Steam vs physical disc

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Avatar image for qx0d
#1 Edited by qx0d (333 posts) -

Which do you prefer?

Whenever I go to Wal-Mart, I still see PC games for sale. I mostly do prefer a physical disc for games. A disc is yours forever, to play whenever you want. The discs playablility isn't tied to an Internet account, an Internet account which may or may not exist in 10 years.

There's something about physical media I simply like better. Like I said, the disc is truly yours. Physical media is something you hold in your hand and put on a shelf, so you get a more personal attachment to it over the years. Physical media is something special and lasting. I have some original Xbox games, and even some Game Boy Color games still. They can all still be played.

Steam is very convenient. It takes up no space in your room. It also has lots of cheap games. So, there are advantages and disadvantages to digital distribution and physical media. A main disadvantage to digital distribution is an Internet connection is necessary. A disc doesn't require an Internet connection.

Do you prefer Steam or physical disc?

Avatar image for jackamomo
#2 Edited by Jackamomo (2157 posts) -

Well most of the games on Steam are old and would no way have a physical disc available.

TBH I'm not too precious about games these days. I have precisely 0 games on disc now.

I gave Warcraft 3 and Frozen throne away to charity as the last physical media I owned well over 10 years ago (not including DC games).

I had loads backed up but I chucked them all (I moved housed alot). I used to download cracked games but it was more out of convenience than thrift. Steam just cut out the need for cracking groups for me for impulse buy games at least.

But I trust Steam not to close down as Valve are so insanely successful - they will most probably outlast me.

But they should allow to to save the install files. Which I would back up onto usb drives and put them into some sort of storage tray like a modern day floppy tray thing.

Then future generations could discover them.

TBH the iOmega Zip disc would have been my preferred backup media but they went bust. Cheaper than flash and don't corrode like cd/dvd.

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#3 Edited by dmb34 (1099 posts) -

I didn't like the idea of steam at first but I have fully embraced it years ago, no need for a dvd rom drive or having to use the disc just to play the game . I used to have a couple hundred cds/dvd game discs but have culled 99% of them in favor of online purchases, I have also done this with my music collection as well and wouldn't want to go back

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#4 Edited by pyro1245 (4830 posts) -

Some thoughts:

  • Physical packages stopped being interesting a few gens ago.
  • Digital is more convenient for me in every way.
  • Collectors editions are cheap crap 99% of the time.
  • GOG is the best digital distribution package.

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#5 Posted by GrizlzyCapybara (26 posts) -

Digital only. I don't even have a CD-ROM drive because it is obsolete. Prefer digital gaming platforms like Steam or 4GAME as it takes no physical space and makes no noise. Internet connection is taken for granted.

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#6 Edited by warmblur (1978 posts) -

I like both but these days all my PC games are digital except when Rockstar puts out a new game to me their games are special and I like to have a box copy with all the DVD's. I do miss the old days when you would go to the store and see a whole shelf filled with physical PC games.

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#7 Posted by npiet1 (1959 posts) -

I prefer digital downloads because I'm lazy and there sometimes cheaper. However I don't trust Nintendo with next gen being BC so I'm avoiding them for now. Even if I loose my digital downloads on Xbox or psn. There's a good chance I could get on psn now or gamepass. If I still couldn't get it, it would be cheap to buy the physical version.

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#8 Edited by jun_aka_pekto (25227 posts) -

What PC games on physical disc doesn't require Internet? All the PC games on disc that I bought within the last 8 years require Internet to either authenticate/activate or they're just Steam/Origin/Uplay games that happen to have the install files on disc.

That's why I quit buying PC games on disc. It's like twice the effort. Crysis 2 was the last PC game I have that does not need a DRM client. But, it still requires Internet to activate.

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#9 Edited by mrbojangles25 (43569 posts) -

Digital. Many reasons, namely:

  • Can take my collection wherever I go
  • No need to store my hundreds (thousands?) of games I've amassed since going digital 14+ years ago.
  • Seems to be a lot cheaper than physical copies on average.
  • They don't break, scratch, or otherwise wear out
  • No need for a noisy optical disc drive

Downsides?:

  • Sometimes large games take a while to download. But I'd have to do that anyway with physical discs since the disc/s can't store that much.
  • I can't put them on a shelf to admire.
  • You don't physically possess the product you bought, so if something did happen to whatever service you use, you'd be SOL.
@warmblur said:

I like both but these days all my PC games are digital except when Rockstar puts out a new game to me their games are special and I like to have a box copy. I do miss the old days when you would go to the store and see a whole shelf filled with physical PC games.

