Before you lose your cool at me for even suggesting this, just level with me for a second. Let’s face it — the world has changed. People aren’t writing letters anymore; they’re sending instant messages that transmit within seconds, regardless of whether the distance is one mile, one hundred miles, or one thousand miles. People aren’t simply talking on telephones; they’re having full video conferences, which can consist of multiple people, all who might be in different locations. People aren’t even watching cable TV anymore; they’re streaming full episodes of their favorite shows and full-length movies over the Internet. Yes, technology has changed quite a bit within a very short space of time.
In the early 2000s, most of these things would be unreal. We were just getting non-brick sized cellphones and computer OS’ were only then starting to be flexible enough to do more than simply one task at a time. Nowadays, you can surf the Internet, listen to music, and type up a document all at the same time. Even entertainment media is no longer tethered to physical homes and are now digitized. What are CDs? What are DVDs? Even things like SD Cards and HDDs are being overtaken by “Cloud Storage.”
Technology is more advanced than it ever was and, just as it has in the past, it’s beginning to pull — or should I say, it already has pulled — into a new direction and the big names are following right after it. The big thing now is something we should all be familiar with — the aforementioned “Cloud.” Services such as Netflix, Hulu, and SoundCloud are good examples of major Cloud-based hubs. Millions of people use these hubs to access content like TV shows, movies, and music, right into their own homes or personal mobile devices. All of that is fully digital and all that users are doing is simply connecting to one massive server and enjoying its fruits. In the few years that they’ve been in existence, they’ve proven to be quite successful. Some people no longer buy physical discs for entertainment content. Things like DVD, Blu-Ray, and CD players are in a much smaller circulation because of it. It’s even put an end to stores like Blockbuster. People aren’t even exchanging flash drives anymore; all they have to do is use services like Google Drive, iCloud, and Dropbox. Clouds are here and they’re not gonna be leaving anytime soon.
This actually has to do a lot with PlayStation, as well as the gaming world in general. Cloud technology isn’t just limited to movies, music, and personal files; it’s also being used in gaming quite often. Services like PSN are cloud-based, allowing users to keep all of their info and data. If something were to happen to your PS3, PS4, or Vita, your data would still be saved. You’d simply be able to continue where you left off with a new unit. How convenient! We can even download full retail games, as well as indie titles and demos straight to our systems. No more trying to suss out some kind of shelf space for all those discs or crying when that one game you wanted to play has been stolen, scratched, or lost.
In all honesty, there’s nothing wrong with cloud technology at all. It’s proven to be convenient, highly functional, and efficient, and yet, there’s still an underlying worry that everyone has to come to realize that the Internet is a very unpredictable ecosystem. Because of this, if we were to become fully-digitized, would it really be as cool and convenient as it sounds? Let’s go over four points that paint the all-to-real picture that it is not as great as some would think.
4.) SOME PEOPLE STILL DON’T HAVE AMAZING INTERNET CONNECTIONS
As crazy as it might seem, yes, it’s true — there are still quite a few people who do not have access to a proper Internet connection. We may be living in a highly computerized world, but that doesn’t mean all of us are on the same track when it comes down to the fast-moving train that is the evolution of technology. Remember those old Nokias? You know, the phones that broke the floor when they fell on it? People are still using those. What about dial-up? Yep, that’s still a thing, too.
Even for the lot of us that do have access to modern-day technology and a decent Internet connection still have issues to deal with. You know those days when your ISP decides to troll you and throttles your connection or even disconnect you? What about those other days when you see a random group of people congregating around your house? No, they’re not the press asking for an interview with you — they’re all clamoring for your Wi-Fi. We still have yet to reach a level where a good amount of people have a fast and stable Internet connection. Nothing’s worse than your 20GB+ game being 80% downloaded, only for your Internet connection to conveniently fizzle out and refuse to reignite for hours. The world can be cruel sometimes.
