Gamers Still Prefer Physical Copies Of Video Games

Gamers Still Prefer Physical Copies Of Video Games
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

I think I’ve made the transition to enjoying the ease and accessibility of digital copies over physical games sold at retail, but it appears I’m still in the minority.

According to an NPD survey, 74% of gamers still prefer to own a physical copy of a video game.

The stat comes from the Core Gaming 2014, which surveyed US gamers. According to CVG, this number is down from 79% the year before, so the swing is in the direction of digital downloads but, for now, gamers still prefer something physical.

Which do you prefer? Let’s do our own survey.

[polldaddy poll=8051411]

74 percent of gamers prefer physical copies, NPD finds [CVG]


  • I vowed to get every single Vita game digitally, but the cost and release date, not too mention size factor has slowly made me move towards Physical for a lot of releases… For example, Borderlands 2 is 5.5GB? I can’t afford that on my 32GB card… And for some stupid reason most PSN releases are MORE expensive than their physical counterparts from JB, so, shrug…

  • I’d happily go digital if it weren’t for pricing. Why pay $100 for a digital copy on the PlayStation store when I can get it for $70-$80 at JB?

    • Exactly, I would happily go digital for everything right now if it was priced accordingly i.e. whatever JB or other price-competitive retailers (read: not EB) were charging less a bit more to compensate for the lack of trade-in value (as well as reflecting the lower costs involved in digital distribution compared to physical).

      As it is, the only full retail games that I’ll buy digital are ones that I expect to play a lot for a long time. E.g. Battlefield 4 which I play several times a week and will continue to do so for 1-2 years.

    • Conversely, I haven’t bought a physical game for years for the exact same reason.
      I’ve been able to buy all my games digitally for even on release, $40-$50 AUD, rather than the $80 at JB.

      I think its just consoles with a captive audience that price gouge digitally, because on PC there are so many ways to get games for less than half the retail price a physical copy costs in Australia.

  • I’m a collector. I like having the games on my shelves and having a portable hard drive filled with backups just ain’t the same. :'( I prefer physical, but when it comes to stuff that needs Steam activation anyways, it doesn’t matter as much cause it doesn’t ‘stand on its own’…

  • Ever since building my gaming rig I’ve grown to love digital – specifically the way Steam handles everything. I find it so much easier and neater, and on top of this, Steam sales.

    I’d never go digital on a console though.

  • All depends on price and whether I’m likely to want to sell the game after playing it, have been buying allot more games digital on Xbone under the US store. I wont pay $120 for wolfenstein, but I wont get it digital either cos after the campaign I’m not likely to play it again, so that will be bargain bin purchase for me.

  • Prefer physical for console because of the collector in me but PC I’ve pretty much gotten use to the idea of digital only for PC, in fact I prefer digital only for PC.

    The new Wolf game is the first physical PC game I’ve bought in a number of year and only because of this doom beta.

  • I like digital steam games because I can play them on any computer I have so I feel I am not limited by hardware and will always have access to my back catalogue. Plus I can normally get them cheaper via sites that sell cheap keys.

    Console digital games though are stuck on that console with their limited hard drive space and you have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get them running on a different console (or be Nintendo and not be able to move it at all) and it limits the number of times you can do it. Plus they are normally more expensive than what I can get the physical copy for.

    PC = digital
    Console = physical

  • This is a tough question. For small, cheap games, digital all the way. For the larger games, I’ll go digital always on PC now, but with consoles it’s a different decision process. Most of the time the size of games, crappy Australian internet and lack of proper external storage management makes physical copies the more attractive method. Having to fish out a game from the collection when I want to play and trying to find a copy in store after release makes digital the more attractive proposition. Even with handhelds it’s weird for me. For my Vita, everything is and always will be digital (save for a couple of exceptions from a while ago), but for the 3DS I’m still buying physical unless it’s VC games or digital only. I’m a complex person.

    • I’ve gone digital for all games, including my Wii U and 3DS. I pay the premiums with those because (although, noting the risk with bad Nintendo online and digital accounts not linking to games bought), I like not having the boxes to take up room. That and i’m never going to sell my Wii U or 3DS.

  • These days in australia it’s also faster to buy a physical copy then it is to download a digital one, I do have about 40-50 digital games but most are from the steam sales lol the bulk of my games is physical

    The main reason I perfer physical is because then I know i own it, what if one day Steam shuts down for some unknown reason.. do I lose all my digital games?
    What happens when PSN stops support PS3 (least say 10 years from now) how do I access my ps3 games on PS3 (plus we dont have the infrastructure for PS now)

    I like the concept of digital but I also understnad that you don’t own them, you can’t resell/trade or borrow
    I lend my mates games all the time cant do that with a license key, never trade my games but I like knowing I could

  • Digital all the way on PC. I don’t own a console but I much prefer the feeling of popping a new cartridge into my 3DS and I like the idea of having a small physical collection of games. Also helps that the 3DS’s online and storage capabilities are rather rubbish.

  • If the console stores were as convenient and as reasonably priced as Steam, the ratio could very well be flipped.

    For console games I usually prefer a physical copy, because it’s usually cheaper and partially because of storage limitations on consoles (referring to last gen consoles here).