Yeah I do miss the old days, I mean the old old days of cardboard boxes with jewel cases inside and actual manuals. Oh! The MANUALS! God how I miss them.

And Falcon 4.0? The greatest manual of them all!

It wasn't so much a case as it was a 3" binder with a CD in it :D

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#10 Posted by mrbojangles25 (43569 posts) -

@grizlzycapybara said:

Digital only. I don't even have a CD-ROM drive because it is obsolete. Prefer digital gaming platforms like Steam or 4GAME as it takes no physical space and makes no noise. Internet connection is taken for granted.

Yeah ever since I found out I can have a Windows boot "disc" on a USB stick, I've disconnected and removed my optical disc drive haha

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#11 Posted by warmblur (1978 posts) -

@mrbojangles25 said:

Digital. Many reasons, namely:

  • Can take my collection wherever I go
  • No need to store my hundreds (thousands?) of games I've amassed since going digital 14+ years ago.
  • Seems to be a lot cheaper than physical copies on average.
  • They don't break, scratch, or otherwise wear out
  • No need for a noisy optical disc drive

Downsides?:

  • Sometimes large games take a while to download. But I'd have to do that anyway with physical discs since the disc/s can't store that much.
  • I can't put them on a shelf to admire.
  • You don't physically possess the product you bought, so if something did happen to whatever service you use, you'd be SOL.
@warmblur said:

I like both but these days all my PC games are digital except when Rockstar puts out a new game to me their games are special and I like to have a box copy. I do miss the old days when you would go to the store and see a whole shelf filled with physical PC games.

Yeah I do miss the old days, I mean the old old days of cardboard boxes with jewel cases inside and actual manuals. Oh! The MANUALS! God how I miss them.

And Falcon 4.0? The greatest manual of them all!

It wasn't so much a case as it was a 3" binder with a CD in it :D

Nice!!

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#12 Posted by xantufrog (11025 posts) -

The last physical PC games I got wound up activating Steam or Windows Store keys anyway and use internet connectivity DRM. So, unless they were a an exception that I'm unaware of, what's the point? Physical gaming has been dead for a long time on PC IMO

GoG and Steam are great and I don't think they are going anywhere anytime soon. Plus, GoG lets you "own" the digital game in the way you are describing anyway (minus the physical clutter)

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#13 Posted by Diddies (2376 posts) -

I haven't bought a physical disc in years on PC. However, I still generally buy physical for PS4 and Switch.

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#14 Posted by neatfeatguy (4251 posts) -

I don't mind if a game requires Steam/Uplay/Origin activation - I like physical copies. Most games you find in a physical box these days is nothing more than just cardboard with a literal game activation key inside of it and no physical disc.

I still have a good 6-7 dozen physical boxed games tucked away. I loved all the art and at times small items that would come with games.

If physical copies of games were still a real thing (95% or even more are strictly digital) I would be buying more games. I still have maybe a dozen games that I haven't even got around to opening to play, they're still wrapped up in plastic and in my desk drawer. I have so many games I just don't have time to get to them all. I like physical copies and I'd like to have a game room where I could put them all out on display......oh well.

If I had a voice in it, I would bring back physical copies. Without them, though, companies save money. They don't have to pay for packaging, extra art work, paper, printing, CDs/DVDs, jewel cases, etc. Going digital is a big way a company can save money, plus digital allows small startup companies to get their games out there. Think about it, how many indie studios were there 20 years ago when digital game downloads were pretty much non-existent? It cost a lot to get your game out there if a major studio didn't pick you up and help you get the game published.

Oh well. I miss the old, physical copy days.

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#15 Edited by br0kenrabbit (15853 posts) -

@jackamomo said:

But they should allow to to save the install files. Which I would back up onto usb drives and put them into some sort of storage tray like a modern day floppy tray thing.

