Home Gaming Should You Buy Digital or Physical games for the PS4 and Xbox One?

Should You Buy Digital or Physical games for the PS4 and Xbox One?

Starting today, digital games, that is downloads that travel straight from Microsoft’s and Sony’s own servers to your hard drive. To be fair, both consoles have offered digital titles for years, however the PS4 and Xbox One introduce innovations that finally make buying digital versions of games a valid option for most users.

However, having the ability to download games digitally, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should download games digitally.

Why You Should Buy Digitally

Digital game purchases offered a terrible experience for gamers until recently. While the PS3 and Xbox 360 both supported digital games, typically users had to wait as long as six months after the disc-based version of the game arrived on store shelves before they could by that same game in Microsoft or Sony’s stores. Whenever the digital version did arrive users also had to pay more than if they’d have purchased it from a used game store.

Xbox One and PS4 Black Friday Deals may bring big game savings.

With the Xbox One and PS4, many of these problems disappear. Both console makers have promised to make digital versions of games on their platforms available at the same time as their disc-based counterparts. Furthermore, users don’t actually have to carry the games themselves. Both the Xbox One and PS4 allow users to log-in to their account and download their games to play on a friend’s console. The Xbox One even allows other users to play a visiting user’s games with their own account.

The best part is that users no longer have to wait to download an entire game before they can begin playing. Both consoles allow users to begin playing once a certain percentage of the game is on their hard drive.

What Makes Buying Digital Such A Hassle

Don't expect PS4 game shortages.

Although there has been some progress where digital games are concerned, there are still a few reasons why users would want to pick up a physical game.

Digital games are subjected to unprecedented forms of digital rights management. For example, the Xbox One doesn’t allow users to trade digital games to other users or sell them. It’s also impossible for users of the Xbox One to allow their friends to play their digital games without their Xbox LIVE Account signed into that Xbox. For example, a user trying to play a friend’s digital version of Ryse wouldn’t be able to, unless that user’s account was still on their Xbox One. If that user has logged in on their own console again, Ryse and their Xbox LIVE Gold status defaults to the last console they’ve logged in on.

To their credit, Sony allows more than one PS4 to play games if their original console is designated as their “primary” console.

Why Buy Discs

Users will be able to purchase Call of Duty Ghosts for the Xbox 360 and then trade it later for a version for the Xbox One.

Simply put, users should buy a disc-based game for no other reason than they don’t have to adhere to anyone’s rules but their own. Users can sell them, loan and do whatever else they want — all without having to sign-in to their account or jump through hoops.

Disc based games are also usually cheaper than their digital alternatives over time for those who don’t mind buying used. Purchasing a used copy of Halo 4 would cost a user $19.99 at GameStop. That’s $10 less than it would if that same user bought it digitally. NBA 2K13 still costs users $39.99 through the PlayStation Store. That’s $20 more than what it costs for a used version of the game at GameStop.

Given the positives and negatives of buying digital, a user’s decision simply comes down to how gaming fits in their life. Users who loan games to friends or resell them to buy other games will want to stick with discs. Not only is it a known quantity, it’s also cheaper if they want to get the most they can out of their budget.

Still, people who don’t resell their games, and people who like the idea of not heading to GameStop to put down money on pre-orders are going to love buying digital copies of their games. They’ll also like having access to their library of titles when they log into Xbox LIVE on any console – no discs required.

The choice is yours, but you should know that each comes with its own set of pros and cons.

The PS4 is available for users to order today for $399, though how long it’ll be until the order can be fulfilled by retailers remains a mystery. The Xbox One launches November 22nd for $499. Pre-orders for the Xbox One are sold out, however users could get one on launch day if they haven’t pre-ordered if they show up to stores early. Microsoft has confirmed that its retail partners will have extra consoles on-hand at launch.

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23 Comments

  1. Ted Summers

    11/17/2013 at 4:47 am

    Title should read: “Should You Buy Digital or Physical games for the PS4 and Xbox One?”
    You have: “Should You Buy Digital of Physical games for the PS4 and Xbox One?”

