RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Nov 20th 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under physical media, PS5, XBox Snugglebunny

pic from vg247.  I'd dive in there like Scrooge McDuck.

I remember when eBay was a new thing.  In the wake of a fresh and burgeoning public internet, with dial-up squeals and stilted page updates, the world suddenly felt connected in a new and unprecedented way.  It didn't take long for me to use this powerful collection of advanced tools to finally achieve a feat that had eluded me for what felt like forever:

I tracked down the import Final Fantasy IV soundtrack CD.

Spent way too much, in hind sight.  Didn't we all, the first time we realized we could bid on objects that had tantalized our imaginations?  Or replace that lost childhood toy?  Or prove that yes, Song of the South really exists but only on withered VHS tapes?  Before it became a store, in its infancy eBay felt like an untapped treasure trove, that fabled yard sale where everybody found something they were looking for.

But this isn't about eBay.  It is about what that described moment represents; connecting with a lost treasure, or finding a new one.  Few gamers over thirty wouldn't stop and look at a pristine collection of rare games from a few decades ago, if just to reminisce or wonder about what was never played.  Games back then represented a thing to buy and savor, from mining every secret and technique to staying up with a buddy to beat each other's high scores.  Before they were services, video games were products to own.

Which has me thinking lately.  You know how depending on your age, you view different "console war" eras as the sort of "golden" ones?  Maybe you are old enough to remember the ol' Atari 2600/5200/7800 vs. Intellivision and Colecovision, or NES vs. SMS.  For many of us, it was the eternal SNES vs. Genesis.  or PlayStation vs. N64 (and Saturn!), or PS2 vs. Xbox.  360 and PS3, with the Wii somehow bigger and not included. 

I think we all know there is no real "vs." when it comes to physical media and digital-downloads.  We know where the industry is headed.  Sure, there will continue to be holdouts (like me!) who will always buy a game on physical media, and pay more to do so, if it is available.  However, given that the last few games we purchased have had 8gb+ day one updates (and continuous updates) prove that even when a game is bought on disc/cart, it is rarely "finished" or even entirely on the disc/cart in the first place.  Even our last stalwart defender, Nintendo, is now on the lucrative "games as service" model.

EA, UbiSoft, Microsoft, and Sony have all ramped up talk of eventually switching completely over to a service not unlike a Netflix/Steam hybrid, where the need to buy a physical game will be eliminated entirely.  Many already offer a prototype.  Subscription models and digital-leasing is far, far more attractive (and let's be honest, profitable) for these content creators.

In fact we may finally be in the last years of actual, physical video game media.  Yes, pundits have declared this for at least the last ten years, but the technology and, more importantly, consumer habits finally support the weight of this death-knell.  I wouldn't be surprised if smaller niche game systems continue to support old fogey interests like mine, but by-and-large the change is visible and the market trends reflect it.

When my kids are my age, all of our gaming media and gaming habits will be represented as a different, by-gone era.  Even bigger than the jump from 2D to polygons, closed-box to online aware, right now us gamers are finishing up the Golden Era of physical media in video games.  Those of us with large physical collections and collector mentalities will represent an even greater curiosity to the then-modern gamer. 

If ever there were a time to be a collector, this is it!  Remember when NES, or PlayStation, or PS2 games were everywhere, and then they suddenly weren't?  As the gamer population grows and these finitely-produced products get ever older, pretty much every game will get at least a little more rare.  If you have a game system or pet collecting project you've wanted to develop, you may not find a better moment.  Many system libraries have already eclipsed their "cheap pickup" window but as we etch closer to physical media obsolescence, it likely won't get easier.

Which is where collector sites like ours become even more relevant.  Our database here is a love-letter to this rapidly passing era of physical video game media.  Not that we don't catalogue digital games, but it is even more invaluable to have a listing and details about all of these hard-copies from the beginning of the industry to weekly new releases.  And you wont find a more helpful and pleasant group of fellow enthusiasts than right here.

Personally, I think I've moved on to the "acceptance" stage of my grief over the death of physical media.  I play and enjoy Destiny 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront II, even as I know servers will shut down and I won't be able to play them with my grandkids.  But you better believe I'll pull out Super Mario 3 and sit down with them, and take them on in Street Fighter II!  Besides, if the PS5 and Xbox 2 (or Y, or Snugglebunny) doesn't ship with a physical media drive, I'll finally be able to make a dent in my backlog!


OK, if MS named their new streaming game system the Xbox Snugglebunny, I'd buy it.

