I’ve always been a big fan of simplicity.
Over the years I’ve both seen and experienced various technologies maturing from the “well, it’s technically possible” baby-steps stage, through the awkward “this works but it’s annoying” phase, and on to “this is really easy to use” maturity.
One of those technologies is digital distribution. Netflix for movies is a great example.
In the old days you’d pick a DVD, they’d send it to you, you’d send it back, they’d send another.
Easy enough, but why bother with a DVD when you can just have the movie streamed directly to your TV in HD quality?
Hulu is another one — don’t worry about missing your favorite show, because you can watch it whenever you want, wherever you want.
Just a few years ago, you needed a computer to use both of those platforms — but now they’ve got apps that can be found in many new smart TVs.
Video games are another great example.
An app called “Steam” has been around for years — you can buy and play video games without ever leaving home — and gaming consoles like PlayStation and XBox have their own digital stores, where you can buy games and store them directly on the device.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s just easier and faster to get your hands on a digital copy of whatever media you want than it is to go out and buy it, much to the despair of brick-and-mortar retailers and video rental stores. Digital versions also have another important advantage — they can’t be easily damaged. Case in point: I recently bought Grand Theft Auto V for my XBox 360 — the physical copy.
While I was loading the game, one of my dogs ran across the living room and slid into my XBox. I heard a nauseating cacophony of scratching, spinning noises coming from it.
When I ejected the disc from the XBox, it was covered in scratches, utterly useless. Not to be daunted, I fired up my PlayStation 3, purchased the game online, and was playing it just a little while later.
To be sure, there are some disadvantages — one of which is that you usually can’t access things like Netflix without an Internet connection.
Likewise, if you’ve got a digital copy of a game (or sometimes even a physical version), you might not be able to play it if you can’t get online.
Sometimes, the physical version of a movie or game will come with extras — for example, in the case of Grand Theft Auto, a useful map came with the physical version, but was unavailable with the digital copy (although it was possible to find it online).
When I look at how I purchase and consume media these days, I increasingly favor digital distribution — when it comes to books, movies or games. It’s just faster and easier, and often significantly cheaper. There are some inconveniences, to be sure, but generally the upsides outweigh the downsides, and as the technology matures, that’s increasingly the case.