The digital age is upon us. We have PlayStation and Xbox consoles with no disc drives, and the need for each platform to have a robust library of games for their respective subscription services is at an all-time high. Digital sales numbers far exceed physical ones, and the convenience of being able to visit a digital storefront and buy a game will always be more appealing to most people than pulling a game off the shelf. Despite all that, I can’t see a single good reason for Remedy Entertainment and Epic Games to decide against a physical release for Alan Wake 2.
Shortly after revealing gameplay and a release date during this week’s PlayStation Showcase, Remedy brought fans back down to Earth by revealing Alan Wake 2 will be a digital-only release, even on consoles. It listed off a few flimsy reasons as to why, the first being that a large number of people have shifted to buying games digitally, and that it’s “not uncommon” for modern games to launch digital-only. On the surface, it’s a decision made to save money it doesn’t have.
If Alan Wake 2 was a debut game from a plucky indie studio, I’d probably agree. However, it’s being developed by the studio that made Control and published by the creator of Fortnite. Contrary to its statement, it’s incredibly uncommon for a developer of Remedy’s size to completely skip a physical release, as even publishers like EA and Activision like to pretend that everything is on the disc nowadays. It also argues that skipping a physical release lets it keep the cost of the game at industry standard, another laughable excuse when the game was bankrolled by Epic and Fortnite brings in billions from people buying Miles Morales skins and TikTok dances. Does this mean Remedy is forever going to keep its games at $60 when everyone else around them eventually starts charging $70 regardless of whether they’re in physical or digital form?
The only argument that has any kind of merit here is Remedy’s admission that the game would also require a download if it were to ship on disc, but it’s difficult to see what makes Alan Wake 2 so special compared to games of the same genre, with similar linear gameplay in tight spaces. Resident Evil 4 Remake fits perfectly fine on a disc, as does Dead Island 2, the Dead Space Remake, and every other big linear survival horror game that launched within the last year. With day one patches and updates, size constraints shouldn’t matter either. It’s odd that we’ve reached a point where physical discs are considered such a burden, and even stranger that a game like Alan Wake 2 is so weighed down by physical media it’s skipping it completely.
You may think these are the angry rants from someone who just wants to put a shiny new piece of plastic on their shelf, but Remedy’s attitude towards preservation and general dismissiveness towards a sizable chunk of its audience stinks. Even a limited physical release would be better while still keeping costs down, and no physical copy means a game is instantly harder to properly archive.
Then there’s the irony of Remedy, of all places, being the first to go all-digital, after it has been burned in the past. The original Alan Wake was pulled from digital storefronts and made unavailable to buy for well over a year due to the expiration of certain music licenses. It’s situations like these which understandably make people skeptical about fully putting their trust in digital purchases, knowing that at some point in the future their ownership will cease to be. Dropping $60 on a single game is a big deal for a lot of people, and there are plenty who like to have some assurance that their game isn’t going to completely vanish one day for reasons well outside of their control. A physical copy, even when the servers for updates are long switched offline, helps avoid that problem.
Those looking forward to Alan Wake 2 are rightfully taking the developer to task over the lack of a physical release, though it’s difficult to imagine the backlash becoming severe enough to force a change of heart. There’s no doubt people at Remedy knew this was going to be an unpopular decision, and it’s an inevitability that physical media will die off as games continue to evolve and grow in size, but I was hoping we might have been safe for one more generation at least.
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