Digital or physical has been a topic of contention over the last decade for gamers everywhere. Digital copies of games tout convenience while physical has flexible pricing and reliable function when internet speeds don’t cut it. However, with the advent of COVID-19 and production shortages around the world, digital just may reign supreme during these tough times.
Worldwide Health Concern
COVID-19 brought a wide range of problems for people all over the globe. The virus’ latent symptoms and rapid transmission made going outside a health risk for everyone. Although the virus’ lethality varies depending on a person’s age, its infectivity made it risky for people to come into contact with one another and gather.
Other than essential services—like foods, retail, medical—businesses and gatherings were forced to be shut down out of risk of infection. Multimillion dollar corporations like national sports even canceled seasons out of concern for their players and the public. Even the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were canceled in light of the virus. E-Sporting events weren’t safe from the virus either, though some managed to transplant their competitions online.
As it stands, it’s now a health risk to leave one’s house. Visiting markets and public locations increases the risk of coming into contact with the virus. To make matters worse, the subdued incubation period makes it hard to detect, along with having an impressive survival rate. The virus can stay alive for hours to several days depending on what surface it comes into contact with.
These surfaces range anywhere from floor tiles, metal shelves, to even plastic cases. Although retail stores are cleaned on a periodic basis, outside public environments aren’t equally hygienic, further spreading the virus.
These factors pose a problem for gamers trying to get physical games, especially with so many blockbuster titles on the way. Infectivity and virus longevity in public environments make it unsafe for people to venture outside haphazardly, even if it is for a highly anticipated title.
Quarantines and social-distancing have been recommended by the governing bodies of countries worldwide, with some going as far as mandating them. With these obstacles in the way, obtaining physical games isn’t a risk for just the purchaser but all those around them as well.
Digital games don’t have the same risks and concerns as physical copies. They can be downloaded straight onto the console without the need for gamers to leave their homes. Provided they have suitable internet service, all current and future games can be purchased and installed remotely.
People initially thought delivery services would be a viable alternative to shopping in person but major service providers have been facing delays and hiccups due to COVID-19.
Major online retailer Amazon has revealed how much of a strain the pandemic has put on its inventory and logistical structure. Many people around the world thought deliveries would be the end-all cure-all solution and have worked these services to the bone, prompting Amazon to hire more workhands to meet delivery needs.
With such a situation in place, game and console deliveries are bogged down with delays, not to mention the inventory shortage these retailers are currently facing.
Delays, Shortages, and More
Earlier this year Nintendo of Japan announced stock and production shortages of their Switch consoles and merchandise. Nintendo has many production plants in Japan responsible for console production, which has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak
Initially, Nintendo reported only Japanese markets would be affected but now that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Nintendo sent a statement to retailers stating the following:
“Nintendo Switch hardware is selling out at various retail locations in the U.S., but more systems are on the way. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
The console is currently unavailable from major online retailers like Amazon, GameStop, and Best Buy, leaving all future buyers in a long waitlist.
These delays and shortages also persist with games.
Shortage of inventory implies a limited stock of upcoming physical titles. Square Enix made a recent announcement regarding the Final Fantasy VII Remake and the hurdles it might face in the coming days.
“The worldwide release of Final Fantasy 7 Remake on April 10 will go ahead. However, with the unforeseeable changes in distribution and retail landscape which varies across countries, it is increasingly likely that some of you will not get hold of your copy of the game on release date.”
To alleviate this issue, Square Enix changed the preload period from 48 hours before launch to a week before release day. Digital downloads not only provide convenience to gamers but also help protect their health during these trying and unsafe times.
The worldwide situation surrounding the pandemic continues to unfold, but it remains clear that prolonged exposure to public locations and other individuals increase risk of infection. It is in gamers’ best interests—both health and gaming wise—to seek digital means to satiate their gaming hunger, with people worldwide thinking the same.
Countries like Italy and France, which are in lockdown, saw a 170% increase in digital game downloads in March alone, with over 2.74 million downloads.
It may be a trend that we see in the coming months–One that could beat out physical copies in due time.