In 2009 a movie by the name of Daybreakers hit theaters and offered up a unique twist to the modern vampire tale. A virus had spread through the world reducing the human population to almost extinct levels and vampires were the preeminent species on Earth. While it was a tale of survival for the human race an underlying theme of commerce resonated throughout the film. The main protagonist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) was tasked with creating a blood substitute that would help sustain the vampire population in light of the dwindling human source. Various scenes throughout the movie showcased the immense need for such a breakthrough and that this “blood substitute” would be the solution all vampires were looking for. So you might be wondering what in the hell does this have to do with video games or digital media? I assure you some clarity is approaching. Nearing the film’s conclusion the main antagonist Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) said something very profound along the lines of “even though we will have a working blood substitute, there will still be customers who are willing to pay for the real thing”. While the quote isn’t exact it is essentially implying that even though a blood substitute would be a solution for all, there would still be those not satisfied and would pay more for human blood (also implying that humans would still be hunted and farmed). This statement is in regards to something that hopefully never happens, but runs parallel with the debate between digital and physical media and the gaming landscape at large.
Video game companies are not that much different from the fictitious Bromley Marks corporation (albeit they don’t hunt humans, yet). The actual form of the video game has changed drastically in recent times and with that change raises the question of how will games be delivered and consumed in the future. They are looking at current retail establishments and seeing how they can sustain with the giant obstacle, that is used games, standing in their path. With used games continuing to be a huge part of video game sales for retailers, publishers are scrambling to reduce and eventually eliminate that market entirely. Online passes and day one DLC has given incentive to some, but there are still plenty who wait for a cheap used copy to surface at GameStop. We all know video games are a business like any other form of media, but eliminating physical media entirely would ostracize from what I can only assume is still a large part of the gaming community. As crazy as it might sound there are still people who don’t have high speed internet or live in areas where the service simply isn’t available, so an entirely digital platform would cripple their ability to purchase and enjoy new titles.
Both digital and physical media offer great benefits and drawbacks and those still warrant choice from the consumer. This dichotomy amongst consumers usually boils down to pricing and how that pricing is structured. The costs associated with both forms of media are apparent and consumers of each already accept these terms (knowingly or not). If I want to pay an extra $20 for a game with a case, box art, jacket and physical disc with that new game smell I should be able to. Conversely if someone wants to pay $20 less and get the same game, but in digital form they too are free to do such. Choice is paramount and is something that must always exist. If one form were to monopolize the market a great disservice would beset the gaming community.
As a consumer driven society it is one of our many duties to keep choice alive. Choice keeps competition healthy and also keeps companies accountable for their products’ quality (well at least some of the time). Digital media is a solution that would satisfy some, but for those of us that prefer the real thing we understand that we will have to pay more. I am not looking for price equality and for those who want to go digital and pay less are entitled to that discount, but for the people like me, physical media should still be an option. I hope that the events of Daybreakers never come true, but I do hope that video game publishers understand that two communities of consumers will always exist and moving forward they need not marginalize either of them.
If any portion of this article moved you, please sound off in the comments section and let me know how you feel about this debate. It is an important topic and it will affect all of us in one way or another. As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.