Most console players prefer physical games over digital downloads


Posts: 7,782   +80
Staff member
Bottom line: Those of a certain age may remember a time when buying a PC game involved visiting the local store to purchase a boxed product. With the advent of Steam, physical games have become the overwhelming minority on the platform—even the inclusion of optical drives on PCs is a rarity these days. For the majority of console gamers, however, discs are still preferred over the digital alternative.

The news comes from the latest edition of Nielsen’s annual US Games 360 Report, which reveals that 66 percent of surveyed console players would rather buy the physical version of a game. For PC gamers, 71 percent opt for digital downloads, meaning 29 percent tend not to bother with discs.

The survey involved interviewing 2000 teens and adults over 13 years old. It was split between males and female and designed to cover a fair representation of the US population.

Console owners’ preference for physical games has been attributed to several factors, including varying internet speeds in the US and download caps. As the size of most AAA titles continues to increase, those with slow connections find it’s quicker and easier to install from a disc. But the main reason is likely to be the used-game market. With retailers offering store credit or cash for used titles, as well as discounts on second-hand game sales, it’s easy to see why more console owners shun digital downloads.

Another statistic revealed by the survey is that 66 percent of the US population now consider themselves “gamers,” up from 58 percent in 2013. When it comes to the most recognizable consoles, the PlayStation 4 finished top. 70 percent of gamers, non-gamers, and the general population were aware of Sony’s machine, while the Xbox One had a 57 percent average awareness rating for the three groups.

Permalink to story.



Posts: 4,463   +2,644
I use Physical Media for my PS4 Pro because Download speeds suck from the PSN Store AND the prices are higher across the board (With the exception of the monthly PSN Plus games).

Plus, in 10 years time when I'm feeling a little nostalgic, I can bring the console and media down from the loft and play those games, can't promise that with downloads.


Posts: 895   +2,113
Not just console gamers. As someone who plays more old PC games than new, I've often found a number of titles much cheaper on 2nd hand retail disc than over-inflated "digital pricing". Eg, Bethesda are one of the worst with comical £27 base pricing ('discounted' to £14 sale pricing in "50% off" GOG / Steam sales) for Morrowind & Oblivion GOTY's. I picked up both GOTY discs (excellent condition) on Ebay for £6 combined (£3 each).

^ But that's what account locked digital downloads have really been about all along - not stopping piracy, but trying to kill off the 2nd hand Ebay market to re-inflate pricing of older games on the back of "convenience"... (And if it weren't for people trading 2nd hand discs, some excellent "out of rights" titles like No One Lives Forever 1-2 couldn't be legally bought anywhere).


Posts: 111   +97
Sure, nothing to do with the fact that digital downloads on console are expensive at RRP, rarely going on sale.


^ But that's what account locked digital downloads have really been about all along - not stopping piracy, but trying to kill off the 2nd hand Ebay market to re-inflate pricing of older games on the back of "convenience"... (And if it weren't for people trading 2nd hand discs, some excellent "out of rights" titles like No One Lives Forever 1-2 couldn't be legally bought anywhere).

Not to say you're completely wrong, it's probably a factor, but it's probably not that black and white. Evil companies trying to milk us for cash. Suppressing the 2nd hand market is probably just a bonus.. But would Morrowind or Daggerfall even run on Win7/10? I'd presume you'd need some sort of compatibility layer or DOSbox. Not everybody is that savvy and so digital reissues often solve that problem.

My mother loved Theme Hospital and The Settlers II, there's not a hope in hell of getting her to install and set up DOSbox, and I live in another state now. GoG had it going for cheap (or free, I forget) so I was able to send her a convenient download link.

There's probably a bigger issue of archival where once a digital title is gone it's gone, and retrieval where should the licensing/content servers go down, or the companies bankrupt, or great firewalls, where paid content becomes accessible.


Posts: 3,318   +5,509
Well yeah. Games today are super bloated, and nobody wants to wait for a 70GB game to download on a 25Mbps connection, nor take the hit to their data cap, to speak nothing of the 100GB+ games.

We've also seen what the lack of permanence does. Marvel ultimate alliance gold's DLC was made unavailable due to licensing, and the only way to play those levels was to own a rare physical copy. Entire game mechanics and levels can be removed at will by the developer. We have seen games like P.T. dissapear overnight. And we know that, when services are inevitably cut off, the game library goes with it, because you cant redownload games when your HDD dies. Physical disks will remain useful far longer then that.

Physical wont die until unlimited internet access is universal, and even then, the lack of permanence will still drive some like me to physical media that cant be altered.


Posts: 895   +2,113
But would Morrowind or Daggerfall even run on Win7/10?
They work fine. I know what you're saying (and agree) about non-tech savvy people liking GOG installers vs fiddling with DOSBox (I have over +150 GOG games myself) but I simply chose Morrowind to highlight Bethesda's absurd digital pricing. Many other digital games are reasonable, but to keep things in perspective, the non-sale, new (non-used) price of Skyrim Legendary Edition (DVD retail) on Amazon is £10 for a 2013 release, so Bethesda's £15 digital pricing for MOR / OBV (2002-2006) is more than a ripoff considering discs cost more to press and physically distribute (along with box, printed manuals, shipping, etc).