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Please say it isn't so, but I think we are doomed. Sad
I'm always up for more physical games but I do understand that we are at the end of the games as a product cycle. I'm always up for new products from the hobbyist market and it's one of my 2018 goals to focus on some of the new homebrew games. (I'm looking at your Mega Cat Studios and Sly Dog Studios) .
It does kind of suck having less and less games coming out each year that get me excited. Mario Odyssey and Persona 5 have both blown past my expectations in 2017 though so it's does still happen.

I'm with you though that as things move more and more digitally it's not necessarily a bad thing for me. Lets me focus more on long neglected libraries and catch up on the backlog. I really have no interest in purchasing a device that only plays digital media. The only way one will appear in my house is if one of my kids eventually gets a hankering for it. I'm pretty happy that my son has been willing to jump generations with me. We had a great session just before school started where we played Breath of the Wild and Link to the Past side by side for the day. And more recently after burning through all my Mega Man comics we had a Mario Odyssey and Mega Man 2 side by side session. I love that he has an attachment, curiosity, and willingness to try games from the past and isn't strictly tied to the newest big thing. It's really cool to see him look through our library of games and ask to try old games where many of his peers snub their nose at the notion of not playing the most up to date shiniest thing.
This has become such a strange age for gaming.  Many of us in PC gaming have watch the "gaming as a service" thing approach slowly from the horizon, even while our console brethren have been (mostly) ignorant of this great looming beast, but in the end it all came out the same for everyone, though I still like to think we still have more of a choice on PC.  While I long ago accepted that digital gaming as an inevitability, I've more recently began trying to embrace the favor of digital offered by GoG as DRM-free software, rather than the service that Steam, Origin, Uplay, and others offer.  It isn't easy, given that most new "AAA" games only arrive on the "service" platforms, but I've also been trying to game a slightly different way (much as Crabby mentioned, not needing the latest and greatest), which seems to be working well, as it was never about the physical part as it was about the ownership part with me.

Another great one, Jess.  Keep them coming.
Great article. Itís a bittersweet thing to see physical phased out but I kind of feel relieved that thereís a finite amount of titles to collect for. Iíve been trying to keep up with Switch titles to pick up now but even thatís gotten a bit tough while collecting older stuff at the same time. Itís going to be very interesting to see how the hobby and market evolves during these twilight years and even afterwards.
Interesting and intelligent article! However, I am not as skeptical when it comes to the predicted doom of physical media in gaming. I hope it is more than wishful thinking, on the other hand my belief is rooted in constants of human nature and experience of an old guy.

When TV was introduced, the prediction was the doom of the movie theaters and the book. Both strived afterwards and are still striving today. When Videorecorders and VHS tapes were introduced, both industries again, the movies and the books, according to very much future oriented predictions faced bankruptcy. Ingrained characteristics of human nature prevented the extinction of both.

Regarding games this might be the genetically coded 'ownership'. 'Having' something in a sense of a physical  product, the ability to touch it, the ability to see it stored in the real world with objects, and the feeling of ownership associated with these abilities might prevent the dominance of the digital game service with downloads and might sets its limit.

I know that the trend towards digital downloads is there, but looking at the numbers we have to be cautious. The numbers not only support the predicted doom of physical media but also my opinion. In short: we might not be at the crossroads, we might be at the beginning of a two-lane street.

The ESA is touting for years the success of gaming downloads for obvious reasons, namely the profit rate for companies. However, the most recent annual report of the ESA is, like its predecessors, questionable. The statement that 74% of all game sales are digital downloads creates a misleading picture. The numbers include not only full-game digital downloads but also subscriptions to services like PS Plus and XBoxLive, DLC, mobile app downloads and a myriad of other game related digital products.

More realistically and conservatively we can expect at the end of 2017 that the percentage of downloads for console game  sales will be 35% to 40%. That's widely agreed upon. A  very strong trend for sure in the last couple of years but still not the majority of gamers despite the convenience of digital downloads and its increasingly improving service.

The limits for downloads might be the feeling of ownership described above; the decisive financial limits for the industry might be portions of videogame customers who spend the most money for gaming, namly game nuts like us, and still can satisfy their love only with physical games. Additionally, a younger generation of gamers with heartwarm feelings towards older consoles which already exist might set a new fashionable trend. Collecting videogames is fortunately or unfortunately already a trend, the feeling of owning and the ability to show off a physical game might become a new trend considering the increasing success of 2D games not only as digital downloads but also on physical disc from companies like Soedesco, Badland Games, Limited Run and many others.

I just would be cautious about the widely agreed unavoidable dominance toward digital distribution in gaming. The increase in digital downloads might continue, but at this time no-one knows if its limits are 40%, 60% or 90% of all game sales and with the latter the unavoidable extinction of the physical game. There might be life in the old dog yet.

