The Problem With Digital Downloads

I’m a big fan of digital downloads. Not being able to get out of bed means if I want to get something independently, digital downloads are the way to go. My biggest purchases are definitely games, but I also get music, films and books this way. It’s awesome.

I mentioned yesterday getting Sammie The Sims 4. It was one of the games she wanted for Christmas and I took it into consideration when building her computer. Thanks to the Black Friday sales, the digital download version was half its normal price on Origin, so it made sense to buy it then. The Standard DVD edition was more expensive than the digital deluxe version. Sammie uses my Origin account as she’s too young for her own (plus it means she has access to the games I’ve previously bought, which I’d give her anyway) but unlike Steam, there’s no gifting option for digital downloads. This means as I wanted to buy it while it was on sale she got access to it immediately, rather than opening it at Christmas. Not exactly a big issue (I’m sure she’ll have plenty of other stuff to open) but it’s something that comes up now.

Digital downloads are amazing but aren’t always ideal as gifts for other people. Some providers do a good job (gifting games on Steam is easy, and you can even keep the game in your own inventory so you don’t need to send it the day you buy it) but others, not so much. You still can’t gift Kindle books and if you want to buy a game on Origin for someone else you have to log into their game to do it. There’s no chance of a surprise there and could be really awkward if you’re in different places (digital gifts are normally awesome if you’re apart as you don’t have to worry about postage).

The other problem is you can’t wrap them. If the item comes as a code (I like Blizzard for this) then there’s an easy way to get around it by printing/writing the code and wrapping that, which is awesome (I’ve had two gifts of World of Warcraft pets done this way, and the creativity that went into the message with it made me as happy as the pets themselves). Humble Bundles come with a URL so you can email that with your own message if you can’t give it physically. For other stuff though, there are less options and a game just appearing in a library isn’t quite the same as  box wrapped in pretty paper.

Some people prefer physical items for various reasons. They might collect DVDs, or enjoy reading physical books. I bought the Collector’s Editions of World of Warcraft for the extras in the box, even though digital versions were available. Digital downloads are great as you can get them immediately and send them anywhere in the world. If the DVD version of The Sims 4 had been the same price as the digital download, I’d have bought that instead so Sammie could open it from under the tree. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I really hope the gifting options for digital items improve soon from those companies that haven’t implemented them yet, as I want to be able to give Sammie ebooks or other digital items when I want to, not necessarily at the time of purchase.

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