In fact that reminds me - my physical MW / OBV discs also came with two nice A2 sized printed foldout maps, Age of Empires 1-2 came with a large foldout tech-tree guide, NOLF came with an audio-CD of the soundtrack, I think Bioshock Limited Collectors came with a soundtrack, making of DVD and a Big Daddy figurine, etc. 'Physical goodies' are definitely another oft-missed leftover of physical disc games.


Posts: 1,018   +167
500 games on my steam account. 250 games on my xbox live account. 4 or 5 on a playstation account.

There are loads of sales on Xbox. You can get great games digitally for £8 or less. Half price for the newer games a few months after release. I like to sit myself down in front of the TV and pick from my range of games depending on what I feel like, and I don't have to get out of my chair to switch discs. Loads of 360 games I bought digitally years ago are now available on backwards compatibility too.

The only game I got recently on disc was Monster Hunter. I enjoyed it and I played it quite bit, but it was the only game on disk I was playing so I was able to leave it in the xbox. If I took it out, I am much more likely to fire up a digital installed game than switch discs. And I sold Monster Hunter a couple of months ago, not because I completed it but because I took it out to play a 4K movie and the game disc never made it back into the machine. I was too busy playing Metro Redux/FiFa/Destiny2/Ori to put the disc back in.

Just me then :)


Posts: 1,297   +1,085
"It was split between males and female"

1999 males and only one female? ;)

While the used market is a piece of it, I would think being locked down to a certain amount of drive space is also a consideration. I haven't owned a console since my sega cd (haha), but aren't you locked down to the space built into the console? I think you can add external drive(s) though? That is an added cost many don't include if so either.

As a PC gamer, I have a leery feeling in my mind when I buy digital purchases that the games I own can be taken away at any time on a whim. If I forget my login name or password, and/or forget which email I registered it to - I'm screwed... Everything is gone in an instant.


I simply chose Morrowind to highlight Bethesda's absurd digital pricing.

I hate to play devil's advocate here and defend this practice but, much like micro transactions, companies wouldn't do it if people didn't keep giving them their money. Which is in an indirect way a form of approval that this behavior is okay. Companies can only price products to what the market will bear. Of course, the counter argument is that it costs them nothing to sit on their laurels as the development and distribution costs were absorbed a decade ago so any further profit is just free money.

And £15 isn't that much. Inflation has eroded that price point significantly since the late 90s. How much does a Starbucks cost now? Or a pint? Although, according to BoE, £10 in 1998 is £17 now. Which I concede is still a bit pricey for a 15yo game.

For the record, I generally only buy my games during Steam sales. I haven't bought a fully priced, new release since 2007.

I do miss the physical goodies. Maps, manuals, inlays. I grew up in the DOS era of big box games.


Posts: 5,474   +4,398
TechSpot Elite
I find it normal that people with slower internet speeds to go buy a disc, but they still have to downloads fairly big patches if the disc is older and doesn't already contain them.
As far as I've seen where I live disc sales are very rare and most of the time they cost more than digital.


Posts: 1,029   +493
I get COD on disc since I can get it for cheap and activision never runs good sales on them for PC, I like to play through the single players every once in awhile, and I am not going to pay $30 to do that on a 5 year old game.


Posts: 181   +108
I am both PC and Xbox gamer. On PC, the most games I had on Steam, some on GoG. No Origin, no Uplay etc. On Xbox, I like physical copies. Because of sentiment, having it on a bookshelf, because of secondhand market - you can't sell digital copy. Physical copies on PC platform are nowadays often with necessary STEAM key and you cant sell it. Still, its nice to have some DVD covers. It's also a big mistake that BluRay didn't make it to PC platform, that also makes hard-copies for PC obsolete, because having 6 DVDs just sucks...


Posts: 1,092   +961
Steam sells **** loads more than console online sales, Sony and Microsoft need to learn from Valve on how to run an online store.


Posts: 780   +590
I find myself dumping $10-30 a month on PSN flash sales and whatnot. My backlog is stupid long. I dont own any digitals anymore.

I do however have n64, ps1, and dreamcast physicals. IMO nothing since those generations brings me back, and the visuals are pitiful.


Posts: 2,026   +838
The latest console I have is a PS3. The last two games I bought were an Uncharted bundle and The Last of Us. I had the PS3 hooked up to the net at the time when I pop them in. Instead of playing the game(s), I get to wait 30 min. each for an update. I don't know why the games needed updates, but I concluded that they were unfinished and full of bugs. Seemed like a backhanded way of forcing us on-line.


Posts: 76   +36
Am I misreading here?

"For PC gamers, 71 percent opt for digital downloads, meaning 29 percent tend not to bother with discs."

Doesn't that mean 100% of PC gamers don't want discs?
No surprise to me.
I am a computer gamer.
I want physical media in my hands.
My dad loved to game but wanted nothing to do with the internet. It is now impossible for him to buy most of the new games.
Add to this that sales for software are much less frequent than in physical stores and there is zero availability of used games now so the hobby is costing the consumer more than ever. The few places like steam have a virtual (pun intended) monopoly on the retail of games and monopolies are NEVER good for the consumer.