Valve has said that if Steam goes under, they will release a means of being able restore your games without having to connect to Steam.

I don't buy physical anymore. I'm all about the convenience of digital.

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#16 Edited by jun_aka_pekto (25227 posts) -
@br0kenrabbit said:

Valve has said that if Steam goes under, they will release a means of being able restore your games without having to connect to Steam.

I don't buy physical anymore. I'm all about the convenience of digital.

GoG goes further by having the user download the install files rather than the game itself. Of course, the DRM client (Galaxy) is entirely optional. I go straight to the install files.

But, yeah. I like digital downloads too.

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#17 Posted by jun_aka_pekto (25227 posts) -
@neatfeatguy said:

Think about it, how many indie studios were there 20 years ago when digital game downloads were pretty much non-existent? It cost a lot to get your game out there if a major studio didn't pick you up and help you get the game published.

Oh well. I miss the old, physical copy days.

There was a thing called shareware before digital downloads became more mainstream. Lots of startups got their break that way.

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#18 Posted by neatfeatguy (4251 posts) -

@jun_aka_pekto:

From my experience, Shareware was mistreated by a lot of folks (at least the ones I knew) - they'd continue to use the product and never pay (though not all shareware requested pay of any sort). At least if a company drops their game on Steam (or some other digital distributor) they get some form of payment in return for their work.

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#19 Edited by jun_aka_pekto (25227 posts) -
@neatfeatguy said:

@jun_aka_pekto:

From my experience, Shareware was mistreated by a lot of folks (at least the ones I knew) - they'd continue to use the product and never pay (though not all shareware requested pay of any sort). At least if a company drops their game on Steam (or some other digital distributor) they get some form of payment in return for their work.

Most shareware games were in the form of the demos we have today which are completely free. You only pay if you want the full game.

Kinda like Quake 2 demo, Crysis demo, etc. They're still around if you want to play them.

Shareware on disk or disc pretty much disappeared once broadband Internet was widespread.

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#20 Posted by with_teeth26 (9429 posts) -

Physical copies of games (especially PC games) are just pointless garbage producers at this point

I haven't bought a physical PC game for close to 10 years (guessing) or a physical console game for the last several years

imo, physical copies of games (and all physical media honestly) should be banned in locations that have readily available internet access

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#21 Edited by thereal25 (1722 posts) -

Physical media is just so old hat.

It's bad for the environment, it takes up space and it can easily be scratched or damaged.

The paranoia about Steam "going down" is unjustified. I'm sure if they sold out or went bankrupt they'd find a way to ensure that people can still keep their products. And it's actually a very safe storage system because if you delete a game you can always re-download it later as long as you remember/keep your steam password and associated email account. Besides, most games that I've played once or twice just become memories and I move on to the next thing.

Digital downloads are easier, cheaper and more convenient. Also better for privacy.

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#22 Posted by jun_aka_pekto (25227 posts) -

Digital downloads seem to have all bases covered and peace of mind on the PC. But, it's not the same on other platforms. Look at the situation with the Wii in some threads elsewhere on this forum. I can understand why some aren't comfortable with it.

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#23 Posted by Vaidream45 (1767 posts) -

Steam and GOG for me

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#24 Posted by Doerevolt (41 posts) -

I prefer steam because my Cds used to lost :(

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#25 Posted by PredatorRules (12400 posts) -
@doerevolt said:

I prefer steam because my Cds used to lost :(

Don't forget they could also be damaged, burned or broken.

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#26 Posted by Dire_Raven (44 posts) -

I have no personal preferences for eithee digital or physical. However due to geographical and financial restraints (forced to pay an exhuberant price for games in my country), digital games seems to be a more viable option. But as long as the game does not contain any DRM (digital rights management), it doesn't matter for me.

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#27 Posted by Bond007uk (911 posts) -

Optical media is so 90's early 2000's. My entire Steam library is digital, when I built my new PC in December, I didn't even bother putting my Blu-ray drive in the free drive bay. Windows was installed from a SD card, the first time I've used such a device to install an OS.

In my country - the United Kingdom - there are no physical PC games in stores, at least not any new ones. The last game I purchased on disc was Civilisation V.

