Digital distribution has been steadily winning over the physical option in the gaming industry – for better or worse. There are many pros and cons here, with convenience often cited as a major advantage that’s making both publishers and gamers increasingly embrace the digital option over time.
But in this scenario, a big disadvantage is that a gamer cannot sell a game once they no longer want it, or freely share it with whomever they choose – like they could a physical copy.
So it boils down to the lack of real ownership over games purchased in the digital format – similar to ebooks. Remember when Amazon literally reached into their customers’ physical devices to delete a book they had already purchased, but, as it turned out, didn’t really own?
And irony doesn’t get much more iconic than this, because the book at the heart of this exercise of centralized control over “little people” had been none other than George Orwell’s “1984.”
Anyway, things are not looking quite as grim over in the gaming industry, but they’re not looking good, either.
One of the advantages often cited by proponents of going all digital is that games bought in this way can’t be misplaced or damaged – and can be downloaded again, at any time – as long, that is, the publisher doesn’t go bust.
That selling point will be of little comfort now to people who have purchased Minecraft spinoff The Story Mode, which is shutting down due to the game’s publisher, Telltale Games, going bust, indeed.
The Minecraft developer itself, Microsoft-owned Mojang has warned Minecraft: Story Mode players to hurry up if they want to get their money’s worth for the game they’ve already bought:
“On behalf of the publisher, Minecraft: Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series, Season 1 and 2 will no longer be supported on June 25th, 2019. If you have purchased these seasons, please download all remaining episodes prior to the service being discontinued in June…So if you own either season of Minecraft: Story Mode on Microsoft Windows, macOS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Android, or iOS, you have until June 25th, 2019 to download the episodes. We’d recommend checking you have all the episodes downloaded!”
Another point the report makes is that in the coming all-digital age, it seems like “pirates” will fare much better than law-abiding paying gamers, as the former’s digital libraries are out of reach of any fickle publisher.