Why Digital Games Are Still No Match for Discs

By On 21st October, 2015

The lazy couch potato in me loves digital games. And he’s a big potato. I like the idea of seeing my whole game library up there on the screen, each title ready to be started any time I choose.

No getting up off my bum for me. I can play anything I want without having to leave the sofa. All I need is my wireless controller in my hand, and I can command the entire gaming world.

I’ve bought a lot of digital games on Xbox and PlayStation, for the reasons above. Hell, on Wii U I’m all digital – even though Nintendo’s customer-unfriendly account system is enough to scare most gamers off.

And yet, despite being a sucker for digital downloads, I can’t deny the truth about them.

And the truth is: most digital games are terrible value compared to retail discs.

Here’s why.

1. New game prices are bafflingly high

Let’s do a quick comparison.

Here’s a snap of the PlayStation Store page for brand new game Assassins Creed Syndicate on PS4, grabbed on 16 October when I wrote this page. It costs £54.99.


Here’s the same game on Xbox Store, for the same high price:


And now here’s Assassins Creed Syndicate for both systems at Amazon, where it costs £41.99 – a massive 23% less.


What’s going on?

2. Those prices don’t often come down, either

One way us UK gamers are lucky is, the game prices come down pretty quick after launch. And they come down pretty far.

At retail, it’s not unusual to find quality games for £10-20 a year after launch.

On digital stores, though? You’ll be lucky.

Price reductions do happen, of course. PSN has its flash sales. Xbox Store has some good reductions too.

But many games are just left at their original price.

Like Call of Duty: Ghosts for Xbox 360. It came out November 2013, it’s on an obsolete console, and you can buy it at Amazon UK for £5.65.

At the Xbox Store, it costs £49.99!


3. Despite higher prices, you actually receive less product

I know some people like to see a nice row of game boxes on their shelf, and that’s why they prefer retail discs. Personally, I don’t care about that. I don’t think that’s the reason downloads are bad value right now.

It’s more about ownership, and how much each product actually costs to make compared to what it sells for.

Let’s consider what it costs to make a retail disc game:

  • The game publisher pays for manufacturing
  • The game publisher pays for distribution
  • The game needs to be sold at retail, which passes a big chunk of the publisher’s profit to shops

Now let’s look at what it takes to make a download game:

  • There are no manufacturing costs
  • The game publisher distributes directly to the customer, with automated payment systems
  • The game publisher keeps all the profit

And with a download game, you can’t even sell it on eBay later!

So why are these things so damn expensive?

The bottom line is, digital games are over-priced, uncompetitive – a downright rip-off, in fact.

And if I wasn’t so lazy, I might stop buying them.

Have an opinion on the disc vs. digital debate? Sound off in the comments below.

Feature image courtesy of

Neil Wheatley

Copywriter, NUFC fan, dad to Wolfie and lifelong gamer. Sheffield and Manchester, UK.