The game itself is fantastic (I will post a review in a few days) and the purchase itself isn't what I regretted, it was the digital purchase.
According to a recent BBC story digital downloads now account for 25% of gaming sales and gamers by their nature are surely one of the first demographics to get on board with this sort of purchase. PC markets such as Steam are doing very well with convenience and reasonable pricing (particularly during regular sales) but there are several things that don't tally well for me with the way consoles are selling their products.
Firstly, the cost. Boxed products must be physically created, shipped around the world and sold from stores that demand a cut of the profit. Why then is the cost of a digital download usually very similar or often more expensive than boxed products, particularly when sold through online retailers. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo can obviously take a bigger cut through their own online stores but a quick comparison of best prices found online and Xbox Live or PSN is included here:
Second problem (and the one that should make publishers want me to buy digitally) is the lack of ability to trade in. For gamers whose income is limited the ability to trade in is surely a must and when digital downloads cost as much or more than boxed products why would people buy them. My copy of Gravity Rush sits on my memory stick and can't be loaned to friends or traded in. The money is spent and never to be seen again. I don't trade in a lot of games these days and have a growing collection of boxed games on all of my home consoles but I know I could trade in any of them if I wanted to. Pre-owned games is currently big business for high-st retailers, generating billions of pounds worth of revenue worldwide. Money that isn't making it to the games creators or publishers.
The third problem for me is the actual lack of a boxed product. As a gamer I quite like having the product on my shelf, showing an impressive collection of games. I also like having the instruction books and 'stuff' that go with buying a boxed product. Where would I be without my lovely big map of Skyrim or Liberty City to help me find my ways through the early days?
Another issue is the worrying existing of who holds the digitial rights to downloaded games. Amazon's Kindle faced ownership issues when it digitally deleted two George Orwell books over copyright issues. Could Microsoft or Sony pull an Amazon and delete or remove a game if an issue becomes a problem?
Finally the actual cost falls to me for providing a storage medium. This is less and less of an issue but with the cost of a PS Vita memory card costing £25 for an 8 GB card it only takes a couple of games to fill this. My aging 360 that came with a once adequate 20 GB hard drive is struggling to have room for the DLC I want, let alone full games.
What benefits to digital download?
It means that I can get the game I want, when I want with very short wait time and without getting off my couch. Online stores demand a wait for delivery although this is negated slightly by the fact that preorders are often shipped and arrive before or on release date from major online retailers.
The only other benefit I can think of is being able to get difficult to find games. Vita games are currently very poorly stocked at most stores near me and I live in central London and my 'local' stores are flagship Oxford St outlets of Game and HMV.
Now I understand that PSN or Xbox Live is simply selling at RRP but why are the games manufacturers shackling themselves to a price that other retailers simply do not.
At the moment console manufaturers are slightly beholden to games stores and undercutting them completely is probably not wise but at the moment they're not even competitive. With the vast difference in boxed prices of games and downloadable games and the actual product that you buy, downloadable games on consoles are a tough sell. I would doubtlessly be more tempted to make online purchases of big titles more regularly if they were more reasonably or competively priced (I'm as lazy as the next man).
I do worry about a time when console manufacturers take the choice out of gamers hands. With the ill-fated PSP Go, Sony ventured in to the digital download only market. The iPhone and Android devices are proving that games can be sold en-masse to gamers in downloadable form. What's certain is that games companies are trying to take more control of their own market with the increasing prevalence of extra codes to play games online and the rumours that just won't go away about one use games on next gen-consoles.
If games were noticablly cheaper through PSN or Xbox Live then I would buy more games from them as price is without doubt more important to me than the other issues I've mentioned here. Let's hope that the future of our industry sees good changes to the way games are sold and pricing.
(*All prices taken on 18/6/12 from PSN, Xbox Live, Shopto.net, game.co.uk and amazon.co.uk)