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The video game marketplace is very different now than it was when many of us where kids. We remember things like strolling through Blockbuster to rent a game for the weekend or wandering around Toys’R’Us looking to purchase a new game with birthday money. That world is all over now. Blockbuster was all but dismantled by Netflix. Toys’R’Us is closing its doors. And you don’t even have to leave your house to buy games anymore thanks to digital storefronts.

The rise of digital marketplaces has brought with it a great debate between gamers who will only purchase “physical” games on discs and cartridges and those who will only buy them digitally. Both sides of the battle have their merits, but it can lead some parents very confused. This is especially true for those of us who remember when buying games was simple.

This article is intended to lift the curtain on the debate between buying physical and digital games to help you make the best decisions for your family. I know that sounds dramatic… after all we are still buying games whether they come in a box or come through the internet. I don’t mean to make it sound serious, but I do believe that this is a topic that is worth thoughtful consideration. Making the right decision for your family can save you a lot of frustration and money. (And who doesn’t love that?)


“Physical Games” are games that are purchases in a retail store or purchased through on online retailer. The game itself is stored on either a disc or a cartridge. You might be able to download additional content for the game online, but the bulk of the game is available on the physical media.

“Digital Games” are games purchases entirely online. There is no disc or cartridge at all. Instead, you simply buy them game from a digital marketplace and download it to your device. Most of us are used to this model on our phones and there are some games that are only released digitally for consoles and for PC. But, the truth is that just about every major video game is available for digital purchase.

Physical Games – Pros and Cons


  • Used Games – The strongest case for physical games is that you can purchase those games used at a lower price. This is a fundamental part of the games industry. Buying and selling used games is keeping Game Stop afloat and has been for years.
  • Sharing – Physical games aren’t locked to a specific console so they can easily be shared with friends and family.
  • Trading/Selling – Physically purchased games can be traded in to game stores like Game Stop or sold second hand.


  • Space – Physical games and their boxes take up space and can create a lot of clutter. This might not not matter to everyone, but parents who cringe when they see a stack of game cases
  • Durability – Physical game cartridges and discs can be damaged, lost, or stolen.

Digital Games – Pros and Cons


  • Cheap Games – The games can be deeply discounted because they don’t need to be sold at a price that includes the cost of the disc or cartridge it is stored on.
  • Cleanliness – There are no discs or cartridges which leads to less clutter
  • Availability – Digital purchases allow you to have access to a game  at all times. This is a pretty big deal for handheld systems like the Nintendo 3DS or the Nintendo Switch. You’ll have those games in your library everywhere you go.


  • Ownership vs Licensing – You don’t actually own the games you buy digitally. Instead, you are purchasing a license to download it and play. This means that the developer or publisher can alter or remove the game from the market at any time.
  • Non-shareable – You don’t have a disc or cartridge to loan, trade, or give away.
  • Download Size – Many modern games take up a LOT of space because of their large file sizes. Hard drives that come built in on modern consoles don’t have unlimited space.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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By Stephen Duetzmann

Editor in Chief Founder/EiC Blogger, Podcaster, Video Host RE: games that families can play together.

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