    On my PC – well, I haven’t opened the DVD drive once since I installed windows. Digital all the way.

    I also softmodded my old Wii so that I could rip all my games to a hard drive, and the experience is SO MUCH BETTER than the other last gen disc-based consoles. It’s so convenient I wish Xbox One had stuck to it’s guns and tied game licenses to your account and required an online connection – I could see that version of the xbox eventually having a online store comparable to Steam, but now I think it will be much slower to happen. I’d even take that further and say it would have been good if the next gen consoles came without disc drives at all and just had huge hard drives and cheap online games. But until that happens (and it will eventually), I’ll keep collecting the physical discs.

    • I actually didn’t put in a DVD or Blu Ray drive in the last PC I built. because I stopped and went, I don’t even use this as a coffee cup holder, let alone for discs.

  • I prefer digital, but purely on the grounds it is cheaper. This is why I buy my Xbox One games from the US digital store. Nothing shits me off more than disc swapping a game that is fully installed purely as a form of DRM.

  • Most definitely physical. As others have stated, I’m a collector, I like looking at my shelf and seeing all the cases lined up in alphabetical order (OCD much), and the statues etc from my collector’s editions. Also, I know that other than Plants Vs. Zombies: GW and Titanfall I’ll still be able to play them in 20 or 30 years time. With digital downloads they can decide to take away your licence at ANY time (read the EULA) and that doesn’t just go for games either.

    Also kind of sad that manuals are pretty much gone too. I still remember as a teenager catching the bus to buy games like Link To The Past and reading the manual on the way home.

    • Also, I know that other than Plants Vs. Zombies: GW and Titanfall I’ll still be able to play them in 20 or 30 years time. With digital downloads they can decide to take away your licence at ANY time (read the EULA) and that doesn’t just go for games either.

      That’s the reason why I go digital on games like Titanfall and Battlefield 4. 10 years from now the servers are probably going to be either turned off or ghost towns so I’m not really concerned with being able to throw the disc in and play in 2024.
      Plus those games are the ones I want to play on a whim, so just starting them up without juggling discs really complements the way I play them. The rest of my games stay physical.

  • I didn’t even read the article once I saw that photo…. I couldn’t even calculate the countless hours I sunk into super mario world on my snes 🙁

  • It’s not so much that I prefer physical over digital it’s that I don’t trust the people aiming to corner digital distribution on consoles. Microsoft may be the one flip flopping today, but as a life long Nintendo fan I know they’re also capable of pulling some grade A bull, and Sony almost compulsively follow whatever the others are doing.
    It’s something where, as console gamers, we’re at the total mercy of the hardware manufacturer.

  • Looks like there’s plenty of console gamers taking this poll.

    I’ll take my Steam and GoG libraries over my shelves and drawers full of discs and cartridges any day.

  • im a collector, i love having the limited editions to my games, all standing proudly in my cabinet in my man cave

  • Maybe I’m a bit different but I have a lot of games and play a lot of smaller titles. I can understand the collecting point of view but I can’t see how it is feasible. I suppose there is the trading which helps keep the library low but I have close to 500 games in my steam account.
    No way does my apartment have room for that number of cases.
    It would be very interesting to see the break down of the different consoles. I would assume that a lot of PC is digital, I would be surprised is it wasn’t 80% at least.
    Assume that Nintendo would be massively physical, but not sure about the other 2. Sounds like it is still highly physical but much of that seems to be HDD capacity kinda issue

  • Digital.

    Moving house several times makes you appreciate not having to cart so much stuff around.
    Last time I moved I dumped all of my Xbox and Gamecube games in the bin.

    • Well said. I’m 35 this year, I’ve been through all of the console generations to date and I know that no matter how much I treasure my games at purchase, they always wind up as unwanted things in a box somewhere, taking up space. Plus with two kids, disc changing and game cases is a thing I’m happy to eliminate.

      Now if only the console makers could get the prices appealing and I’d make the change.


      I as well as MANY other people that frequent this site would’ve gladly taken them off your hands. At the very least it would have been better to take them into the Salvation Army or something rather than just throw them in the bin.

      Edit: Hit me up next time you or @shadow want to get rid of some games

      • I was very well aware of this. It was honestly a last minute decision. I threw out DVDs that I figured I’d easily be able to download (kept my boxsets though) as well and tossed both my gamecube and xbox down the garbage chute. Moving is stressful as hell and the thought of packing, moving and then re-storing things I didn’t really need or want hit me pretty hard.
        I think I should have just recognised I didn’t need or want these things way earlier and handed them out when I had the time. I won’t make the same mistake again – I’ll make sure to hand out my 360 and games as I transition over to the new generation.

    • You should of just sold them, even if eBay isn’t your thing you still could of went to cash convertors and do a fire sale.

      It’s your life I guess.

  • I’d rather go digital, but there’s too many cons, slower internet, data caps, higher prices etc.

  • If we had the same offerings as steam on the console market id happily go digital but until the prices are relative I will always get physical copy. and as others mentioned having a data cap on our internet doesn’t help.

