The physical supports in video games, the story of a love destined to end?

The physical supports in video games, the story of a love destined to end?

The physical supports in video games

If when it comes to choosing your PlayStation 5 you have gone without batting an eyelid towards the Digital Edition, you are ready for an era in which physical media is now very close to retirement. If, on the other hand, you have finally moved towards the version of the console with the optical drive included, perhaps even after having hesitated a little, then it means that you are not yet ready to take the big leap. A leap destined to happen sooner or later, whether we like it or not and with a good chance within the generation in which we find ourselves. An epochal change that will leave behind the memories of years and years linked to the various physical supports that have accompanied us together with the passion for video games. Before everything ends up in the old stuff trunk in the attic and the download becomes the only way to get the video game just released, we decided to stop the hands of time for a moment, taking advantage of it to make them go back to retrace the history of physical media used in video games.

Ready? Street!

Magnetic cassettes

The Masters of the Universe: the Arcade Game cassette for Commodore 64 Let's start our roundup with the magnificent magnetic cassettes, perhaps the most nostalgic object of all we will see in this article. After all, they are a real antique piece also for the sector that at the time made the most use of them: the musical one. Alongside the inevitable stereo with its tape player, especially looking at the 80s, many homes recall the presence of other similar devices, however, linked to video games. What will have stuck in the minds of most of us is probably the Commodore 64 Datassette, through which it was possible to read the cassettes that contained video games on their tape (for a theoretical maximum of 97 kilobytes on a 60-minute cassette) for then run them. The main reason why the magnetic cassettes have remained etched in the minds of those who have seen them at work is undoubtedly their slowness in the reading phase, which in fact forced you to wait several minutes before seeing the game running on the screen. . The time for a trip to the bathroom in complete tranquility or to go to the kitchen for a snack. As long as the loading went through without problems ...

Floppy Disk

Dune for Amiga The long wave of nostalgia obviously also passes through floppy disks, commonly called "floppy disks" by parents of the time. In reality, floppies are still very popular even today even by children: they represent the universal icon for saving data within the programs we use on PCs and tablets. At one time, however, these magnetic disks were also used to host video games, typically on computers since in the console world, even if they tried they never broke through. Among the various sizes, the most famous is undoubtedly the 3.5-inch floppy, both in its double-density format with a capacity of 720 kilobytes, and high-density with the ability to accommodate 1.44 megabytes. As the games exceeded that size, they were split into multiple floppy disks to be hot swapped on systems like the Amiga and, of course, the PC. Legendary from this point of view the eleven discs in which were found very famous graphic adventures of the time, such as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge.


Super Mario Cartridges High and low, wide and narrow, black and gray. If there is a physical medium on which designers have been able to indulge themselves in the history of video games this is the famous cartridge, for years mainly used in the console field. Before hoisting the white flag in the face of the success of the CD-ROM, the cartridge went through several videogame generations unscathed, thus becoming one of the symbols for many people. It was for those who, for example, had an Atari 2600 at home just in the years when cartridges appeared, but also for those who in subsequent years owned one of the Nintendo or Sega consoles, together with their unmistakable supports. The company currently led by Shuntaro Furukawa was the one that longest supported the cause of cartridges for their consoles, also choosing them in the case of Nintendo 64 at the end of the 90s in spite of the optical media that had already taken over. . N64 was in fact the last home console of some importance to make use of cartridges as a physical medium, before Nintendo Switch more recently relied on a very similar type of media. But not identical.

Game Card

Imagine an object similar in size to that of a credit card, identical in operation to that of a cartridge but stripped of the external plastic that distinguished it. last. In reality, there are not many consoles that have made use of the game card as a physical support, but by sifting through the Internet some testimonies you can find it: this is the case for example of Sega's SG-1000, console marketed mainly in Japan only with some bet around the world between Oceania, Italy and Spain. As we said in the previous paragraph, first with the DS and then with the Switch, Nintendo has actually dusted off the use of the game card as a physical support, years after the last views in circulation and in a significantly reduced format compared to that of the origins. >

Optical media

Collection of old games on CD-ROM The last big leap before the advent of digital only is obviously the one that has seen the market move towards optical media. Although the first were the Laser Discs already in the 80s, it was CD-ROMs that definitively fueled the explosion of this type of media: it is no coincidence that Sony used them for the first PlayStation, helping to decree the extraordinary success of this platform over the years. As in other cases, CDs lasted until they were able to meet the ever-increasing needs for data storage well enough. When the 700 megabytes of maximum size they offered were no longer enough, the DVD arrived, typically 4.7 gigabytes in its first incarnation to then reach a maximum of 17.08 gigabytes in terms of format for the double layer versions and double-sided. As we know, DVD was then replaced by Blu-Ray with its 25 gigabytes in basic version up to a maximum of 100 gigabytes. The latter support in its 4K Ultra HD incarnation, is the one supported by PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Finally, let's not forget the proprietary formats, such as GD-ROM in the case of Dreamcast, UMD for PSP or the miniDVD used by Nintendo for games on GameCube.

What do you remember about the physical formats used for video games over time? Do you remember anyone in particular? Tell us in the comments!

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