Is Physical Media Dead?
With recent news of Best Buy and Walmart getting rid of physical media altogether compounded by Netflix's removal of their DVD mail service, and more videogames like the upcoming Alan Wake 2 being exclusively developed for digital distribution, this may be the final nail in the coffin for physical media as we all know it. Previously Sony and now Nintendo, are closing their respective PS3 and Wii eshops. However, Sony had changed their tune after an outcry from many gamers who demanded that their digital games remain preserved once again, resurfacing the debate of physical vs digital media. Now let’s go way back to the 80s, where the golden age of physical media such as the VHS format became extremely lucrative for motion picture studios, cinema buffs and rental chains such as Blockbuster Video. Those were the days when friends, couples, and families would venture out to these rental outlets for a 2-day rental or purchase for their film and television collection.
Fast forward to decades afterward during the early aughts where DVDs were the new standard with advantages like storing media on one disc, not to mention no video static signals or bad visuals even when it's a copied disc, no loss of quality.
Then in 2005 came Sony's Blu ray, easily destroyed its competitor HDD DVD as the new go-to format thanks to once again, their PlayStation brand as in the PS3 console.
So now, with the Blu Ray and especially 4K format capable of playing movies, and videogames with the capability of increased resolution compared to DVD, physical media is here to stay! Or so we all thought...
Enter the digital age, where a library of films, television shows, music, videogames and even comics are easily accessible at your fingertips! No scarcity issues, and No waiting in line for a movie rental when you can click into your streaming apps like Netflix, music can be purchased or played via subscription service and remember those days when you waited online for Gamestop to sell the newest Call of Duty game? All that is history! However, all is not that perfect.
Your movies, games and television shows are very dependent on digital based services, which can be removed without notice due to expired licenses as many films and shows have. There's also delisted games from Xbox and PlayStation digital storefronts whereas physical games help to prevent loss of game preservation. A physical disc in good condition, can still run fine on the respective console despite missing upgrades, dlc whatever.
Microsoft, to its credit, has a huge library thanks to its Xbox backward compatibility program which allows you to still play games from three generations from Xbox to Xbox One. Personally, I enjoy the benefits of digital media because of convenience and in a world of instant gratification, the option to purchase and play a game or a movie from your couch or bed, is a beautiful thing. That is, if you have an internet service provider.
Now there is a plus side to owning physical media. When movies from streaming platforms are no longer available as it often happens with providers like Amazon Prime Video, or other platforms, you can always rely on your Blu Ray disc to play your favorite movies or television shows on a compatible player. Most Movie and television discs contain bonus content like commentary, deleted scenes, and other materials not available on most of their digital counterparts.And in the case of the In Search of Darkness series, you get cool swag for pre ordering, and needless to say, Not sold in stores!
Not to mention with a disc writer and video conversion software, there is that option to rip discs to MKV or MP4 from your personal collection as a means of backing up your collection and it’s perfectly legal! With services like Plex, you can set up your very own streaming network for the most part, today's Blu Rays 4K discs come with a digital copy as a backup option in case the discs are either scratched or non-playable.
So, there are plenty of reasons to own a hard copy. While outlets like Best Buy, Amazon and now Wal-Mart are liquidating their physical media inventory, what better opportunity to take advantage of price markdowns?
While many game discs rely on DLC for upgrades and so forth, the game itself is still playable without any digital add on installation. Also of note, there are a lot of titles from the digital storefronts be it Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and Steam that have been delisted and this is due to expired licenses or in the case of the Transformers Cybertron games, lost development coding. This is where both physical media and its compatible device/console can be very beneficial.
So overall it's a matter of preference, one may enjoy collecting physical material as it complements their bookshelves, etc and then there are those who prefer convenience and less clutter. Your mileage may vary.