The PS5 Digital Edition rings a loud bell in the ever-changing console wars. At the end of the PS5 reveal event, we found out that Sony's starting off this generation of console gaming by telling us what we already know: the local games store is dying.
They made this statement by simply revealing that the PS5 will come in both a standard edition with an optical disc drive and the PS5 Digital Edition that will only play digital games.
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And from where we stand now, I'm not just ready to pre-order, I'm willing to spend more on the standard PS5. That being said, I know I'm an outlier on this, so I'll break down the pros and cons of going with each side.
PS5 vs. PS5 Digital Edition price
Simply put, it's practically a lock that the PS5 Digital Edition will be cheaper than the regular PlayStation 5. Microsoft set that precedent last year with its Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, which retails for $50 less than the Xbox One S with 4K Blu-ray drive. Also a recent PS5 price leak on Amazon (which Amazon subsequently denied) suggests the PS5 Digital Edition could be around $100/€100 less than the regular PS5.
And as much as that price gap is more than I want to spend, I will probably pay up anyway.
I totally understand why many gamers might want to go digital for PS5. That extra $100 is enough for nearly two full-priced games, or could be invested in extra controllers or other accessories. Plus, we live in economically uncertain times, where even the thought of buying a new console might be a lot for people to process, when whole industries have paused and are only now slowly coming back.
I'm not one to argue with statistics, which back up the hordes of folks who will likely opt for the PS5 digital edition. Statista reports that in 2018, "a record 83 percent of all computer and video games were sold in digital form."
Going further into looking at optical media's tombstone, a 2019 report showed that DVD sales dropped more than 86 percent since 2008. So it's clear that people's desire for physical media is going down.
Why you should buy the standard PS5
Not to be a contrarian, but I'm of the belief that I'll want to own a physical copy when a movie or video game is really important to me.
Right now, in the age of social distance and delayed shipments, I've been OK with buying digital first. I'd rather start a game soon (hi Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I wish I'd bought you on day one) than wait.
At the same time, in the age of streaming, it makes sense to buy optical media for movies that you want to own forever. First of all, the Movies Anywhere program means that most Blu-ray purchases come with codes for digital copies, that work across all platforms.
And while a digital purchase should give you a license to stream the movie online forever, the legal fine print can always change that around. Plus, most streaming devices don't have a capacious enough hard drive to keep every movie saved locally — if the apps you use even allow for downloads. Instead, relying on digital purchases makes you rely on your internet provider for quality download speeds.
If I sound like am a hoarder, that's probably an accurate read on me. But tell me you've never felt the pain of trying to find a show or movie that isn't available to stream. My colleague Marshall Honorof has recently been telling me about how much of a pain it is to find David Attenborough's nature documentary series The Life of Mammals, which is seemingly being lost to the digital ether, only preserved online in grainy and illegal means.
And then there's the other reason why I'm buying the digital edition: the PS5's backwards compatibility. We don't know how much of the PS4 library will be supported by the PS5 (my colleague Adam Ismail argues that both Sony and Microsoft's definition of 'backwards compatible' hasn't proven to be great), but any backwards compatibility is better than none.
And right now, with each major console and more than a few streaming boxes, I'd like to retire my PS4 once the PS5 arrives — and I can't feel great doing that if I'm also shelving dozens of optical PS4 games. Many of those titles I still have a ways to go in, such as the still-difficult Tetris Effect.
Why you should buy the PS5 Digital Edition
That being said, I can't help but think about how much time and effort I spent trying to fix my PS4's eject button, which would randomly spit out discs. The more moving parts in a piece of hardware, the higher chance of something breaking.
If you're trying to reduce the amount of possible upkeep, the best advice we can give is to get the PS5 Digital Edition. But don't expect the PS5 Digital Edition to be worry free. Many Xbox 360 owners can tell you about the "Red Ring of Death" that had nothing to do with its disc drive.
Ultimately, the PS5 Digital Edition will likely be the cheapest PS5 you can get, and is a good fit for gamers who mainly buy digital and don't have a stack of physical PS4 games lying around. But keep in mind the pros of having a disc drive before you decide.