Digital versus retail: is one better than the other?

Digital versus retail: is one better than the other?

Digital versus retail

Digital versus retail. Subject touched on several times in this column, it was inevitable that sooner or later we would find ourselves discussing it. What is always especially important when it comes to physical and digital purchases is the belief of many players on the alleged supremacy of one or the other party; in reality, from the writer's point of view, both formats have an important and complementary role within the market.


The first reason that makes the relevant digital purchase within the market resides in the act of purchasing digitally.

It is likely that you have heard from acquaintances friends, or perhaps you have exclaimed yourself: "I buy in the store", motivating the choice by attributing it greater ease than using a digital store, where 'A subscription to the service, registration of a credit card, a stable Internet connection for download and so on are required. Therefore, the fact that digital is becoming increasingly popular is symptomatic of a growing digital literacy of the public: we are talking about people who have learned to make digital purchases, who trust the digital tool despite the habit of extracting the banknote from their wallet and who have access to the Internet more easily and with better quality. Despite the fact that the writer is a strong promoter of the digitalization of services, which indeed should extend in a capillary way even beyond the concept of purchase, it is equally strong the conviction that a massive preference for digital will not cancel the experience of the store, linked in any case to a series of collateral goods to the video game, from accessories to merchandise, which implies a personal visit to the customer ... especially today when the desire to go back to the shops is so great.


The second reason for digital purchasing is preferable to retail is for its ecological impact. Flying over the general hilarity that the argument arouses in some, the impact that the tech industry, in general, has on the environment is truly impressive (from mining of minerals and silicates to produce hardware to the disposal of the same) so yes , video games also have an impact on the global ecosystem and to some extent pollute: why take home a disc and a plastic case when you can enjoy the same content without physical support? Leaving aside the fact that practically all the games purchased on day one require patch downloads, a procedure that cannot be avoided even with physical support, all that part of the expenditure of energy resources necessary to keep online services online should not be neglected. ; we are talking about gigantic complexes full of servers that need electricity to work and since we cannot do without that, at least we can give up the piece of plastic, without forgetting that today the value of a case, unless it is a special edition, not comparable to those of the past, with great attention to detail and often equipped with beautiful instruction booklets.


The last reason that should encourage the 'digital purchase is linked to the second-hand market, or rather, to the hypothetical benefits that would be derived if the latter were eliminated from the economic equation. Here, however, it is necessary to approach reasoning with the appropriate dose of conditional because it is not certain that a specific action corresponds to a precise reaction; moreover, it should be added, when we refer to the second-hand market we are not talking about used between individuals, but about the second-hand business. When we buy a retail game at the dayone, the amount paid is divided among all the players in the market: retailer, publisher, developer and so on. If that game is brought back to the store, the customer will be paid a miniscule fee while the game returns to the shelves at a discounted, albeit sustained, price since it is used. The second time that game is sold, however, the income generated will not be shared again but will remain in the seller's pockets. Which would not even be a problem because the whole second-hand market works like this, were it not for the fact that the video game is one of those assets that depreciates with incredible speed. This mechanism, paradoxically, can be activated after four or five days from the release of the game, creating damage to those who have invested in the creation and publication of the game. From this point of view, digital becomes the perfect tool to gradually eliminate the phenomenon and the decrease in the digital price would be a strong incentive. When we talked about actions and reactions, however, I meant precisely this: it is not certain that a progressive elimination of used vehicles leads to a lowering of the price of digital and apparently, given the identical prices between retail and digital at the dayone, there is not even the interest on the part of the big names in the sector to gamble on second-hand items (why does it no longer affect losses so much? Why is it a necessary evil? To posterity, the sentence).


At the beginning of the piece we talked about the complementary relationship between digital and retail, two formulas necessary because one in support of the other, as demonstrated by the imminent closure of the PlayStation 3, PSP, and PS Vita stores. What would happen in the dramatic event that these stores close but the games in the catalog are no longer sold in any other showcase? The answer is that they would probably be lost and the only way to play them would be to use physical copies. If the problem of the single user unable to recover his purchases seems to have been solved by Sony, the reflection moves more on a question of preservation of historical memory ... and you will understand it, we are moving towards extremely slippery ground: when it comes to historical preservation in the videogame field it is inevitable to end up talking about emulation, an extremely thorny issue especially on the legal level. But one thing is certain: knowing that there are physical copies of games that could one day be lost for many different reasons (the publisher decides to remove them from the store, the publisher decides to close the store, they burn the publisher's servers), but which can be handed down and, at worst, digitized for historical preservation, with the same spirit with which we keep paintings and works of art in museums, it is certainly an idea that should reassure us and above all highlight how retail still has its own very important role.

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