Should you buy digital or physical Xbox One games?

Should you buy digital or physical Xbox One games?

Best answer: If you value convenience, Xbox Play Anywhere, or Game Pass above all, digital is your best bet. If you're motivated most by getting the best price, then you should buy physical games.Amazon: Xbox gift card (From $10)GameStop: Pre-owned games

The case for digital

Xbox Store

Some folks, including those who work here at Windows Central, have gone all digital to rid their lives of clutter, and that is a very valid reason. Some of us on staff have in excess of 250 titles in our collections, and that'd make for a mountain of physical discs and cases.

Digital doesn't also mean you have to stop buying games at your favorite retailers. You can go into a store or online to somewhere like Amazon or the Microsoft Store and hand over your cash in exchange for a download code, or for Microsoft Store credit to spend through your console.

Embrace your laziness and get rid of clutter with digital copies.

Then there's the ever-growing population of ID@Xbox titles from smaller developers. More often than not these are only available in digital form from the store. Likewise, if you want to take advantage of Xbox Play Anywhere or Xbox Game Pass, you're 100% reliant on digital downloads.

Physical discs might seem like they would have an installation speed advantage — for most gamers, the Xbox can read off the disc faster than it can download the full game from the internet — but that advantage has been mostly scuttled by the massive first-day download patches that have become par for the course for practically every major game release these days.

And finally, for those of us who hate getting up, digital copies allow you to fully embrace your laziness. You don't need to extract yourself from your comfortable spot on the couch to pop a new disc in. That physical discs install fully to the Xbox's hard drive and still require you to insert the disc to play makes a case for digital even stronger.

The case for physical

Xbox One

The case for physical is essentially a monetary one. As you're giving someone money for an object, you're not as limited to where you can get your games from as if you're buying digital. Sure, download codes are sold in a number of places, but discs are sold in more.

One of the big things you will nearly always see with physical copies of games is that prices drop a lot quicker than their digital counterparts. There are some ancient digital games on the Store that are still full price but can be had for peanuts somewhere like Amazon or your local game retailer.

Buying physical opens you up to buying pre-owned or trading in your finished games.

In-store deals are frequent among traditional retailers, and it's unlikely a week will ever pass by without there being something worth snapping up.

Buying physical also opens you up to buying pre-owned from places like GameStop and eBay, while also being able to trade in your finished games for money off something else. Once you've completed a digital title, it just sits there, paid for and with no further benefit to you. You can sell a disc online or trade in for credit on the next hot new game.

And of course, some of us enjoy having a collection, especially considering that special, collectors editions of games often come with a physical copy, not a download code. See the Rage 2 collectors edition as an example of that.

So which is best?

There's no right and wrong answer. Only you can decide what is best for you. Our recommendation is a little bit of both. It doesn't matter how you get your games just so long as you're getting what you want and you're happy with what you've paid.

There are distinct financial benefits to be had from buying physical copies which can't be ignored, but there are plenty of good and valid reasons for going digital. You can't go far wrong keeping your options open.

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at