Sony gambled on an increasingly digital future for gaming when it released the PlayStation 5, with an all-digital model launching alongside a more traditional unit equipped with a disc drive. It seems the company may have been slightly premature though, as physical games have outsold digital on the platform.
In new data from analysis firm Global Sales Data (thanks, GamesIndustry.biz), shows that physical copies of games sold at retail have consistently outsold their downloadable siblings, with boxed titles selling 51 per cent more than digital in the ten months from the PS5’s launch in November 2020 to August 2021.
Perhaps surprisingly, the gap has actually widened over time, with more packaged games being sold. Five physical games were sold at retail for every four downloads in December 2020, but by August 2021, the ratio increased to three physical to two digital.
According to GSD’s data, the only month where digital beat physical was the PS5’s launch month, November 2020. Full-game downloads accounted for 950,000 units that month, compared to 840,000 physical, though this may be explained by stock shortages of games at launch.
GSD’s video games consultant Sam Naji told GI.biz that part of the explanation could be perceived value – with PS5 games often costing $70/£60 RRP, many console owners prefer to have a physical item for their money. Naji also pointed to early adopters preferring to build a library for their consoles, and the convenience of being able to lend out disc-based games to friends. The fact that downloads have historically favoured back catalogue titles, which the PS5 lacks in great number only being a year old, was also considered a factor.
While not discussed by Naji, the relatively small amount of storage space on PS5 may also factor into the preference for physical releases. The PS5’s SSD offers 825GB capacity, but only 667.2GB is usable as game storage after system files are accounted for. With new generation games sometimes taking up over 100GB space, and lacking the option of expandable storage for much of the PS5’s first year, consumers may see physical purchases as the better option – even though disc-based games still need to be installed, it would be quicker to do so from disc than downloading a title again.
Whether more players getting their hands on PS5 consoles in coming months will further widen the gap between physical and digital remains to be seen. Sony’s Jim Ryan recently addressed the shortages of PS5 hardware as the console turned one.
In other news, Rockstar Games has apologised for its troubled release of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition. The company has also made the original PC versions of the three games in the package – GTA 3, San Andreas, and Vice City – available to purchase again, after previously delisting them.