The History of Game Keys: From Physical Copies to Digital Downloads

16 May 2023 at 19:24 in Gaming News with no comments

The history of game keys is a somewhat longer one that I would like to enlighten you about.

By Kilian Kilian

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  Game Keys  

Key Facts

  • Since the 2000s, games have been sold digitally.
  • Steam was one of the first platforms to sell games digitally.
  • Digital games offer only advantages.
  • In the future, more and more games will be sold digitally.

The Beginning


At the beginning of the video game era, the only way to get a new game was to buy a CD from a reseller. However, with advancements in technology, gamers now have the option to purchase games in digital form, which are immediately available on their console or PC without any waiting time.

  Game Keys  

In this article, we explore the history of video games and how they have evolved from physical form to digital downloads.


The rise of digital distribution


Digital distribution refers to the sale of digital content over the internet, without the need for physical products to be exchanged.

Although the digital distribution system has been around since the 1980s, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that games were sold through this method. This was made possible only by the expansion of high-speed internet, which made the internet more affordable and made purchasing digital games profitable.


Steam: The Game Changer


Valve’s platform Steam was one of the pioneers of digital distribution and completely revolutionized the purchase of video games.

When Valve released the long-awaited Half-Life 2 on Steam in 2004, a flood of Steam users rushed to buy the new game or purchased a CD for Half-Life 2. Even those who purchased a CD for the new Half-Life 2 were directed through Valve, which helped to increase the platform’s popularity, although not everyone liked this method.

To this day, Steam remains the most successful gaming retailer site, used daily by millions of users.

  Game Keys

The advantages of digital distribution


Digital distribution has several benefits for both developers and players. One of the biggest advantages for developers or publishers is that they no longer have to produce, deliver, and store physical copies. This allows developers to fully focus on the game, which indirectly leads to a better gaming experience for players, as the focus is solely on the development of the game.

The advantage for players is that they can play new games immediately after release, without having to wait for a delivery or purchase the game in a store.


The dominance of digital distribution


In recent years, the proportion of digital sales has increased significantly and it does not seem likely to change anytime soon. In 2018, Sony’s share of digitally sold games was 43%, increasing to 55% the following year. This figure has continued to rise, especially during the pandemic when many people could not leave their homes or stores were closed.

With the PlayStation 5, Sony gave buyers the option of whether they still wanted to purchase games in stores, as they released a version of their console without a disc drive. Users of this console can still purchase all games, but only online in a digital form.


The future of digital distribution


The future for digital games looks great, as more and more players switch to digital versions of games. However, for those who prefer physical copies of their games, the option is still available, as most games still have physical copies available for purchase.

In the future, almost every game will be available online, as it brings great benefits for companies and the environment to sell their games only in digital form.




Thanks to technological advances, a shift from physical CDs to an increasing share of digital downloads can be observed, and this share will continue to grow as it is more cost-effective for developers and immediately available for players. Nevertheless, for those who prefer physical copies of their games, the option is still available.

The environment is also protected by the absence of transportation and production.

As the gaming industry continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how the industry will continue to adapt to the interests of gamers in the future.


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