Welcome to Collectors Edition, a semi regular series of posts where I talk about a few topics around what it is like being a retro gaming collector, along with anything else I want to talk about related to this whole retro gaming scene. I thought I’d start off with a big one and talk about the state of physical media in the 2024 gaming scene.

It seems like we are marching closer and closer to an all digital gaming future, and that makes me very sad indeed. This trend can be traced back a few console generations ago when the consoles could first connect to the internet, where each console had their version of a digital storefront where you could purchase updates and full games could be downloaded to the console. With each subsequent console release offering a more streamlined and convenient way to purchase more content without ever leaving the comfort of your own home the physical gaming scene died a little. This became even more apparent when the console manufacturers released consoles which were digital only versions of the current generation models.
The Covid-19 pandemic also had a role to play in the state we are in now, steering gamers away from the brick and mortar stores and towards digital storefronts. Online services like Steam, Xbox Game Pass, GeForce Now and Playstation Plus have all exploded in popularity in the last few years.

Digital gaming is not without it’s advantages, I’d be silly not to acknowledge this. Having instant access to a large gaming collection as soon as you boot up your console is very convenient. Not having to deal with the housing and storing of a large collection could be invaluable to people with limited space, I mean, that’s why flash carts for old consoles, and digital console modding are so popular these days.

One massive problem in this current landscape of always online gaming, is that you are at the mercy of large companies, be it console manufacturers or gaming companies. Countless times over the years console makers have turned off their online store servers, meaning that you can no longer play the games you may have purchased or have no more access to any online aspect of the games. Game companies also stop supporting games all the time leaving gamers having to just give up and play something else. With digital gaming you will never really own anything that you have shelled out real money for.

At one point in the not so distant past, dedicated game stores were plentiful on the high street, Chips being a particular favourite of mine. Supermarkets would also have a great range of games on their shelves. But as time marched on, the majority of game stores closed, companies went bust and what were once good game stores, became a shadow of their former selves. I’m looking at you GAME. The harsh reality of this is that if the physical games were selling well, then these companies would still be going.

While there’s no doubt that digital gaming offers convenience, it lacks the tangible appeal of a physical collection. Looking through a physical shelf full of games has a much more emotional connection than scrolling through a list of games on a screen, reminding those of us a certain age, of a forgotten time as a child when we would go to Blockbuster Video and look through the wall of movies and picking one you have never heard of because it looked good on the box. This cannot be done in the same way digitally.

Another terrible recent trend that mainly Nintendo seems to be guilty of, is releasing a code in a box. Nothing in the box but a bit of paper with the game code. Think about the damage on the environment that manufacturing these causes. While we’re all over here sucking out of paper straws.

I mean, what is this rubbish

There are companies out there who are fighting this trend though, companies like ‘Limited Run Games’ and ‘Super Rare Games’ etc, all release physical collectors edition versions of games that may not have been released in all regions, or some that were never available physically. This has become a niche market, catering to those who cherish the physicality of gaming.

Looking ahead, the demise of physical media seems sadly inevitable. New generations of gamers are embracing the digital age with open arms, while at the same time never really owning anything tangible. This makes me weep for the future.