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Why is the Red Dead Redemption 2 download more expensive than the discs?

Red Dead Redemption 2
Daylight robbery? Why are downloads more expensive

Here’s an absolute head-scratcher. If you walk into a shop on Friday and pick up the brand new Red Dead Redemption 2 it will likely cost you £50. If you want to download the game, it will set you back £60.

This isn’t some loss leader to get you to walk into games stores or supermarkets, Amazon’s doing it too. Order the discs and they’ll cost you £49.99, including all the storage, packaging, handling and delivery costs for Amazon. Purchase a simple digital code that allows you to download the game and it’s £59.99. See:

It’s a tad unfair of me to pick on Red Dead Redemption 2. It happens with most other big games releases, I’m just singling it out because (a) it’s the hot game of the moment and (b) I want it and can’t be arsed to go to the shops for it.

But what the hell is going on here? How can games companies and retailers make it £10 cheaper to deliver a largely needless physical product instead of a 20-digit code? Surely it should be the other way round?

If you’re coming here looking for a definitive answer, I’m going to disappoint. But there may be some thin justification for this bizarre pricing.

Firstly, the cost of manufacturing and delivering the physical product may actually be cheaper than delivering a download. Reports claim Red Dead Redemption weighs in at over 100GB – in fact, the game is so large it comes on two discs, which is something I’ve not seen in a while.

Delivering 100GB of data to millions of people is not a cheap business. You’ll need enormous server capacity and a a gobsmacking amount of bandwidth to beam the files to the millions of eager gamers attempting to download Red Dead Redemption 2 on launch day.

Indeed, the developers have started “pre-loading” the game onto consoles that have “pre-ordered” Red Dead already, so that the sheer weight of data doesn’t crush their servers. 

By making the physical boxed version cheaper, Rockstar Games, the console companies and the retailers ease some of the pressure on the downloads system and can reach more people in the launch day crush.

This, at least, is my theory. And I’m sticking to it. Meanwhile, I’m off over to Tesco to order my discs.

Now read this: Is it legal to download YouTube videos?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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  • But this is pretty consistent for any game (certainly for the PS4) – the digital copy is more expensive than the physical one. I understand about server costs but it’s not just the physical creation of the disks but also the distribution and the retailer then making a profit on it. If I go into the PlayStation store now I suspect I’ll struggle to find any game, new or old, that is cheaper to download than to buy the disc.

    Although you have the advantage of not having to swap discs about if you have a digital version you also can’t see the game on when you get bored of it – the amount the games companies save from this should surely make up for it?

    In my opinion, it should be the other way around, certainly when we consider the environmental impact here. My hope is that the PS5 has no disc, and it’s download only.

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