    Change the word “of” for “or”

    Otherwise great article! Thank you for posting this. You documented some very good points.

    Reply

  2. Ted Summers

    11/17/2013 at 4:59 am

    With Data Caps from ISP’s, I can see where using Digital Downloads and Streaming Services such as Netflix, Hulu and Pandora to name a few might be a issue to think about.

    Reply

    • Travis Pope

      11/18/2013 at 7:05 am

      You are right. Since i’d never hit a data cap I somehow missed this point in the article. Data caps are a really big factor in this. Especially since the average data cap in the United States seems to fall around 500GB.

      Reply

  3. stafford5

    11/17/2013 at 12:30 pm

    My Uncle Nathan got Nissan Pathfinder SUV just by some part time working online with a laptop… look at this web-site………. http://yect.com/2S9

    Reply

  4. r0flman

    11/18/2013 at 9:48 am

    You forgot to mention that the Xbox One does the same thing when it comes to having an account with the “Home” console just like with PS4’s primary one.

    Reply

  5. troy sanchez

    11/18/2013 at 10:51 am

    what, what?

    Reply

  6. Joe

    11/20/2013 at 11:49 am

    “Starting today, digital games, that is downloads that travel straight from Microsoft’s and Sony’s own servers to your hard drive.” What in the hell kind of sentence is this? It could be overlooked if it wasn’t the first sentence in your article. Sad!

    Reply

  7. devonair

    11/20/2013 at 9:08 pm

    One tempting feature about digital downloads vs. physical copies (for now) is this: dual-license games. For example, I’m eagerly awaiting my Xbox One preorder to show up this week, but am also keeping my Xbox 360. I’d like to be able to play COD Ghosts on both, since not all of my friends are upgrading right away. Apparently there are places (like Amazon) selling “dual-license” digital downloads of the game that include both a 360 AND an Xbox One copy of the game “tied to your Gamertag” (or so the details on the sites explain). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out if my Gamertag has to be logged in to play any games bought via this method — or if my girlfriend and roommates can still play these games using their own Gamertags without having me logged in (i.e., if I’m at work or just not in the mood to play at that moment).

    Know anything about this?

    Reply

  8. Brandon

    11/25/2013 at 9:00 am

    I like the digital versions because I don’t have mess with disks putting them in and taking them out all the time. Just click on the tile and it starts, very nice indeed. But the big negative is once I’m bored of the game I can’t sell to gamestop. I wish MSFT would give digital copies the option to trade it for maybe $10 towards a new game.

    Reply

  9. Lazaro Perez

    11/26/2013 at 8:34 am

    I don’t care about the trade in value… I NEVER trade games in. What annoys me is the initial price. These things NEVER go on sale digitally. I can get Assassin’s Creed, Forza, Madden, Need for Speed, all on the Xbox One for $49.99 on Amazon. I like not having to put in a disc, and it’s not even about saving $10, it’s about the principle. They are not having to pay for the disc, the case, the paperwork, the shipping, the retailer mark up… yet they charge MORE for it? What I am REALLY hoping for is that stores like Amazon and Gamestop will start selling a Redeem code to digitally download a game for the same sale price as the discs. Then again that would never happen because they make their money in the used game business.

    Reply

  10. Clay

    11/27/2013 at 6:11 am

    Another thought. I now have an Xbox One and have purchased 1 digital game and 1 physical game. The physical installs in 10-15 minutes from the disk drive. The digital took 6 hours to download and install. The download was not limited by my ISP but by the load on Microsoft’s servers. At 50 MBit downrate it should only have taken just under 2 hours. Even If I did want to have the option to install on a friend’s console with a 6 hour download I would have to do it well in advance.

    A plus is that you don’t have to worry about scratching your disk. I have had it happen to me before and I keep my disks very safe. It just takes 1 bad drop or someone else messing with it. Once you have a scratched disk it becomes huge pain to fix (if possible).