@Crabmaster2000:Same with my kiddos Smiley

@bombatomba:Right there with you about ownership.  Thanks, my man.

@Fleabitten:Switch is a great system to collect for, and pretty challenging considering all of the indie and smaller-print releases.

@lendelin:I agree we are not there, nor will we be there in another few years, nor likely ever 100% (likely some niche system will keep the dream alive.)  I used to completely agree that the ownership model would always keep folks buying physical, but then something weird happened.

I work at a gaming retail store in... lets just call it a very 'rural' area.  Madden, Call of Duty, Farming Sims, and Nascar are the big sellers.  Probably 1/3 to 1/2 of our clientele either has no broadband internet availability or satellite only.  In short, we are the ideal place you would think to cater to almost all physical copies. 

But over the last three or so years, our store has started selling almost as many digital copies of games as we do physical,  It is not 1 to 1, but if our store demographic is like this (and even 30+ year-olds tell me they are going all-digital) then the market polling and trending may be more accurate than I'd like.

The mindset for the average gamer, even in our neck of the woods, seems to have nearly whole-sale adopted that games are a cable-like service, not a static thing you buy.  Not my mentality at all, but boy is it more prevalent than I'd have thought.

Just my observations, which prompted the article. Smiley

I don't think physical games are going away as quickly as some people think. They are, but things like the limitations of internet bandwidth and hard drive storage are keeping that evolution from happening as quickly as it otherwise would. Although, it could be argued that we're already past the point of no return. The PS3/360/Wii U generation was the last one where having a physical disk meant something, and even that is arguable due to patches. With PS4/Xbox One, even if you have the physical disk, the system downloads most of them anyway, to where the disk is nothing more than a license to play the software.

I think this will be the last console "generation" as we know it. With the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S and X, consoles are moving to a model more like PCs and cell phones. Every year or two will mean a new iteration of console that supports whatever graphics or display technologies are the hot new thing. The only things to think about will be if you want the "base" PlayStation or Xbox or the high-end one. People will start buying them like they do graphics cards or cell phones, skipping an iteration here and there. Love it or hate it, it definitely makes this a very weird and interesting time for games. The industry is changing.

I think it's a good thing that the types of games and business models have gotten so varied now. On the one hand, it does mean physical games are on the downturn, but they will be kept alive by niche audiences like ours. The collectors, the independent developers, the homebrew scene. These days I try to appreciate the benefit of all sides. I haven't bought physical music in years. Even with digital music, it's rare that I actually buy an album anymore. I've gone completely digital subscription, with Amazon Music and Google Play/Spotify. I still buy physical blurays and books, but 90% of my consumption of those are through Netflix/Hulu and Kindle. And with games, I still buy physical copies when possible, but I play tons of digital only games too.

The idea of the appeal of owning a thing is really interesting. I definitely get that. I heard somewhere not too long ago that we're kind of getting to a point of pseudo-feudalism, where we don't really own much anymore. We subscribe to music, book, and TV/movie services. We store documents and photos in the cloud. Many of us lease our cell phones and cars, we rent our houses and apartments. Even if we have a mortgage we don't actually own the house until we spend more than half of our adult lives paying off the loan. And most of the software we buy now, we don't actually own it, we own a license to use it, and if we don't keep paying for the new version we'll be left behind and the version we own will be obsolete in just a few short years. An increasing number of things in our lives are meant to be upgraded or replaced within 5 years. I guess it's true what they say: they don't make em like they used to. We're basically giving Apple, Google, Amazon, et al every physical possession and piece of information about us in exchange for the trust that they will guide us through our lives and give us the things we need on demand when we need them. In my opinion, that's both really exciting (for the things that are and will be possible) and really scary (no privacy or ownership in anything). I guess it just makes me even more thankful for small, passionate communities keeping the old ways alive, for when humanity inevitably screws it all up lol.
Part of me wonders if this will cycle like the music industry has.  First it was vinyl, then 8-tracks, then cassettes, then CDs, then digital, and now vinyl has come back into vogue and is selling well.  Digital music sales are down, and people are just using streaming services or watching YouTube videos of their favorite songs, when the actual media sales are mostly albums.  I'm beginning to wonder if the future of the games industry will be something similar - digital will be a big part, but with things like the Switch having game cards instead of a moving-parts based optical media, the ability for games to be distributed on physical media can continue, and not just for enthusiasts.  I'm hoping that the success of the Switch, and the success of the physical game sales bodes well for the future of the medium, and that companies will see, especially with the success of indie physical releases and stuff like Limited Run Games that there will always be an audience for the physical media.  Great write-up, dude.

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