4 Reasons The Digital Distribution Of Video Games Will Make Your Life Worse [MUO Gaming]

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digital distribution in video gamesLast week we looked at why we should not hate the inevitable future where all video games are distributed digitally. We talked about the convenience factor, putting more money in the pockets of the talented individuals who make the games we love, space saving and the ability to play new games the moment they launch without having to wait in line at a store. Those are some compelling reasons to put your ball in digital distribution’s court, but there are some reasons you should consider hating digital distribution in video games as well.

There are two sides of every issue, and while a part of me is excited for the prospect of not getting off my couch to play the latest copy of Call of Duty 57 and Mass Effect 9, there are reasons why I am standoffish towards the whole thing. I hope Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo prove this side of the argument wrong, because I want nothing more than for digital distribution to be amazing.

No Resale Value

This works directly against one of my major reasons why digital distribution is good, which is putting more money in the pockets of publishers with no used game market. However, for gamers on a budget, used games might be the only way they can afford to play some of their favorite games. Should they be denied the joy of getting a new a game just because they cannot spend the money for a new copy?

Are we told we can only purchase new cars or homes? Well if games are distributed one hundred percent digitally, that is exactly what will happen.

digital distribution in video games

It sucks for publishers that their game is being sold used, and a retailer is profiting from their game with nothing coming back to them, but in the end, that is the right of the previous owner. They are allowed to sell a good they own. If you do not own a physical copy of the game, you have nothing to sell.

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Maybe the developers will implement some sort of sell back program, where you can get a partial refund for a game within a certain amount of time, but I think that is very doubtful. In the end, we may just have to deal with being stuck with a bunch of old games.

Broadband Penetration

For people with fast Internet, downloading your games is great. However, what if you live in a part of the world where broadband is not available? You may have to sit for hours, or even days, and wait for your new games to download.

How terrible would it be to know you purchased a copy of a game you waited months for, only to have to sit and watch a download bar crawl for days on end? This could be the reality for a large portion of gamers.

games distribution

According to the International Telecommunication Union, only seven percent of the world has broadband Internet. The United States has around 26%, the UK has 31% and France has 33%. These are some scary numbers if the world of downloading video games that can easily exceed 10GB is to become a reality. Is almost 75% of the United States going to be shut out from playing the latest video games? That seems like a serious issue to overcome.

Price Control In The Hands Of One

If console games are sold digitally, right from the console, that leaves all the pricing decisions in the hands of the platform holder. In theory, they could raise the prices of games, and it would be out of our control. If a particular retailer decides to charge too much for a game, we just buy it somewhere else. If there is no retailer, either we pay the price or we do not buy the game.

games distribution

What would digital distribution in video games mean for discounts? Would Microsoft and Sony have awesome deals like we see on Black Friday or would games be full price all the time? Steam does a great job of having sales frequently, so that at least gives me hope that we will not be ripped off.

Valve has always been a company that is all about the people; it remains to be seen if the console makers will be as generous as Valve when it comes to pricing their games.

Loss of Retailers = Loss of Jobs

digital distribution in video games

If games are all digitally distributed, will we need specialty video game stores anymore? The profit margin on the sale of consoles is very low, so how can they stay in business without physical copies to sell? Big box retailers like Best Buy will be fine; they sell plenty of other products. GameStop has well over 6,000 locations. That is an awful lot of people left jobless.


I hope I have not completely scared you off from the prospect of digital distribution. As I said last week, there are some reasons it could be awesome. Still, as gamers, we need to be aware that the future might not be bright. We need to be aware of what could go wrong, and how it could hurt the industry we adore so much.

What is your opinion of digital distribution overall? Do you think it will be amazing or lead to the demise of video games? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Envelope with red sticker Not for resale via ShutterstockSlow connection as a snail via ShutterstockBusinessman sitting on the desk and holding money in a hand via Shutterstock

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Comments (26)
  • Akhilesh

    You spoil your eye sight when you play digital games because you keep on looking at the continuously at it hours together.But, you don’t need to be scared of digital games if you play them for less time.
    thank u.

  • Kevin Ray

    You see this is the basic problem I have and the division of opinions amongst gamers regarding Digital Only Distribution…The have and the have not’s.
    It’s easy to be happy with the whole DOD concept when you have a well paying job or parents who have good jobs and therefor easy access to BroadBand but (as Dave points out) what about the 70% to 75% of the rest of the country of gamers that doesn’t have or can’t readily afford monthly BB but CAN afford a game disc whether from the discount bin or not? What about that mass of gamers?
    To bad?
    I’ve actually heard this elitist sentiment from quite a few gamers who IMO are mostly kids who aren’t paying for these mounting bills themselves to begin with…but it doesn’t just come from spoiled kids with little real world experience, quite a few adult gamers also have this short sighted attitude.

    In today’s market without the support of ALL gamers I just have a hard time believing that any corporation would be that shortsighted as well, being non-inclusive of all those gamers without Broadband seems suicidal unless you gouge the gamers who Can use your DOD service to compensate for the lost potential revenue.

    Either way it seems like the main people who loose in this scenario are us gamers, who either can’t afford the service or are gouged by corporations who TOTALLY control the price of a game’s entire lifespan as it has no resale value.

  • dalton

    as most of you, maybe im a gamer. I can tell, if the gaming world does away with resell and game selling stores i would have to give up games. and i dont want to do that. As a person on the path to making games i dont care bout resells its how i found out bout most games the people in the industry is forgeting what they did as gamer and losing they pride to money they make alot wit the new sold copies and people still but them but only a few margins can everyone saythey bought the games they play new no a lot wait for the price to go down 2 3 times from 60 to like 35 sales would fall if the face of this movement and the lose of jobs would weaken our economy. and dont go bashing me cause of a few things im not sure of. im a gamer i dont look in to all this i play games and im working towords making them and this all come from expereance of my gamer life and alot of my friends

  • Daziam

    For those people saying “Steam sales are cheaper than used titles elsewhere”, I think you’re somewhat deluded. I live in England and so far on every Steam sale I’ve managed to find cheaper boxed versions elsewhere in Used Game Stores, Ebay etc ..

    I for one feel that online titles are not cheap at all, How publishers can still charge £29.99, £39.99 upto £49.99 for a title with no box, no cd, no manual etc. Zero Overheads except for the monthly bandwith cost is a joke.

    Every point raised I agree with, it’s also the very reason why I have stopped using team and refuse to buy any game that insists on locking itself to you and is unable to be resold. It is our right to resell and buy used. Anyone who disagrees with that has no clue about Consumer Rights.

    • koolaid

      Steam is not the 2nd coming of christ.

      Steam sells non-transferable licenses to games, they do not sell games as products.

      If you can understand that much, then you know that digital is not the way to go.

      To think that the consumer is smart enough to know what a good price is, is one thing, to know what they are buying is a completely different story.

  • Cryptic

    I just got high speed (or I should say “high speed”, since it is 1mbps) in our area. By I, I mean I did it. I worked to get a grant from the USDA for a wireless network in my town. But I don’t get very high speeds with it. It can take days to download from Steam sometimes. I boutght LA Noire when it was on sale about a month ago, and it took almost two days to download. I love Steam, but sometimes, the speeds just suck on my end. We have a very incomplete broadband network in this country.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.