There is one major factor you've all missed about why PC games have gone digital, and that is the size of modern games and Blu-ray disc, or rather the lack of PC BD disc support and BD-Drives on PC's. Unlike PC CD-ROM and then DVD PC games discs, Blu-ray never made the transition to PC as the medium for shipping PC games. Without the larger disc capacity that BD disc provides, PC game publishers would either have to distribute their games on multiple DVD's or provide one or two discs and the rest of the game as a download.

Imagine how many DVD discs a game like the 113GB Gears of War 4 would need for a full install on DVD discs?

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#28 Edited by Doerevolt (41 posts) -

@PredatorRules:

How do you use to burn CD?

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#29 Posted by MasterWarlords (-1 posts) -

Even if you buy some games as physical disks they might still require internet connection (Some may ask for connection for exclusive content and features).

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#30 Posted by PredatorRules (12400 posts) -
@doerevolt said:

@PredatorRules:

How do you use to burn CD?

Your house could light on fire, along with your game CDs, when it's on cloud you have to burn their servers and their backups.

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#31 Edited by Ezekiel43 (1321 posts) -

I prefer physical media, but it's not like I even have a choice on PC. I'm all digital. Almost no games are sold in boxes. When a PC game does get a physical release, it's sometimes just a tiny installer that requires downloading the rest or it's a massive game (60+ GB) distributed on freaking DVDs, which means longer install times, bigger boxes and more disc swapping. The only reason I have a Blu-ray drive is to rip Blu-rays. Some of my foreign Blu-rays are region-locked. My Blu-ray player can't play them, but my Blu-ray drive can rip them. The DRM in most PC games also defeats the purpose of buying a physical copy. I like having dics because I trust myself and the resilience of discs produced in the last two decades over some big corporation. But if I'm forced to authenticate the game on their server, then I might as well just download it from them. I've been getting emails from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment warning me that they will be discontinuing their operations at the end of the month and telling me to sign up for a Vudu account to save my redeemed Ultraviolet keys. Vudu isn't free. With my Blu-rays, DVDs and UHD movies, I never have to worry about crap like this. Bandwidth caps in the USA also make discs preferable. It would take months for me to download all my games with my 1 TB limit. I wouldn't even have nearly enough storage between my 16 TB worth of internal HDDs and all the other stuff I have to store. I have more than enough space in my apartment. Physical is just better. The two main benefits of digital for me are the better sales and the fact that the game will never run out of units.

@br0kenrabbit said:
@jackamomo said:

But they should allow to to save the install files. Which I would back up onto usb drives and put them into some sort of storage tray like a modern day floppy tray thing.

Valve has said that if Steam goes under, they will release a means of being able restore your games without having to connect to Steam.

I don't buy physical anymore. I'm all about the convenience of digital.

If Valve ever went under, they would have no obligation or incentive to keep their promise. I wouldn't spend money to indefinitely host tens of thousands of games for a hundred million users if I had nothing to gain from it.

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#32 Posted by Dire_Raven (44 posts) -

@ezekiel43:

Physical media is also prone to degradation. A CD, catridge, Blu-ray etc. cannot last forever without some of the data becoming corrupted. Whilst digital media does have its downsides, so does the physical alternative.

A DRM-free digital media can be burned into multiple CDs or Blu-rays or can be transfered onto another harddrive.

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#33 Edited by Ezekiel43 (1321 posts) -

@dire_raven said:

@ezekiel43:

Physical media is also prone to degradation. A CD, catridge, Blu-ray etc. cannot last forever without some of the data becoming corrupted. Whilst digital media does have its downsides, so does the physical alternative.

A DRM-free digital media can be burned into multiple CDs or Blu-rays or can be transfered onto another harddrive.

Looking at the results in this thread I posted, it sounds like I barely need to worry about degradation on newer discs.

https://www.gamespot.com/forums/system-wars-314159282/have-you-had-discs-go-bad-purely-from-age-33449211/

Most PC games are not DRM free. At least I have the option to rip all my Blu-ray and DVD movies before they degrade, probably decades from now.

