Whilst the cheaper option, you may still end up paying more...
Physical copies of games can be a little bit of a pain, we all get it. It takes up shelf space, it sometimes comes with all these pre-order codes you've got to manually redeem and if you order online you have to wait for the game to arrive in the mail. We've reached the point where its out with the physical media and in with the digital media; you can pre-load, you don't have to redeem any codes, and it's there to play bang on midnight. This year PlayStation and Xbox both revealed that they would have their own digital versions of their newest consoles, the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition and the Xbox Series S. Both seem pretty appealing; they're smaller and they're actually cheaper than their disc-drive counterparts. The problem, however, is that it's all a big trap, and in the end you'll be spending more money than those WITH disc drive consoles.
Now, let's get this bit out of the way with first: if your sole purpose is to buy an Xbox Series S just so you can play Xbox Game Pass and nothing else, then I suppose this article doesn't really apply to you as "you've won". This article is more for those who plan on buying a digital edition of either console and may, in future, buy a brand new game either on day one or soon after.
Speaking of Xbox Game Pass, it has become a massive success for Microsoft, where just recently it was announced they had over 15 million monthly subscribers and continues to grow. If you're somehow not aware what it is, for a monthly fee of approximately £11/$15 a month depending on which version you subscribe to, you have access to well over 100 games to play whenever you want. "It's like Netflix, but for video games." PlayStation has a similar service called PlayStation Now, however unlike PlayStation, Xbox releases all of their first party games on their service from day one. It makes sense, then, that both Xbox and PlayStation would release versions of their newest consoles just for digital releases of games, and heck for even cheaper than if you got a disc drive console.
The problem we have however is the cost of games themselves. A trend I myself have noticed throughout the latest console generation (and certainly others have too) is that digital versions of games cost way more than a physical release. For example, on the UK PlayStation store as of this article, you can pre-order the PS4 standard edition of Assassin's Creed Valhalla for £60; it simply comes with the game and "The Way of the Berserker" mission. If you go over to TheGameCollection, the standard physical edition, which also comes with a Eivor Viking Statuette and the same extra mission, will cost you £46.95. That's a £13 saving...
Now I very rarely ever buy a day one game digitally, I usually buy them physically. There are rare exceptions, and when I do I usually buy a £50 PSN code which, if you find the right websites, only cost you about £42 (so yes, huge tip, if you want to buy expensive games digitally, ALWAYS buy a PSN credit code first). The argument is that the reason why physical versions are always cheaper is to keep game stores open and avoid them shutting down. In theory this makes sense, but at the expense of short changing those who like to buy digitally?
Okay, so you're not the sort of person to buy a game day one. That's fair and in most situations very sensible. You own a digital only console though and have decided to wait until a game is on sale for a good price. As the months pass, you notice, however, that the game isn't really going on sale on the digital storefronts. Meanwhile the physical version has had its price slashed in half, from £50/$60 to £25/$30; what a bargain, you should snap that right up... except you can't play it as it's a physical version. Then, finally, you spot a digital sale, and the game you've waited months to buy is finally on sale on the digital marketplace. However the price it's dropped down to is either exactly the price it was had you bought it physically day one or still slightly more expensive than a physical edition. This happens all too often on current generation consoles, so what makes you think it will be any different on next-gen?
"Time is money" is a statement that has never been more true for gaming. Do you buy a physical copy of a game, where you have to wait, at a minimum, nine to twelve hours more than had you bought a game digitally, or do you spend £10-15/$15-$20 more (though I'm aware this isn't too much of an issue on US digital stores) to have the ability to pre-load your game and play it a little bit sooner than those who had bought it physically? Video games are already expensive, and with PlayStation/Take-Two's stance on increasing the prices of games, I sincerely worry for the digital market prices. RRP is optional for game stores (that's why it's a recommended retail price), yet for digital stores, it just seems to be the norm, and we're letting them get away with it.
If this continues, physical media will disappear and we're stuck with the overpriced video games. Okay sure, maybe when all the game stores are gone the prices will decrease digitally. I highly doubt it though.