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The Case Against The Digital-Only PlayStation 5: Backwards C
浏览人数:  发布时间:2020-06-13 11:00

When Sony revealed that the PlayStation 5 will be coming in two versions, one with a disc drive and one without, it seemed like a no-brainer. Like it or not, the future of gaming is digital-only, and a new console generation seems like the perfect opportunity to walk away from Blu-rays and GameStops once and for all.

There is however one wrinkle to the digital-only life: a highly anticipated PS5 feature called backwards compatibility. Without a disc drive, not only is the PS5 digital-only, but it also can't be backwards compatible with previous generations.

advertising The Slow Death Of Physical Media

In 2003, Apple started selling digital-only music through iTunes and Valve started selling digital-only games through Steam. In 2007, Netflix began transitioning its mail-in DVD business into a streaming service. The writing was on the wall then for physical media, which has been in a steady decline ever since. I remember working at Best Buy as a highschooler in the mid-2000s when the CD department took up nearly 1/3 of the entire store. By 2012, Best Buy had gotten rid of CDs almost entirely.

Physical games have not shown nearly the same decline thanks primarily to the 2nd hand market. The slow death of GameStop over this console generation and the total failure of 4k Blu-ray proves that physical media is not long for this world – a fact reinforced by the unprecedented digital sales of games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons during this year's mandatory lockdown.

There will always be collectors and physical media enthusiasts in the world, the vinyl community is proof enough of that. Companies like Limited Run Games and Super Rare Games create physical media for older and digital-only games for the sake of collectors, collectors who often keep product sealed, and who would have no use for a disc drive anyway. For everyone else, digital-only is the inevitable future of gaming.

Backwards Compatibility Keeps The PS5 In A State Of Transition

While there are plenty of unanswered questions about the digital-only version, it seems like the only difference will be the lack of a disc drive and that it will be cheaper than its full-featured counterpart. Considering games get installed on the hard drive even if you have a disc, this seems like a win-win. Not only will players save money by buying the digital-only consoles, but they can also purchase and download their games without having to ever leave the house. The only thing stopping anyone from buying the cheaper digital-only PS5 will be the size of their PS4 collection.

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It's been 7 years since the PS4 launched, and personally, my collection reflects a transition to digital-only over time. I still have dozens of PS3 games that have no trade-in value, then there's a handful of physical games I own from the first few years of the PS4's life, but for at least the last 3 years, I've only bought games digitally. The convenience of downloading games has outweighed the benefit of buying physical games to trade-in later for a few dollars. Within the next few years, digital sales will outpace physical sales, which will erode the 2nd hand market until there are no more GameStops left.

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Sony has confirmed that players will be able to transfer digital games from the PS4 to the PS5. Nearly all PS4 games will be supported at launch, so the only reason to buy the non-digital PS5 is if a significant portion of your PS4 collection is physical games. Consider what it would cost to replace those games with digital versions: classics like God of War and Mavel's Spider-Man can be picked up on the Playstation Store for as little as $10. During sales, many PS4 games cost even less. Let's say the digital-only PS5 is $50 cheaper than the disc-drive version. It's conceivable that one could replace their entire PS4 collection digitally and still come out ahead.

advertising Physical Media's Last Hurrah

Take this reveal as a warning: the generation after PS5 likely won't offer a physical version at all. This generation represents the final transition from physical to digital, and considering it has been nearly 2 decades since that transition began, it's time to relinquish your attachment to discs and boxes.

I know collections look good on the shelf, but embracing a digital library is the best way to preserve your games. PC players know this: the typical Steam library includes hundreds of games going as far back as the PS2 era. Your collection of PS2 and PS3 games are collecting dust right now, and someday, your PS4 games will too. Digital games will live on though, including many PS2 and PS3 classics that can be purchased in the PlayStation Store and played on current and next-gen consoles.

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