How Physical Will Video Games be After COVID?

Destruction AllStars

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I’ve been getting almost all of my groceries delivered. This is just one small way in which my work-from-home life has changed in the past year. Now that I’ve grown used to the convenience of having all of my necessities show up on my doorstep for a small fee, I don’t know how often I’ll ever actually go to a grocery store, even when COVID is under control.

A similar thing happened with video games. I do try to buy all of my Nintendo Switch games physically (I did break this rule for Hades, though, because who knows when that will be available on a cartridge?) But the last physical game I got on launch day was Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I picked it up at GameStop while masked up, and since then, that location has shuttered (GameStop isn’t doing well, despite what the stock market might have you believe).

Since then, most of the physical games I’ve purchased were limited-run physical copies of games that had been out for a while now, the Super Mario collection I was way too stressed out about, and a European copy of Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection.

Even when I buy new games physically, they show up late. I’m typing this a full day after Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury came out, and my pre-ordered copy still hasn’t shown up yet. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity showed up a full three days late, and that was also a pre-order. On the other hand, I had Hitman 3 preinstalled before it even launched, and I woke up on launch day and was able to just start playing it (despite the launch-day server issues).

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

Just like the bags of cheese, lettuce, bread, and frozen food that show up on my doorstep, I’ve grown used to simply downloading my video games. No trips out to GameStop or Best Buy or Target — I don’t even have to leave my chair to buy a video game.

Sure, the world was going this direction already. And yes, companies like Limited Run Games will continue putting out incredible collector’s editions of under-the-radar indie darlings, but But I’m wondering if the COVID lockdowns were the final nail in the coffin of physical games. I don’t know how much more oomph there is in the day-one physical games market anymore.

I’m not writing this to express elation over the death of physical media, and I’m not writing it to complain. I feel more like a passive observer here, noting that this trend seems to be happening rather than feeling any particular way about it.

Then again, I’ve been sort of living in a bubble for the past 11 months, and passivity feels more natural by the day.

All that said, I wonder if I will ever enjoy a midnight release party again. Hell, I wonder if I will ever enjoy the experience of going into a store on the morning of a game launch and feeling hyped about some colorful plastic box with a cartridge or disc inside.

Who knows?

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