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Has The COVID-19 Pandemic Killed Physical Games?

As someone who used to collect retro games 10 years or so ago, I always wonder how long the industry will last when it comes to physical items. Seems like with the COVID-19 pandemic, it may not for very long.

According to Frontier Developments CEO David Braben (makers of Elite Dangerous), he believes COVID-19 has accelerated the shift towards digital distribution (via Gamesindustry).

“We’ve seen an acceleration in the transition from physical to digital. That is a good thing. It’s probably two to three years before physical more or less goes away, and it’s probably accelerated that timescale a bit.”

The situation is a tad troubling given some tweets from experts and analysts as of late.

Regardless, it does mean that people are showing huge interest in games, just not in the typical sense like in a decade or so.

“We’re very lucky to be in a really great industry where, from a financial point of view, things are going really well. Sales are up, the number of players in our games are up quite substantially, so there’s that really positive side [to things].

Some of this is actually quite sticky. We first saw this in China, where there was quite a big uplift in players during their lockdown back in February. What’s interesting is we get foresight of things with China going back to work, and we do see a slightly higher level of sales still persisting than we did beforehand.

There’s a really strong silver lining here. The difficulty is you don’t want to be going, ‘Oh, this is all great’ because we know some people are finding it hard, some people’s partners have been made redundant or are struggling, so there’s a balance there. But overall, it’s been pretty good for our industry.”

Personally, while digital distribution is the way to go, physical games and collections will not be going away so soon. The video game collector’s market, especially the retrogaming side, will always live on as long as gaming is still a hobby enjoyed by many.

There’s really no feeling that will match having a physical copy or keepsake in your hand that digital games can emulate, no matter how practical it is in the long run. After all, sites like Limited Run will always have customers and people will always make demands for collector’s editions for specific niche titles.

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