Are We Headed Toward A Digital Future?
What does the future hold for digital distribution on our consoles and phones?
The console wars were only the beginning. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One tore gaming camps asunder when it comes to forums and other avenues of discussion, but they only ushered in a new age, one that brought with it them the uncertainty and trepidation that is the digital age. Though previously it was an ideal relegated to a future that seemed far, far away, one normal day digital distribution for video games became a reality.
Suddenly, physical releases became a bit of a rarity, especially for niche releases that didn't seem as though they'd garner much of an audience. The "dystopian" future so many collectors sought to delay arrived suddenly, without so much as a warning. But there's a simple truth about the Xbox One and PlayStation 4's attempts to mainstream these ideals: The future's looking extremely bright.
Despite the negative press and my own personal inhibitions, however, I'm coming around. That's saying a lot, given the vitriol I'd spew at the mere mention of an all-digital future. The dangers of DRM, content transfers, and a lack of physical media were terrifying concepts, backed by endless forum tirades and fearmongering individuals with a distinct lack of understanding of how the then-foreign concept could ever make life easier or more convenient as a gamer.
Hanging onto gaming's yesteryear has and always will be one of my favorite things to do. As much as I am excited to see the future, I'm equally afraid. It wasn't just the disc I was concerned with, though - decent manuals also completed the package for me. They taught me to game in a much more efficient way than following directions from an in-game scenario, and they acted as one component of the fifty to sixty dollar package I spent my hard-earned allowance on that made it stand out from my collections of DVDs and CDs. Like the liner notes from your favorite artist, the wit and informative writing seen in great manuals were integral to the experience as a whole.
The lack of a physical collection to pass down, resell, or revel in when entertaining company was equally terrifying, feeling absolutely wrong in a world where your possessions can define you. And now here I am, collecting Steam games left and right and also committing myself to downloading and storing games like Thief or Angry Birds Star Wars, when previously simply downloading an app to my iPhone felt a little more like sacrilege than what a collector should be doing.
It's understandable if you remain unconvinced. The rush of nostalgia that comes from admiring a shelf of pristine game cases should be treasured, for sure, but the convenience of purchasing, acquiring, and playing a game via digital distribution systems certainly has its pros as well. The PC game market is where this practice currently shines the brightest - with so many systems in place to bring you as many titles as possible at the lower prices than ordering a physical copy or even going to the store, and it's quicker too.
Cloud gaming infrastructures where all games are delivered and stored electronically are flourishing as well -- if you've got a decent enough internet connection to stream an entire game, you'll probably want to. What's more appealing: venturing out to a midnight release or preloading/downloading a title as soon as it hits the digital marketplace?
With the failsafes in place, it should be as painless as ever to build and maintain a digital library that you can be proud of, and no matter which console you've chosen to create your digital domain on, you can take pride in knowing there's a method for you that will make your life that much easier than stacking box on top of box in a crowded apartment when you've got a hard drive that's aching to be filled. You'll know when the time is right. Just let it happen.