If you’re a console gamer today, you’re familiar with the common fact that, in South Africa at least, disk-based game releases are always preferable to digital downloads. These things are often huge, take up loads of space on your drive and if you ever decide to delete some things to make way for newer games, you have to redownload them in the future. Its just not at the same level as a service like Steam, which many gamers look to for managing most of their library and gaming needs. According to media research company MarketCast, this sentiment seems to be shared amongst most console gamers that they interviewed for a study in the United States.
The study is titled, “The Democracy of Downloading: What Gamers Expect (and Want) from Digital Distribution.” They rounded up some 1000 gamers across multiple states who played on or owned either a PC, a home console, or both devices and asked them a few forward questions about the digital distribution market. According to their results, they concluded that most gamers weren’t ready for the total switch to an all-digital future.
“The satisfying experiences gamers have had with streaming and downloading other media, like movies, television, and music through services like Netflix and Spotify strongly inform their attitudes towards a digital future in gaming,” said MarketCast CEO Henry Shapiro. “While they are hoping that gaming will follow in the footsteps of movies, TV, and music, the resale cycle and a sense of value and ownership in physical discs are big obstacles to the digital shift in the gaming category.”
I could act surprised about the news, but I’m not. The reality is that the PC platform has been dominated by digital sales for decades and is largely like this because of a shift in software licensing that didn’t differentiate between buying games on-disc or downloading them. With the licensing issues out of the way, a few companies took the first steps to distribute game licenses digitally. I don’t think anyone’s legitimately owned an actual copy of a game since 1995.
Some of the key findings of the “study” are:
- With downloads accounting for just 20% of overall purchases, downloads are expanding, not replacing, disc buying (for now).
- Only half of console gamers download games digitally, and these downloads make up a minority of their total purchases.
- 3 in 4 gamers say digital distribution is the future of game buying, with only a small minority saying we’ve already reached peak download .
- The majority of gamers say that a shift to digital buying will eventually create a marketplace where they can more directly “vote” with their dollars.
- Most [gamers] want to hold off for a system that replicates retailers’ post-purchase market. Digital downloads raise fears of buying a “dud” with no recourse for games that aren’t good enough.
- Gamers would prefer a Netflix-style streaming option (such as the in-beta PlayStation Now and the just-launched Nvidia Grid) much more than a future download-only console.
Check out the study overview below and let us know in the comments if you share the same opinion! I see a few things here that Electronic Arts has already addressed through Origin’s 24-hour return and refund policy, so it’s a step in the right direction.