Best answer: Sony's purchase policies don't allow retailers other than the PlayStation Store to sell digital game downloads. Because of this, you'll need to buy a gift card if you want to give your friend a digital game.
How to buy a digital copy of a PS4 or PS5 game for your friend
Unfortunately, you technically can't gift a digital copy of a game anymore, on PS4 or PS5. While this used to be an option, it's no longer possible. Now, if you want to give a digital game to a friend, you'll want to send them a PlayStation Store gift card so they can buy the game themselves. It's far from ideal, but it's the only real option. You can buy someone a physical game, but then you'll have to ship it to them, and they can't play it if they are using a PS5 Digital Edition. While inconvenient, if you truly want to buy a game for someone without them technically purchasing on the PlayStation Store, a physical copy will be your only option.
Fortunately, if this is truly the way you want to do it, Sony continues to produce physical copies of all its first-party games from Sony Worldwide Studios and major third-party titles from other companies. All of the best PS5 games will be available physically and digitally for the foreseeable future. You don't need to worry about this changing anytime soon. So if you insist on buying a game for your friend, make sure you have their address (or will see them in person to just give it to them), and as long as they're okay with disc drives, you can give them a physical copy of the game.
Why can't we gift digital games anymore?
Sony used to allow digital game gifting through digital codes at retailers, but not anymore. Effective April 1, 2019, Sony disallowed retailers to sell full digital game download codes.
"We can confirm that as of April 1, 2019, Sony Interactive Entertainment will no longer offer full games through SIE's Global Digital at Retail program," a PlayStation spokesperson told The Verge. "This decision was made to continue to align key businesses globally. To support full games and premium editions, SIE will introduce increased denominations at select retailers. DLC, add-ons, virtual currency, and season passes will still be available."
Previously, people could buy digital game codes through Amazon, Best Buy, and GameStop stores. Now, however, that's no longer an option. Unfortunately, there aren't many other options for those looking for different paths to gifting games to their friends, especially if you're strictly looking to pick up a digital copy.
What about game subscriptions?
While not directly gifting a game, you do also have the option of buying your friend a subscription service like PlayStation Plus. Anyone subscribed to PlayStation Plus gets free monthly games that they can keep forever, with premium titles often offered, so PS5 owners have access to plenty of games. In addition, they'll also get instant access to the PlayStation Plus Collection, a selection of PS4 games accessible for PS5 users subscribed to PlayStation Plus.
Alternatively, you can gift your friend a subscription to PlayStation Now. This service doesn't have as many newer games, and it also doesn't support PS5 versions of games, meaning there won't be any features like ray tracing, ultra-fast loading, or 120 FPS support. With that in mind, it does grant access to a relatively extensive library of several hundred games. These games can be streamed, so they don't have to be downloaded to a console before playing.
It's not ideal, but if you're wondering how to gift PS4 or PS5 digital games to your friends, you'll need to buy them a gift card. Luckily, you have several denominations to choose from, and it does give your friend a choice in what they pick out.
Buy From: Amazon
While you won't be directly buying your friend a game, they're still sure to appreciate a PlayStation Plus membership, which grants several free games monthly.
Buy From: Amazon
PlayStation Now doesn't have a ton of the latest games, but it has an extensive library of PS3 and PS4 titles that can be streamed. If you're not sure about getting a particular game, gifting a PlayStation Now sub will work nicely.
Buy From: PlayStation
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