Going Digital

 

The move to digital is a curious thing, as I tend to take a somewhat schizophrenic approach as I separate my attitude as a media practitioner and as a media consumer.  In most cases, I’m completely and entirely for moving everything to a digital format.  Digital simply makes life easier.  It’s far more portable and very easy to work with (editing video and sound in digital is a godsend compared to the crude and often frustrating methods of editing in analog).  For a media practitioner, the digital convergence couldn’t come fast enough.

As a media consumer, however, I take a much more varied approach.  In the case of music, I love digital.  With a few exceptions (I still buy CD copies of my absolute favorite CDs), everything always comes digitally.  When it comes to video games, and especially movies, however, I almost always prefer a hard copy to a digital copy.  Some of my reasoning for this is for practical reasons – DVDs are easier.  You can simply pop them in to any player anywhere and watch your movie.  With digital copies, they’re often restricted to only play on certain programs (like iTunes) or sometimes even only on certain computers themselves.  The restrictive nature of digital copies is one of the major reasons keeping me from switching to that method.  I know this is somewhat improving and companies are getting better about offering a single download across platforms, but they still have a long way to go in making this a seamless process.

Another big issue that is often raised by those who are slow to adopt digital consumption is that of security.  It goes something like this – “Can I lose my digital download?  And if I do, can I get it back without paying for it again?”  Most companies now have some sort of insurance against this, but, again, it’s not a perfect system.  Digital copies can be lost for a variety of reasons (the biggest two being a crash and removal due to lack of space), and, in most cases, you’re insured to get them back, but is it worth the hassle?  I would think not – especially if you buy movies from a variety of different retailers.  Since I don’t buy movies through many other sources, this is merely conjecture, but I assume that different companies have different policies.  Unless you download exclusively through one service, you might run into issues now and again.  Granted, this is the smallest problem, as most companies have done a decent job addressing it.

Perhaps the biggest issue in digital consumption (besides the restrictive nature of digital copies) is that of space.  Quite frankly, it’s limited.  Games and movies (especially high quality ones) tend to take a chunk out of the ol’ hard-drive.  While it’s true that hard-drives are getting cheaper and cheaper, it still costs money to buy a hard-drive of a decent capacity.  I realize that a couple of movies here and there won’t really dent your hard-drive, but it’s it a different story when you apply this model over time.  If all the DVDs I owned were converted into a digital format, it would easily be more than I could fit on my computer (or even my terabyte drive).  And if you want to try it on your entertainment consoles, be prepared for multiple drives – current XBox360 and PS3 drives can only hold a max of 250G.  Granted, this argument only applies if you are an avid consumer who downloads a substantial amount of media, but it’s a valid point, as everything has its limits.

Don’t get me wrong – the digital format still has a lot of advantages.  Far and away, the best advantage is the fact that it’s a whole lot cheaper.  Additionally, the industry is tackling some of the issues I mentioned above.

But they haven’t quite arrived yet.  A lot of the kinks of digital consumption have yet to be ironed out.  No doubt they will be overtime, but, as a whole, the industry still has a lot to figure out.  Of course, this is the case with any new idea in media.  Some of you may remember that DVD took a long time to catch on (and look where it is now).

Do I think movies/games will go exclusively digital?  Perhaps, but it will take a very long time to do so.  I think the general public (much like myself) trusts hard copies a lot more.  After all, Sony tried its digitally-exclusive PSPGo this past year, and that failed pretty quickly (a price tag only $50 away from the PS3 didn’t help either).  The industry may be promoting digital consumption, but I think it will go hand-in-hand with hard copies for at least awhile yet.  Once the kinks get worked out, however, we may see things differently.  But, for now, I’m willing to bet that hard copies are here to stay.

[UPDATE: Seems Microsoft and Sony have learned a bit from the restrictiveness of digital downloads, but Nintendo still has a ways to go.  http://gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2010/03/30/DSi-Downloads-Non_2D00_Transferable.aspx]

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~ by digitallysmitten on March 30, 2010.

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