As the gaming market moves along with technology, there has been an incredible focus on online gaming. From playing multiplayer over the internet with friends or random people around the world, to the use of Steam as a portal to buying games, it seems more and more obvious that the physical side of gaming will be coming to a close in the near future.
Rewind twenty years, and the likes of the SNES, N64 and PlayStation were the biggest consoles of the time, and especially with the old Nintendo consoles, there was (and still is) a certain presence about their games. Whereas Sony had put their games on CDs to allow more memory on each disc and the option to continue a story of a game over two or three discs, Nintendo had cartridges which came in big cardboard boxes, filled with manuals, maps of the game and occasionally other bits of information as well. In The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past, for instance, there was a map, a manual, a top secrets book and licensing information that today will likely set you back over £100 if you want a copy of the physical game.
But why would you pay £100 for a game that on the Nintendo eShop you can purchase for under £10? I myself am currently weighing up such choices as I collect retro games, and I’ve found a rare copy of the PS1 title Suidoken II, which on eBay sells for around £135; it’s ludicrous to think I would pay so much for a game that on the PlayStation Network I could once again purchase for around £10. Going the other way, though, for those who purchase physical copies of video games, they have the sell-on value. For those who kept their SNES games in good condition, a large number of them can be sold for the amount that was paid all those years ago, with some games rising to much higher prices.
I also recently purchased the latest Street Fighter game for the PS4 and upon opening the box, I was greeted with a disc and a sheet containing information about warranty and support. That was it, and it brought me back to the days of the 1990s and 2000s where upon opening a box, you were greeted with so much stuff that it would barely fit into the box.
Ubisoft started this movement back in 2010 when they moved all their manuals to online. Manuals were one of those things that you didn’t realise you missed until they were gone; opening a new game and flicking through the pages of the manual to see what the controls were and if there were any other tips inside was a part of the whole experience. Now it seems like newly purchased games are a shell of what they once were.
With the lack of in-box support for the player, it is becoming apparent that while game prices continue to spike, costs for the developers and studios are whittling down, so while gamers are paying £50 for a new game, they’re not getting anything additional with it.
You would think that the major studios may even knock down a price if people just brought the game online. However, largely, we live in a society that has everything delivered straight to their door, so people can’t be bothered to go out to the actual shops and buy things any more, which is sad for the likes of HMV, Game and other famous retailers that have been such a hub of our childhoods. So if you look at buying a copy of a game straight from your console, you will see that nine times out of ten it is seen at retail price, and to eliminate things gathering dust in their homes, gamers are choosing this option more and more.
Millions of people all over the world have Steam accounts, and Steam’s a great place to house your library of games, but how many times would a person look through Steam and exclaim their love for something they had played years ago? Conversely, for those who have large collections of physical game cases in their house, it can be such a joy to pick up a copy of a game you once played the death out of and just think about the memories it gave to you. The number of hours you lost playing Smackdown 2 with your buddies, or spent sitting playing Pokemon grinding through a million Zubat in the Rock Tunnel. There just isn’t the same sentimentality with a game you see as part of a huge list on your hard drive.
Going back to consoles, a 500GB PS4 is likely to run out of space when you consider the size of each large title that gets put onto a hard drive, so the likelihood is that unless somebody desperately wants to go and play that game again, it will be deleted in order to play new games; for the console gamers out there, not having a physical copy of a game will mean that in ten years time, that game may not even be remembered.
Ultimately, what is the point in playing a game if it does not leave a lasting impression with you? Part of that impression may not always hold true, but it can be brought back when sifting through old mementos. Nobody is going to pick up a PS1 and play Smackdown 2 any time soon (it did not hold up well graphically), but just seeing it gives you the memories of having casket matches with The Undertaker and epic matches between The Rock and Triple H.
As we move forward as a community, though, it’s hard to believe that in ten years time there will still be the same set of memories that are available to hold in your hands. Microsoft tried out Kinect with the last generation of consoles and if that had gone down a rousing success, there may not even have been controllers in the near future. On top of that, VR is making all the noises for the future of gaming, and if it does take off, then new consoles won’t even be available to buy in the future.
It’s a scary time to be a gamer. Don’t forget what you hold dear about this amazing industry.