Is co-existence possible, or even necessary?
I've been thinking about this one for a little more than a week or so, which should be much of a coincidence since it's when this Penny Arcade strip came out. The comic, along with Tycho's rant, pretty much tear into the idea that discs are a thing that PC gamers actually need anymore, and that console gamers are eventually going to be in the same boat as well. Now I'm not against digital downloads -- you won't be able to find discs for Team Fortress 2, Killing Floor, or The Binding of Issac anywhere in my house -- but I'm also not entirely sure that a physical content delivery system deserves the level of scorn that seems to be present here.
The stupid thing is though I'm not sure why.
Perhaps as Tycho mentions there is some archaic holdover, something that makes me personally feel better when I have a copy of something in my hands as opposed to just on my computer. I can understand the anger though, because when you have the harddrive space being used up by something that will "totally be available soon" when the only caveat is that you have to wait for it to be properly distributed in the real world, you might get a little pissed off. What's the point of being able to download the entire thing early if there's no benefit in doing so other then avoiding the inevitable server congestion when it gets closer to crunch time?
If given the choice, being able to just magically get a copy of what you want without having to rely on it actually being anywhere close to you is the obvious choice, and if the game is ready to go then why shouldn't people be able to play it as soon as they can feasibly do so? Frankly speaking it's a question that I don't really have an answer to, only befuddlement.
Of course there are a handful of legitimate reasons why a person might choose a physical copy of a game over a digital one; lack of high speed internet or a very leen download cap might heavily influence the decision, especially when most titles are counted in multiple gigabytes more often then not these days. In what I believe is a slight paradox as well if you're waiting until launch day to decide if you want to get something, then you might as well pick up the physical copy, which will save you from having to compete with the people trying to download the game as it goes live.
However, I have to admit that the reasons I just outlined are not a major concern for a lot of gamers. Perhaps all the talk of digital media and the impact that the leap to a pure digital distribution system will one day have on consoles and by extension things like DRM and the used market simply has me leery, or if I'm just wearing my nostalgia goggles like an idiot, but I suppose that regardless of any of that I can enjoy games whether or not I can actually hold them in my hand, and that's really all that matters, for now at least.