[Something More]

The Debate Continues: Is Physical Media Going Away?

Is streaming going to completely replace Blu-ray?

Leave the World Behind Bunker Scene

The short answer is of course “No,” physical media will never go away entirely. However, as with most things, the truth is more nuanced and it’s definitely naive to ignore the way things have been trending over the past decade.

You can’t stop progress. New technology always has and always will change the landscape of how people consume mainstream media: music, movies, TV, books, and video games.

  • Email and Texting eclipsed Snail Mail
  • Digital Cameras and Phones eclipsed Film Cameras
  • Napster, Apple, Amazon, YouTube, and Spotify eclipsed CDs
  • Podcasts eclipsed Radio
  • Audiobooks eclipsed Physical Books
  • Netflix, YouTube, and many other streamers eclipsed both Cable and Blu-ray
  • Digital downloads are just beginning to eclipse Physical Copies of Video Games
  • Piracy has eclipsed All Forms of Media

You’ll notice that I used the word “eclipsed” instead of “replaced” because for those of us who are nostalgic or audiophiles or cinephiles, we care about the experience, quality, and ownership, and so there will always be a market for physical media.


There’s a certain kind of joy in collecting and seeing your collection of records, movies, books, etc. Organizing your collection, pulling out and putting on a favorite. Especially with books, the feel, the smell has a certain romance to it.


I personally think this is still the most relevant issue of all. When buying digital music from Apple or Amazon (especially Amazon), you are not getting the full versions of the recordings; you’re getting compressed versions, which lowers the quality and can even remove parts or tracks altogether.

I probably don’t need to mention that streaming music over YouTube or Spotify is obviously compressed. It’s actually quite difficult to track down lossless music these days.


In legal terms, we’ve never actually “owned” any of this media, but obviously, if you possess a physical copy of something, the corporations that be can’t put their greasy paws on it and say you need to pay more or you can no longer enjoy it because X rights have expired.

You can “physically” do whatever you like with it, including sharing with friends, making backups (even if that’s not technically legal). If your entire collection is in the cloud, you can lose access to titles even if you already purchased them, which we recently saw with the PlayStation Store because you’re only technically “leasing” them.

Digital vs Physical

Under the hood, what actually is the difference between digital and physical media? Not much. In fact, a Blu-ray is just another digital copy anyway. That’s not to say that being able to hold it and look at the cover art and have a compartmentalized copy away from a personal hard drive (that needs redundant backups or face losing it all) or the legal fuckery of having it in the cloud doesn’t have value.

Concerning modern video games, fuhgeddaboudit. Especially for AAA titles, the entire game is almost never on the disc anyway, and even if it is, without internet, you’re not getting any patches or content updates. Nowadays, a disc of a game is just a license to download.

Most notably, the recent release of Alan Wake II was digital-only. Whether they saved enough money by not physically distributing the game is enough to compensate for the loss of sales from gamers who buy physical copies only remains to be seen. Either way, it’s a sign of the times.


Most people simply don’t care. It’s cheaper and more convenient to stream everything. They don’t care about calibrating their TVs, getting the blackest blacks from their movies, or hearing every nuance and pop of an original master recording in their music.

Some of us care, some of us don’t; both are okay, but the mainstream will always dictate…

The Tide

It doesn’t matter how much you love or care about physical media or why, the industry is changing. Physical media will become more and more rare, as Blockbuster gets further and further in the rear-view, and brick-and-mortar stores, if they even remain brick-and-mortar stores, stop carrying physical media either way, as recently happened with Best Buy, with others to follow.

That is an undebatable fact. I think the biggest misunderstanding lovers of physical media are having is the distinction between physical media becoming more specialty and becoming obsolete. I realize some ignorant people are saying that physical media will go away completely, which probably annoys the shit out of you, but that’s just a lazy opinion.

Maybe in a thousand years (or sooner with the rising of AI), traditional media will truly be gone as we know it today, but certainly not in our lifetimes. It’s not going away, but it will become more boutique and expensive. With how Waxwork Records releases vinyl, Scream Factory will continue releasing Blu-ray, but it’ll become more limited and more expensive over time. That’s simply how supply and demand works.


Regardless of how you feel about piracy, it’s the single-most important source for preserving media. Besides essentially decentralizing away from gatekeepers and producing millions of backup redundancies, ensuring media will always be available, it also serves as a way to preserve and give access to media that was never officially released to homes in the first place.

By the way, if you’re one of those people that refutes participating in piracy in any form, that’s admirable, but you probably do anyway. A massive portion of content on YouTube was originally torrented from pirate sites.

High quality Blu-ray copies also play an important role. As divisive as the ending of Leave the World Behind was, it paints the most eloquent picture of all as to why physical media matters. There’s no guarantee that we’re going to survive to the next level of evolution or technology, so something you can tangibly hold in your hand will always have value.

Final Thoughts

If physical media is the hill you’ll die on, I understand and respect that. However, for the majority of people and even physical media lovers that give in, not all hope is lost. Internet is becoming faster, cheaper, and more available to the entire world.

It’s not there yet, but we’ll probably still be alive when streaming is delivered uncompressed. Also, external hard drives are getting cheaper for those that go extra 🤓 and have 1:1 copies of all their media, including menus and special features.

I understand if you don’t like the direction the tide is moving, but one thing is for sure, denying it’s happening isn’t going to stop it.

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