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#34 Edited by Jackamomo (2157 posts) -

@ezekiel43 I know your not supposed to talk about it but even if your disc needs you to log onto a server to validate and patch there should be ways around that should the company go out of business.

Gamecopyworld.com has been used by publishers to fix problems caused by drm, simply suggesting users download the patch to play the game.

If you have at least a playable version of the game on disc. A quick patch should allow you to play without validation.

This is why we don't want MS to own the internet.

Steam should let you back up as many versions of the game as you want at any time.

The fact you can't has made me a bit weary of using Steam I will admit.

To think this will encourage piracy is paranoid and I don't see this affecting sales.

[edit] I would just use normal ide drives to back up stuff and not usb drives as they are 4 times more expensive. Not sure what I was on about there.

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#35 Posted by Dire_Raven (44 posts) -

@ezekiel43:

GOG, GameJolt, Itch.io and sometimes the developers's own site are entirely DRM-free, some games on Steam are DRM-free, in addition to those downloadable from Humble Bundle.

I have physical PC games that are no longer playable due to having DRM, some of which can be fixed by a third party patch or by using a cracked exe file.

The problem is not the type of media you prefer, it's its implementation of DRM (and copy protection). There are tons of digital distributors selling games that are DRM-free, just because Steam is the most popular, does not mean the acquisition of those games are sparse.

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#36 Posted by Litchie (23495 posts) -

I buy my Switch games physical. Nintendo are too cheap to give you storage for digital games, and you can't trust their digital store to live on for long. Feels way safer to have the games on a cartridge.

Haven't bought a physical PC game since 2005. I don't see any reason to since I don't think Steam is going anywhere.

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#37 Posted by br0kenrabbit (15853 posts) -

@ezekiel43 said:

If Valve ever went under, they would have no obligation or incentive to keep their promise. I wouldn't spend money to indefinitely host tens of thousands of games for a hundred million users if I had nothing to gain from it.

They wouldn't have to host the games once the company was wound down. Users would have the opportunity to download (as above) their games locally before closure, and Valve would release whatever patch necessary for offline installs of those downloaded files.

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#38 Edited by Ezekiel43 (1321 posts) -

@br0kenrabbit said:
@ezekiel43 said:

If Valve ever went under, they would have no obligation or incentive to keep their promise. I wouldn't spend money to indefinitely host tens of thousands of games for a hundred million users if I had nothing to gain from it.

They wouldn't have to host the games once the company was wound down. Users would have the opportunity to download (as above) their games locally before closure, and Valve would release whatever patch necessary for offline installs of those downloaded files.

This doesn't sound ideal at all.

  • You're in a coma.
  • You're in prison.
  • You don't have enough storage or bandwidth for all your games.
  • You haven't been playing PC games for a while, so you're not aware of the impending end of service.
  • Valve doesn't give you enough heads up; they're going out of business next week.
  • Your internet is out.
  • You recently moved and have no internet yet.

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#39 Posted by br0kenrabbit (15853 posts) -

@ezekiel43 said:

This doesn't sound ideal at all.

  • You're in a coma.
  • You're in prison.
  • You don't have enough storage or bandwidth for all your games.
  • You haven't been playing PC games for a while, so you're not aware of the impending end of service.
  • Valve doesn't give you enough heads up; they're going out of business next week.
  • Your internet is out.
  • You recently moved and have no internet yet.

The above could cover missing lots of things in life. That's life...you're there for it or you aren't.

And there have been many companies that went under but kept needed files on an accessible FTP for many years afterward. My guess is it will be a simple bash file that simply authenticates your username and password and your associated CD keys without having to connect online. This is kinda how Steam Offline mode works now which is why it requires NOT saving your password to the Steam client to operate.

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#40 Posted by NoodleFighter (10083 posts) -

Steam cuz digital is cheaper than physical. I have over 210 games no way would I be able to physically hold them all without taking up a huge amount of space in my home and you can't resell PC physical copies so the only reason for me to get a physical copy is if it is collectors/limited edition.

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#41 Posted by realitykid (32 posts) -

Steam all the way. I'm too lazy to go to a store to buy my games anymore. And it's nice to not have a physical disc taking up precious space in my apartment. I also like being able to buy my games from multiple places, allowing me to get Steam keys at steep discounts sometimes (usually 1 or 2 year old titles).

