Paper or plastic.
Which did you want at the grocery store – the fancy new white and stretchy version of grocery bags, or the tried and true standby that had a habit of catastrophically failing just at the right moment, the one time the bag boy put the eggs on the bottom?
Damn bag boy.
Initially, the choice was purely cosmetic, personal. Go with what you liked – there were no judgments, no stigmas. Then, the green revolution happened. We all learned that plastic bags would take 6.9 quadrillion years to decay in a landfill, and paper became the smart, recyclable choice.
Then paper all but disappeared, to be replaced by smug eco-lovers toting their canvas bags and wheeling around their too-beautiful children in gold-plated shopping carts.
Ok, that last part isn’t true, and we use those damn canvas bags ourselves, but that doesn’t change the point. Sometimes, new things are better – either for global conscience or pure awesomeness reasons, and sometimes not so much.
Which brings us to the heart of the matter. Oh yes, we never fail to get here.
Real or virtual? Boxed or tiny downloader windowed? Cardboard or virtual cardboard?
Frankly, we’re not sure.
According to early sales numbers released by Blizz, the game sold 1 million copies on launch day and another half million the day after. This makes it the best-selling PC title of 2010 and the fastest-selling RTS ever.
While Blizzard couldn’t be sure (or didn’t want to say – coy bastards) about the digital download numbers, it is a reasonable assumption that they accounted for a fair portion of the total.
Digital downloading showed up at a time when the Internet was really just hitting its stride, and was featured prominently through services like Steam. Initially, it was a “neat idea” but couldn’t really hope to replace the gaming goodness that came with buying the GIANT BOX that all PC games came in.
Sure, the thing was 90% air, 2% CD-ROMs, 3% manuals and 5% ads for games that would never be released, but somehow it was necessary to have a shelf full of the things if you were a “real” gamer.
Then came the smaller box. This was 1/3 the size of the original, but still retained many of the space-wasting features. Still, it just didn’t seem right to abandon it altogether.
Then, MMOs and other online-only games really started to take off, and digital downloading of everything from patches to full-on game clients became a matter of course. Suddenly the digital download was the smart and savvy option – it could save the world from yet more waste, and meant you didn’t have to actually leave your house.
It just doesn’t feel right.
We’ve downloaded a digital copy of SCII and have no plans to buy a physical version of the game – a caveat here, collector’s editions are a separate category due to their inherent level of awesome – but we have mixed feelings about it.
Sure, we feel the loss when we look at the place on our shelf where the game was supposed to sit, and we wonder “what if?” What if all of the Blizzard servers blew up and we simultaneously got hacked, leaving us with no SCII?
If we had a physical copy, we’d be ok.
What if all of the Internet in the world broke and plus there were like, zombies or something. If we had a physical copy, we could play offline SCII until our brains were no longer fit for human or zombie consumption.
We know, we know – this is the way of the world. Digital downloads are fast and safe, and if our “what ifs?” came true, they’d likely be accompanied by a failure of power, and this our computer. No SCII no matter what.
We see it so clearly now – original, massive-for-no-reason boxes are the plastic bag, smaller, sleeker versions are the “better” paper option and digital downloading has become the coveted low-impact canvas bag.
The grocery store has become a metaphor for (nerd) life.
We can feel our snoot leveling rising already, and we don’t like it.
We also hear snoot can be digitally downloaded – via a silver-plated modem to the sound of a Bach concerto, no doubt.