The good old personal computer. Once made to solve problems for the average man – PCs have become some of the most popular options in video gaming.
It’s interesting to note, however, how PC gaming is treated. There’s no doubt that PC gaming would be the way to go if money wasn’t an object.
With uncapped framerates and impressive graphical quality, the only reason to pick a console over a PC if the price wasn’t an issue would maybe be console exclusivity for video games. Nevertheless, my point here is to discuss how video games are treated on PCs.
On consoles, video games come out mainly in two variations – physical discs and digital editions. Among them, discs were massively popular, but progressively there’s been a trend of shifting to the digital world.
The choice in the end for whether you want to pick up a disc or digital version of a game boils down to personal preference. In the case of PCs, although, the landscape changes.
Most of the time, PC users won’t be free to choose between the two. Physical discs for PCs are now a thing of the past. The entire computer gaming world now revolves around the digital version of games.
In fact, physical discs now account for only 2% of the overall sales made for PC games – but why exactly is that?
Do They Still Make Them?
Technically, yes. Some developers do still make physical copies of their games. Other than this, the only time you’d see a physical disc being used for a PC game is if that particular game is pretty old-school.
Besides these two scenarios, I don’t see any possibilities where a big game developer would primarily use physical discs to distribute their video game. There are several reasons for this, and I’ll explain each one below.
Video game piracy is rampant on PCs and one of the worst fears for developers out there. Historically, games being distributed in physical media were much easier to pirate than their digital counterparts.
Additionally, digital distributors nowadays, such as Steam, Epic Games, Origin, etc., provide a certain level of security with their handling that attracts developers.
DRMs like these spend tons of resources on maintaining their security environment, making it difficult to copy and pirate games. This, however, is only possible in the digital environment since all of this distribution software is based online.
In the case of physical discs, developers would have to set up protective measures according to which individuals buying the disc would have to go online at least once so the game can verify the veracity of game files to prevent piracy.
This means that even with a physical copy of a game, you’d ultimately need to have an online connection to start playing it. If you were doing all that, you might as well go for the digital version of the game in the first place!
Another factor to consider here is production costs. Production costs are at the minimum when making digital copies of a game. Developers just have to distribute working codes for their games or give access to users who purchase them digitally.
All of this can be done in an online environment without having much to worry about. With physical discs, on the other hand, publishers would have to spend thousands of dollars sourcing materials, creating discs, and then writing data to them.
Additionally, when you pitch in the extra amount of money that would be spent on labor costs for producing these discs, the prices skyrocket!
In these two scenarios, it’s no wonder that game developers would opt for the digital edition of games, where they essentially have to spend little to no money to make their games accessible to their players.
The last factor I’ll touch upon here is distribution costs. In the case of physical media, once a publisher has produced a certain number of discs, they’ll then have to distribute them to stores all over their target area.
The cost incurred in freight charges to distribute these discs to retailers would be an immense pain for publishers. They’d have to look at labor, routing charges, delays, unnecessary accidents, and many other factors.
All of these things have one thing in common – they cost money. On the other hand, selling a game digitally rids producers with the hassle of going through all of this added effort.
A simple change in the game environment makes it much more convenient for publishers and users alike to gain access to a particular game. This happens to be a huge factor as to why physical games for PCs are eventually becoming obsolete.
Physical media was an exceptionally popular medium for video games back in the day. Most games came in some physical media, whether it’s cassettes, cartridges, or discs.
However, with the advancement in technology, there’s been a recent shift towards the digital medium. There are several factors at play here which caused this. Still, some of the most prominent ones include video game piracy, production, and distribution costs.
Although some video game developers still prefer to use physical media for their PC games, this is extremely rare and almost never happens with big title publishers.