There was a time when a physical disk was my thing. But that was also when I had a 360 and hard drive space wasn't as affordable as it is today.

Avatar image for R4gn4r0k
#42 Posted by R4gn4r0k (30529 posts) -

My next PC will be the first PC without a disk drive, I just don't see the point anymore.

Can't remember the last time I inserted a disk into my PC. Even when I buy a physical copy, it's just to use its CD key.

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#43 Edited by Doerevolt (41 posts) -

@PredatorRules said:
@doerevolt said:

@PredatorRules:

How do you use to burn CD?

Your house could light on fire, along with your game CDs, when it's on cloud you have to burn their servers and their backups.

Wow I never thought that. but now real pain is forgetting steam password :(

Avatar image for PredatorRules
#44 Edited by PredatorRules (12400 posts) -
@doerevolt said:
@PredatorRules said:
@doerevolt said:

@PredatorRules:

How do you use to burn CD?

Your house could light on fire, along with your game CDs, when it's on cloud you have to burn their servers and their backups.

Wow I never thought that. but now real pain is forgetting steam password :(

I'd rather be frustrated about forgetting my account password and having to deal with restore password than losing a game completely and deciding if I should buy it again or not.

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#45 Edited by alperalper (0 posts) -

steam forever

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#46 Posted by couly (6250 posts) -

I still prefer physical copies. Maybe it's because i'm in my forties and am still clinging onto the idea of buying something physical that I can hold and read the manual (one page these days) while it's installing. These days though I have to get them from Germany, my most recent purchases being ubisoft titles. Eventually there will be no more cds or dvds but I'll stick with them until then.

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#47 Edited by br0kenrabbit (15853 posts) -

@couly said:

I still prefer physical copies. Maybe it's because i'm in my forties and am still clinging onto the idea of buying something physical that I can hold and read the manual (one page these days) while it's installing. These days though I have to get them from Germany, my most recent purchases being ubisoft titles. Eventually there will be no more cds or dvds but I'll stick with them until then.

I'm in my 40's, still prefer digital. I remember the days of NES/SNES/Genesis games laying everywhere, some with their dust covers and others without. Instruction books thrown haphazardly into drawers or atop shelves. Cassette tapes in the wrong cases, VHS tapes all over the place, game magazines in random piles...

I'm pretty minimalist in my decor so its nice not to have a bunch of stuff laying around. I like open, clean spaces. Anything I can move over to digital, with the exception of hardback books, I have done so.

They ain't taking my books. >:-[

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#48 Edited by Jackamomo (2157 posts) -

@ezekiel43: I think if you're in prison you've got bigger problems to worry about.

I think 99% of people will download the final patch for their games if Steam goes under which I don't think it will.

I give it a 50-60 year life span.

br0kenrabbit books will last forever. There is no better technology for reading plain text and 2d images in a handheld device.

I'm actually planning on binding my first book. Its pretty easy - you just need the right kind of glue and some cloth.

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#49 Posted by couly (6250 posts) -

@br0kenrabbit: I remember those days of cassettes and cartridges, I loved having them lined up on display, I guess some things don't change.

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#50 Posted by Metallic_Blade (520 posts) -

Nah, I will always prefer physical games over the anti-consumer BS known as digital. For the simple fact that you do not 'own' the games that you purchased (Other than GoG or Itch.io are the exceptions). Companies can and have pulled games or extra dlc content off of their storefronts. For example, the Forza games (FM4 and FH1 in this case). Supposedly the DLC content one day went into EOL (End of Life) status. Which means that everyone who wanted to buy the DLC content after EOL can take a hike.

Forza 2 had a Platinum Edition which came with a second disc that included (You guessed it) all of the extra DLC content right on it.

Digital, while it is convenient in some areas, there are still too many sacrifices that come with it. Why PC never adopted games on bluray discs still baffles me to this day. I'd still rather install a large (>40GB) game from a disc (>30 MB/s constant from disc than ~10-20ish MB/s over a download), than have to waste a few hours of having my bandwidth capped at max and have crap speeds for regular browsing in the meantime.