Skip to main content

The PS5 desperately needs digital game gifting when it launches

PlayStation Store must play games
PlayStation Store must play games (Image credit: Android Central)

When the PlayStation 5 launches, it really needs to release with native digital game gifting through the PlayStation Store right out of the gate. Sony shouldn't live in Microsoft's shadow when it comes to features like this.

Sony has Microsoft easily beat when it comes to exclusive games, but Microsoft beats Sony in... just about everything else. Xbox has a better game subscription service (Xbox Game Pass), better online play (Xbox Live), better game streaming (xCloud), and it's ahead of the curve when it comes to digital game gifting. In contrast, the PS4 has no form of digital game gifting to speak of.

I'm not going to argue that game gifting on Xbox is perfect, because it's not. For whatever reason, games are still region-locked, so you can't gift a game to a person in another region from you. If you try to, they simply won't be able to play it. But some form of game gifting is still better than nothing.

Sony shouldn't live in Microsoft's shadow when it comes to features like this.

I've said it time and time again, but the future is more digital than ever. This is just common knowledge. It's the way things have been progressing for years, and will continue to do so. Physical media is on its way out, though I wouldn't necessarily say it's dying. It's not gone entirely — the world doesn't quite have the infrastructure for that just yet, as much as Google would like to think otherwise — it's just become increasingly less important. Its share of the revenue pie only gets smaller and smaller.

Sony's first-quarter financial results for 2019 proved this. Digital downloads accounted for 53% of full game sales on the platform. Personally, I can't remember the last time I bought a physical game on either Xbox or PlayStation. Out of the hundreds that I own, maybe a handful are physical. And I almost never play them.

If I had a physical disc sitting on my desk somewhere or under the television, I just didn't want to go and put it in my console. Yeah, you can chalk it up to laziness — and you wouldn't necessarily be wrong — but this is something I found a lot of people deal with. I'm much more inclined to sit on my couch and scroll through my digital library to find a game I want to play. In fact, this only made me play games more than before.

I used to be someone who loathed the idea of digital games. It's not that I thought they made me better, like some physical purist, but I liked the idea of having a tangible object in my hands. A digital library felt temporary. Unstable. Like Microsoft or Sony could wave their hands and it'd disappear at a moment's notice. I'm not nearly as paranoid as that now, and I realize that even if I have a physical disc, I don't technically own the game. I'm renting a license to use it, essentially. And with games now frequently needing to be connected to the internet in some form, there is never a guarantee that a physical disc will always work in the future.

Kratos screaming

Source: Sony (Image credit: Source: Sony)

Getting back to digital game gifting, you can see why receiving a physical game would be an inconvenience for myself. I was given a physical copy of God of War for my PlayStation 4 in 2018 as a Christmas gift, and though it's one of my favorite games of all time, I can't help but wish I had gotten the digital version instead.

Another byproduct of us living in a digital age is that we're also more connected to the rest of the world. I know plenty of people living in other countries, including several coworkers. I can't as easily send them a gift if I wanted to ship a physical game, not to mention any import fees. Digital game gifting would be the perfect solution.

Sony, please make it happen. Digital game gifting needs to be a thing when the PS5 launches.

Jennifer Locke
Games Editor - PlayStation, Android, VR

Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things.

2 Comments
  • You can give people PSN gift cards. Digital gifting is a niche thing that would not have a noticeable impact on how well the PS5 does.
  • Agreed - just send someone a PSN gift card. If they're international, then Paypal them what it would cost to buy the game. Personally, I like having physical copies. My kids will often play a game after I'm done with it. I could run into issues with that on the digital copies, and I certainly don't want to give them access to my PSN account. With the physical copy, they can play the base game, and buy the DLC if they want. And of course, once you're done with it, you can always sell it back to Gamestop or Best Buy and get credit for something else. Digital copy? You're stuck. Now I am concerned about the next gen games coming up with 100 GB Bluray disks. It took me nearly 2 hours to load Red Dead Redemption 2 at 89 GB. Unless the newer Bluray drives are faster, that's a lot of time before you can play the game. I don't know how long it'll take to download a full digital game that big. I have a Fios Gig connection, but even using a wired connection in the house, PSN download rates haven't been the greatest. Things could get bogged down, especially when everyone's pulling down a new game. Physical media may be the quickest way to get going. Might be better to put the games on a read only flash drive - like a USB thumb drive or SD card. With flash, it'd be cool if PSN could update the flash with patches and DLC, if bought.