I know that title has been overused many times but I think we are finally at the place where it has become true. Looking at the current generation of games (8th generation being Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch) you actually have an option for ownership of the games, you can own purchase the game discs but some of them are incomplete games and need that Day-1 patch for it to become playable. While other games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 the disc only contains the playable demo on it and the actual game is the Day-1 patch. The dreamcast was the first console I had that allowed for content downloads to add new things or rosters into the games, but the xbox changed the gaming environment by not only having it add in new content like characters, but allowing game updates to be done similar to how they do for computer games. This generation seems to be always releasing unfinished or broken games at launch and requiring huge gigabytes of downloaded patches to have the game in a playable (but not always as advertised) state.
Now if we look at the upcoming generation of game “consoles” what are we currently see being advertised? Streaming only consoles, consoles with no disc drives, etc. We are seeing a future where we do not own the actual games but instead purchase a Licensed Key code or token from their online servers that the streaming console reads your Licensed Key and possibly your console Serial Number and says you have permission to play this game. But as we have learned many times in the past with similar aspects such as online only games that once that server is closed and taken offline you no longer can play the game because it can not pull the data required from the host server.
examples of online only games that have become unplayable since the servers are gone now
DC Universe, MAG
examples of online only games that have been revived to play online
City of Heroes, Phantasy Star Online
Examples of games you can not buy anymore because was digital releases only and never got retail versions
Castlevania Harmony of Despair, Ghostbusters Sanctum of Slime, Scott Pilgram vs the World
Now think about that where your entire console library is digital only, currently if your console (say ps4 or xbox one) goes bad and needs repair you send it to the company (Sony, Microsoft, etc) and often they send you back a different console that had already been repaired and sitting in a warehouse. So you have to relicense your content again by making it your home console and then it pairs the console ID with your account andnow you can play all your purchased games. But if your console was the switch you encounter another problem (last I heard) the game saves are tied directly to your console ID so when you send your system in to be repaired and they send you back a different system all your game saves are no longer valid and you have to play them from the beginning again.
We have also seen where if your account gets suspended for what ever reason you have issues using some or all of your purchased library. So with digital your library is at risk, and you can loose everything, where are if you own the physical retail release (cartridge, disc) you can always create a new account and use the physical item you already own on the new account.
So it shows that the current generation is already causing problems for the content owner, what can we expect when the next generation is ready and released to the public? No longer having to worry about loosing game saves since they will be handled in the cloud and likely tied to the cloud servers, same with game purchases. While also risking if for whatever reason you get your account suspended or banned you will loose everything. Doesn’t matter if you own 1 game or 500 games they all go at once if something happens to your account. This is why I also do not like online stores like Steam, yes it is nice to be able to buy the games dirt cheap during sales but I dislike not really owning them.
Personally I will not be buying a Stadia, PS5, Scarlett, or Nintendo’s next console if they are digital only. If I do end up buying one for my game collection I will either keeping them sealed or wait for the consoles to become more open content.