing creative things such as the Kindle Fire phone (the first phone with a 3D screen), the Kindle tablets (the Paperwhite is easily the best tablet for reading), Apple Fire TV, and of course the delivery drones. I have no concerns as to the future of my content.
  3. Gaming Content: as mentioned above, they have a lot of content around entertainment. A little known fact is you can also buy PlayStation Store titles from Amazon. Amazon is known for great deals (i.e. Lightning Deals) and these do apply to PSN titles from time to time. Considering the history of Sony’s PSN security, it’s important to have a firewall like Amazon who’s entire business would collapse if they ever had a data breach on the scale of Sony’s.

One day, I’m confident there will exist a process for porting your iTunes movies to Amazon. This does exist for Amazon Prime Music – a little known fact. Will it happen for games? Hopefully, but I doubt it. I have the Walking Dead Season 2 on multiple devices. I feel the pain.

Bottom line: if you’re going to play in the digital world, you need to choose a side. I’m happy with Amazon thus far and certainly pleased to no longer be in the nexus. But there is that Collector in me that will still buy the physical copy of Uncharted 4, Diablo 4, and Star Wars: Jedi Knight 3 if they ever make it.

Let us know if you plan on making the switch to digital!