With the ease of downloading games increasing consistently, digital marketplaces have become more popular and digital sales figures have begun to overtake those of physical games. Not having to wait at home relying on the postal service or go out to a store to pick the game up, being able to minimize the clutter that video game cases cause, and being able to pre-load a game are all legitimate reasons for preferring digital media over physical. According to the The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 74% of video game-related sales are now purchased digitally. However, there’s still plenty of reasons why people prefer the traditional format, and that is proven by the news about the Xbox One version of PUBG’s stellar sale numbers.
Of course, there’s the collectors point of view. Whether they be unique collectors editions that come with a beautiful, one of a kind statue of your favorite character, or standard boxed copies, an extensive shelved video game collection is something that excites a lot of people. Buying physical also gives you the chance to trade-in your unwanted games for money that can go towards your next adventure, something you can’t do with downloaded games. Then there’s the fact that you may be able to get physical games cheaper if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber or a Best Buy Gamers Club member, or the unfortunate situation that some gamers face where their internet speeds simply aren’t good enough to download the huge games that release nowadays. Even with the ease of digital purchasing, there’s still strong reasons why people choose to go physical.
VGChartz has revealed that PUBG sold 581,761 units during its first week at retail on the Xbox One. For a game that had 3 million players on Xbox One after just one month, and 30 million on PC by the end of 2017, that number may seem small in comparison. However, when you consider the format of the Xbox One version of PUGB, the number seems surprisingly high, rather than disappointingly low. The physical version of PUBG on Xbox One was nothing more than a code in a cardboard box. The box itself wasn’t a proper Xbox One game box, even if the design was similar, so it doesn’t look great alongside the rest of your collection. You do not get a disc version included – instead you have to type the code on the slip that’s included into the Xbox One’s store and wait for it to download. Essentially, buying the physical version of PUBG complicates the process of downloading the standard digital version. You still have to wait for the download to complete, you don’t get to put a pretty box on your shelf, you won’t ever be able to trade it in, and you have to wait for it to be delivered to your home or you have to go and by it from a store. However, what this does show is that the physical market is still a vital part of the video games industry.
Even with the Xbox One version of PUBG being little more than a digital version delivered to your door, a huge number of gamers decided to opt for it over the digital version. It would have made sense that the sales percentage was lower due to it being a less desirable package, without many of the benefits of physical media, but that wasn’t the case. The answer to why that was may be as simple as people not knowing that it wasn’t an on-disc title, but that is unlikely for those that bought it in person. Alternatively, they may have opted for physical due to retailer deals, whether that be a percentage off from Amazon or Best Buy, or in-game bonuses. Also, since it was such a high-profile release and debuted so close to the holiday season, in mid-December and after most of the other fall games, non-gamer family and friends may have picked it up for their loved ones as presents, and they’re always more likely to go for the physical version.
Either way, gamers decided to purchase the Xbox One version of PUGB physically, rather than digitally, even when many of the arguments for doing so with other titles didn’t apply. It didn’t look pretty as part of a collection, it couldn’t be traded in, and you still had to download it like a digital copy. That simply shows that the power of online and brick-and-mortar retailers still exists and that fans will still buy physically due to it being the cheaper option or a habit that they choose not to shake. Some figures may suggest that digital has begun to take over, but the PUBG sales prove that it hasn’t quite happened yet.