    What I would like to see and I know Microsoft hinted at it is the ability to purchase the disk and activate your license in the digital store. This would give me us the best of both worlds. It would however prevent trading games unless they offered a way to deactivate a license.

    Reply

  11. bob jones

    12/24/2013 at 12:43 pm

    I think its the way things are heading to protect from ppl selling the games. I think its a pity cos if you want to protect your originals from being scratched you cant copy them, check out this site about how to backup xb1 and PS4 games here http://best-how-to-unlock-ps3.blogspot.co.nz/

    Reply

  12. xone1

    02/09/2014 at 5:23 am

    -You cant sell the digital games
    -MS can kill your Code at any time without telling it you!
    I myself bought for the full price via ebay a code. It ran ~1Month and than MS killed my Code
    without any statement before or after! I never got my money back!
    So dont buy Codes! They are not so much cheaper and you cant sell them after you finished the game

    Reply

  13. Don g

    06/24/2014 at 9:34 pm

    If my son buy digital and his ps4 gets full, can he delate the game, and download it again later without paying twice ??? Thanks

    Reply

    • dan

      07/09/2014 at 1:05 pm

      if you buy a digital game on a ps3 or ps4 you download it as many times as you want I get put a 1TB Hdd in my ps4 and re downloaded my games

      Reply

  14. seraphine hayes

    07/18/2014 at 8:27 pm

    I just got ps4 and I trying to figure out if I should buy the game from store or download the game can anyone help me please

    Reply

  15. LuiGui

    09/20/2014 at 9:04 am

    Yes, if u buy a digital copy you can delete it and its available for download whenever u want without paying again, sad part is u cant back up full game, only ur data… so is not like with my psvita wich i can backup fully then just switch games that i have in my PC… but at the end yes u dont have to pay again

    Reply

  16. jimmy

    01/21/2015 at 10:49 am

    This is an old thread but wanted to vent. Bought an X1 with Assassins Creed bundle. Absolute nightmare getting it downloaded and installed. Still doesn’t work. Will have to return entire x1 system and exchange just because of the game. I’m not paying for a game I can’t play.

    Reply

  17. chadt

    09/05/2015 at 9:20 pm

    Can you use the mrketplace game on your secondary account? or … do you have to only play it on the account you purchased on idk if you have a answer

    Reply

  18. Behr Palomo

    10/09/2015 at 12:42 pm

    The resale on discs is so terrible (less than $20 on your average game, usually less than $10) that paying $50-$60 for the game new then recouping $20 of that still leaves you $40 in the hole. I just saw Assassins Creed Unity AND Black Flag as a digital bundle for $18 on amazon ($9 each!) so that makes a lot more sense to me, even if it means I can’t resell or loan the game out. I can still play any of my games w/ friends at their house and even (with friends I REALLY trust) share accounts if we want to swap games while not physically visiting.

    Of course, I think there will be exceptions to this, as the Assassin’s Creed example might be a rare case, but I see a lot of digital versions for less than half of the disc price so I think I might be buying a few, even if I stick to the disc purchase on other games where the price difference isn’t such an attractive factor.

    Reply

  19. lbo_ken

    07/20/2016 at 8:09 pm

    we must not forget also that if you get hacked you loose your game. right

    i got hacked on ps4 friday the hacker as set his console as primary now cause of that only my first account (the one i bought the game ) can play MY game and according to some of the user on the board they considere that OUR are not our at all its sitll owned by playstation there for playstation can rub us by making us pay full price wile we dont own any of the game that is unaceptable
    they refuse to unactivate the hacker console until 6 month so for 6 month the hackers has access to our propriety fully wile us have only partialy ( only one profiles )..

    there for playstation are complice of stealing that is unacceptable but we can do nothing cause they have million to pay lawers who will twist thing up to win and you have to pay your lawer they will delay and delay and delay untill you cant pay your lawer anymore and drope the charge.
    this is how playstation are theif
    i want them now to refund all my games and all my console (both ps3 and ps4) so i can buy myself a xbox one who will be protected by them intead of the hackers being protected

    Reply

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