TECH
11/25/2015 09:07 am ET

Stop Buying Physical Video Games Already!

Digital sales are gaining on those archaic discs and plastic cases -- and it's about time.
"Destiny" was a top-selling digital game in October 2015.
Bungie
"Destiny" was a top-selling digital game in October 2015.

New data suggests people are buying more of their video games digitally, rather than banking on clunky plastic cases and discs.

A report published Tuesday by SuperData, an industry analysis firm, says that the digital video game market has grown 7 percent since last year to a total of $5.5 billion. That's pretty good news for one reason in particular: Physical video games are basically obsolete wastes of space and resources.

You may not realize it, but if you're gaming on a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, the actual disc you buy at the store doesn't really do much. Games need to be installed on your system's hard drive because the consoles can't run games directly off of the Blu-Ray discs. Beyond that, you're buying into a system that produces plastic waste for basically no reason. The industry isn't exactly ruining the planet on its own -- plastic cases are recyclable -- but why support physical games at all when most titles are released digitally?

Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData, told The Huffington Post that digital game sales are trending upward while physical purchases are trending down.

In the third quarter of 2015, Electronic Arts, a massive video game publisher, made $666 million in physical sales and $480 million in digital, according to numbers provided by SuperData. At the same time last year, it made $692 million in physical sales and $348 million in digital.

"We're anticipating digital to outperform physical for the first time this year, which indicates a sea change in the industry," van Dreunen said in an email.

In the past, it was easier to justify buying physical video games because it was cheaper to get them used or otherwise marked down. But times are changing. Digital game vendors like Steam, GOG.com, PlayStation and Xbox have become known for frequent sales -- especially around the holidays -- meaning it's easy to make impulse purchases. 

Gaming is also more convenient when you move to a digital library. Any games you want are stored on your hard drive and boot up the moment you select them -- no getting off of the couch to switch discs out. (The horror!)

Some people are always going to prefer having physical collections. But the rest of us might consider giving digital games and gift codes this holiday season to avoid paying into a dusty old system.

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