  • I’m like many people, I love the physical collection aspect… But since I’ve set up my Xbone to be able to buy from the US digital store it’s cheaper and faster than Ozgameshop in most cases so I have a feeling my impatience will lead to more digital copies.

    Add to that the fact that manuals – if they even exist – are getting increasingly anemic with less and less flavour text and it gets harder to justify physical.

    It’s a shame.

    Though for PC I’m the opposite, Steam has caused me to buy so many more games than I play and gives me such easy access that I can go into my library and almost treat it like a store picking up a classic game for free.

    I’ve even repurchased a handful of games that I’ve simply lost in one move or another. Or that are likely in storage at my parents house on the other side of the country.

  • Mark you need two polls; one for PC and one for console. Because I’d say the majority of gamers like physical copies for their consoles, but digital for PC.

    And that is more than likely a direct reflection of the distributions models for both platforms…

  • I go digital because it can be my dirty little secret…. With a certain other person wanting a new bathroom additional cases look bad.

  • All things being equal, I’d choose physical every time. Unfortunately, they’re not equal. If I can get Watch_Dogs on PC for $40 through GMG or $80 through JB or EB, I’ll choose GMG every time. On console, I’ll always go physical, though, because even if the retailer doesn’t bother to undercut Sony or Microsoft’s digital RRP (which they normally do, anyway), I’ll still have a physical copy… if I’m paying upwards of $80 for a game, I much prefer the guarantee that I can play it if/when Microsoft or Sony stop supporting the console.

  • I prefer digital (convenience) but the cost is prohibitive on consoles. Steam, GOG etc are fantastic but I still buy most of my console games physically.

  • I prefer physical copies myself but I am forced from time to time to get digital copies due to my being a 5hr round trip from the nearest retailer that stocks a variety of games at a reasonable price, and yes I am calling EB reasonable compared to the electronics shop in town that had Little Big Planet 1 at $110 just last year.


    Also, loaning to friends.

    If digital can get these two things right, then I’ll get on board. But if there’s no chance of me ever recouping my money when I’m done with it, and the price is double digit dollars (or more), I won’t even look at it.

  • Digital all the way baby… unless its part of my retro collection i just want the data on my gaming device of choice. sick of sticking in discs etc.

  • I go digital for my PC games since they are all on Steam and the price is lower when sales hit.

    For consoles, I prefer physical because the downloads are too slow and extremely bulky size wise for my limited internet download limit. Plus HDD sizes for consoles aren’t all that great out of the box, where as on console it’s easier to upgrade and transfer HDDs

  • I’m currently very digital but i will say this:

    I prefer physical copies, but not the “modern” version of physical copies… eg, a single dvd case with a leaflet and a disc.
    Hence the reason why, when i do buy physical now a days it’s mainly Collectors Editions.
    I miss the good ol’ cardboard boxes, with a 450 page manual to rifle through…
    And honestly, looking at the photo up top, i prefer big clunky cartridges… those things are awesome to collect! so much more satisfying plunking in a good old cartridge into the snes with an audible clunk… i understand why we went away from that, but comeon! there’s some novelty in doing that… CD-roms and dvd-roms just don’t have the same presence in my opinion…

  • Physical will get a new lease on life here in Australia if the current gen has anything to do with it… 50GB games from the PSN/Live Stores?

    Killzone is >70GB, for some users, that is an entire month of data!

  • If I had the choice, I’d go physical. Pretty much for all the reasons that people have pointed out above. The only thing superior about digital versions is that they’re more convenient to load. Well, once the download is done.

  • Digital is really great for convenience, but I think most gamers typically have an appreciation for the tactile and aesthetic pleasure of a physical copy. I also think a lot of gamers like to be in control, and being able to control a physical possession is more reassuring. Physical copies are like advertising(if you walk into JB Hifi and you don’t play games, you can still see walls of games and the art which comes with it… and although gaming is big, it’s not fully mainstream like movies are, so any advertising is good) and trophies(collector’s editions and figures, or a bookshelf vs a kindle). I know the market is split for preferences… some ppl care about price more than format, some ppl want the japanese box art or the western box art or just a digital copy… but if you think about how a lot of this cosmetic stuff sells(Last of Us Ellie/Joel editions selling out, Amaterasu snow globes)… it’s important. Plus you can’t have midnight launches with digital copies.

    I prefer boxed copies and don’t mind digital if I don’t really care about the game.

  • I have gone all digital on the Xbox One purchasing off the US or Canadian store (whoever is the cheapest on the day). If by any chance there is a physical copy going real cheap, then sure…but killing the hassle of looking after the disc and case is wild. People complain about HDD space…well on the PS4 you can simply swap the drive and MS are bringing USB HDD support shortly for storage. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You re-download the game. Boo hoo. Same thing applies to Steam.

    Plus on the Xbone, the way you can set your ‘Home Xbox’ is great. You can share the same digital title between 2 consoles and play at the same time. That is pretty awesome.

    So yeah, digital all the way. So far its been cheaper then physical (due to the MS store allowing you to purchase from any storefront) and it’s a hell convenient – especially with 2 (soon to be 3) rugrats running around destroying everything.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!