3.) INTERNET SERVICE COSTS MONEY AND SO DO THE ONLINE SERVICES
Believe it or not, but that Wi-Fi connection you love so much isn’t free. Whether it’s your own personal network or a hotspot at your favorite cafe, somebody’s paying for that and whether it’s you or not, that’s only half the battle won for us gamers. In order to get an Internet connection requires money, but in order to get our precious systems online, there’s also a fee. Microsoft pioneered the big online home-console ecosystem we’ve all grown accustomed to and they’re also the ones who figured it’d be cool to charge to gain access it. “Want to play with your friends online? Okay, sure — hand over your money please. Want to download that game? Okay, first you pay us to get into the online store and pay for your game!” Thanks a lot, Microsoft.
Either way, while the benefits of having your console connected to the Internet are certainly great, ISPs aren’t getting any nicer — or cheaper. If these practices continue, a digital-only world only seems more expensive than the one we have now. People aren’t getting any richer and prices for life necessities aren’t dropping, either.
2.) DIGITAL GAMES ARE SOMEHOW STILL EXPENSIVE
The prices that we pay for the majority of products in a store isn’t necessarily just for the product itself. That pretty packaging it’s encased in, the brand name, etc. — all of that is included. When it comes down to games, we know what goes on. The discs have to be burned and labeled, cases have to be made and covers, and manuals printed, and all of that costs money. You’re not just paying for the data on the disc — you’re also paying for the ink and paper used to label that disc, the disc itself, the case and case-cover, and even that manual you never read.
With digital games or simply digital anything, all of that extra cost should be omitted. Somehow, developers and publishers have come to the conclusion that, regardless of whether or not you get the retail disc of a game or simply download it from the online marketplace, you’re going to pay the same price. In fact, sometimes, the physical copies end up being cheaper than their digital counterparts. To make matters worse, you can’t get a used copy of a digital game, there is no virtual “bargain bin,” nor can you simply trade with a friend. You’re just going to have to suck it up and buy that digital copy if you’re really determined to never see a disc enter your entertainment center again. If gaming does end up going fully digital, this trend could very well continue.
As to why this is the case, there really is no logical reason. It certainly doesn’t have to be this way, but developers think otherwise.
1.) SERVERS ARE UNPREDICTABLE
You don’t have to be on the Internet — and I’m talking about for the first time — for more than a month to run into a message like that. Let’s face it: we’re imperfect beings and our creations can and will fail sometimes. With that being the case, a digital-only future surely doesn’t seem very attractive. Imagine this: you’re coming home from a long day of work/school, you kick back, relax, and power on your console. You want to play your favorite game. You get into your zone and then — BAM! — “An unexpected error has occurred. Cannot connect to server. Please try again later.” We’ve already ran into situations like this and they’re as annoying as ever.
If games become digital-only, developers are going to try and find find ways to make sure that their games are only or mostly in the hands of legit buyers and not pirates. This is nothing new. Developers are going to want their content secure, so it would be quite logical to expect for the practice of DRM to continue, if not intensify. Because of that, games will have to connect to the server, sort of like swiping a key-card in front of an ID scanner. If it can’t authorize, then what? Naturally, you’re locked out, but that’s not the only problem we have to consider.
Another thing gamers are familiar with is the threat of hacking. As we all saw a few years ago with PSN, people’s financial lives were put at risk. Forget the fact that you couldn’t play online or access the store, your or your parents’ bank account was at stake! It’s never any fun to be hacked and certainly it’s even worse when real-world money is involved. If digital-only is the future, network security would have to be beefed up. But as I said, we’re imperfect beings and once an imperfection becomes noticed, it only takes a fairly powerful mind to crack it even further.
There’s even another point to consider: server overload. As we just saw recently with the release of Minecraft on PS4, when you have millions of people all trying to connect to the same server at once, you better believe one or two things is going to happen: very slow connections all around or a complete server crash. If digital-only is the future, this is yet another issue that needs to be addressed. It’s not like it’s uncommon for this to happen and it would certainly be quite a nuisance if it’s the only way for gamers to get their content.
In the end, it’s quite obvious that we’re not ready for a digital-only future. Many have embraced the idea as it gives off the illusion of being quite cool and convenient and to an extent, it is. No more trying to look for shelf space for your ever-growing collection of games. No need to worry about discs getting scratched, lost, or stolen. No more running to the store on launch day, only to be told “Sorry, we’re sold out.” Yes, a digital-only future does have its perks, but we still have a long way to go before it becomes even remotely fathomable.