So here’s something strange: It’s been nearly 10 months since the PS5 launched and I have yet to buy or even hold a physical PS5 game. I have plenty of PS5 games, sure, but they are all digital. Compared to every previous console I’ve owned, this feels so weird. But it’s not too surprising, either.
I was looking to buy some birthday gifts for my girlfriend and because we still live in the age of covid, that meant browsing Amazon and other online stores. Because these stores scoop up all my data and hold on to it for later, they quickly began suggesting I buy stuff like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart or Returnal. Both are PS5 games. But Amazon was offering up physical copies and that’s when it hit me: I ain’t got a PS5 disc or box. And I don’t think I ever will at this point.
I’m lucky to have been able to snag a PS5 at launch. Since then I’ve played a ton of games. Most of them I paid for out of my own pocket because I’m not cool enough to review all our PS5 games. (And I don’t have enough time to do so.) But every game I buy, I’ve bought digitally. Ironically, I do own the more expensive PS5 that comes with a Blu-ray drive. But the only thing I’ve used that for is to play some PS4 games.
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All these months later, after getting a PS5, I’ve not even touched a physical PS5 game box. Partly because of covid-19, sure. I’m not going out to stores nearly as often as before. But it’s also because buying games digitally has become so easy that I don’t even think about it. When I want a game, I just find it in the store and buy it. My credit card is connected to my account and a few seconds later it’s downloading. Hell, I can even do all that via my phone while I’m away from my console. Convenience has basically pushed me away from physical media at this point.
Plus with Game Pass over on the Xbox, I never buy new, big Microsoft exclusives anymore because I just get access to them at no extra cost. So odds are, I’ll never buy a physical Xbox Series X/S game anytime soon, either.
In comparison, I bought a PS4 game before the console was even out. Back in 2013 I went to a local Gamestop and bought Battlefield 4. I had a pre-ordered PS4 coming soon and was excited by the idea of finally owning a PS4 game, even if I had no way to play it. (Younger Zack lived a boring life.)
Now, in 2021, there is a very real chance that I’ll end this console generation without ever buying a physical game. Which again, very weird. But not that shocking. This is the direction video games have been heading to for years and years now. You can straight up buy a PS5 without a disc drive in it. Same with the new Xbox consoles too. The age of physical media might not be over, but you can probably spot the end if you have a telescope.
And while a part of me fears an all-digital world and is grateful for folks still buying physical games, another part of me is just over it. Maybe it’s too cynical to look at the world and not be concerned about having access to my games in 20 years, but yeah, I’m not sure I’ll be thinking about games in 20-30 years as climate change continues to worsen and capitalism keeps ruining things.
And if in 20 years I’m (hopefully) wrong and things improve around the world, and all the servers are dead and gone, feel free to laugh at me, physical media lovers.