When you started your foray into the world of visual novels, you probably bought a digital copy from Steam, GOG, VNTranslations, or Itch.io. Maybe you bought it because you found out about a game from your favourite franchise (Psycho-Pass, KonoSuba, HameFura). Or maybe it was because you discovered that an anime you liked was adapted from a visual novel (see Bible Black, Clannad, or Steins;Gate). But is it better to have a physical copy of a visual novel, or a digital copy?
I wrote this article intending to answer that question while giving you an overview of my collection:
First, we must ask, “Why should I own either format?”
One advantage of owning a digital copy is that it does not take up any space in your room or house. However, the biggest reason to buy digital is arguably the potential cost of physical media. If you factor in import costs, a game may end up costing more than a digital copy would. This complaint is based on personal experience. Since I live in the UK, import tax is 20% the cost of the item. So if I spend £70 on a game online, I’d also have to pay £10 for postage and 20% in tax! As a result, my purchase would cost me £96.
Why own physical media?
Now let’s look at the arguments in favor of owning physical media. First and foremost, you will always own your copy if you purchase it physically. It is in your hands, and nobody can say you do not own it. Additionally, if you game on console, like me, you can buy imported titles and play them on region-free consoles. For example, the Nintendo Switch, PS4/PS5, Xbox One, and the PlayStation Vita are all region-free consoles, meaning that you can purchase a game that does not exist in your region’s store. So if you don’t want to go to the trouble of hacking your account to change its region—a necessary step if you want to buy a digital copy of a game released outside of your region—buy a physical copy.
Why not own physical media?
Unfortunately for fans of physical media, sometimes your console or PC will just keel over and die. Maybe your favorite console’s disc drive will stops working one day, or perhaps your PC will overheat too much and create a fire within the processor. This is a problem felt and understood by gamers of all backgrounds and platforms. You can also lose your save files. Maybe the console causes your game to glitch, or maybe the game is naturally buggy.
This is why it can be handy to have a digital copy. A digital copy of a game often has the advantage of cloud saving. Furthermore, you cannot physically damage a digital copy of a game. A physical disc, on the other hand, can get scratched beyond recognition. If a game is rare, it can be difficult to replace. This is why I prefer the cartridge format for games.
What should I do now?
So is it worth owning physical and digital copies? Or are you better off choosing one side or the other? Realistically, there is no correct answer, although I tend to prefer physical media for a few more reasons. First, Steam has recently delisted games before or after publication. The English version of Chaos;Head is one example of this. It was scheduled for release on Steam, but was briefly delisted. The resulting outrage from fans caused Steam to reverse course. Another example is Dungeon Travelers 2. Unfortunately, it was delisted by Steam and has not returned to the storefront. I’m glad to have physical copies of all three titles in the To Heart spinoff series in my library.
Purchasing a digital copy of a game, however, is a great way to determine if a physical copy is worth it. Because digital copies sometimes cost less, and are occasionally on sale, they may be worthwhile to the wallet-conscious consumer. This is especially true for visual novels since physical copies are often limited and more expensive.
In short, while I prefer physical media overall, digital copies may be more advantageous to you. Lastly, I want to present to you how much I love physical media by showing you my extensive game collection for both PSVita & Nintendo Switch.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading my first article! Please share your thoughts with me and let me know if you prefer digital or physical media. If there are some key points I’ve not considered, feel free to let me know with a comment. And if you’re curious about any of the games in my collection, I’d be more than happy to answer any questions.
My name is Yuusha.