The purchase of digital goods online has become a staple of the online sales economy. Buying mere files instead of hard, physical items is no longer the taboo it once was. Just recently, Activision’s newest Call of Duty game broke all records for digital sales. Other video game makers, such as Ubisoft, are seeing similar all-time high numbers with their franchise series Assassin’s Creed. At this point in their development, consumers understand the tradeoffs between the two types of products and are opting more & more to go with digital.
It hasn’t always been easy to buy and sell exclusively online products. Being able to share files was a natural part of any computer system but it took time to develop a web based, customer facing way to host and serve files. To further complicate things, security would be necessary to hide the files so that they could not be downloaded without first being purchased. This is all of course without factoring in the ability to accept payments.
Having the ability to accept payments was a major hurdle during the earlier days of the internet. Unless you were a major corporation then you would not be able to get money into your bank account from an online purchase. That was of course until companies like PayPal showed up and made it extremely easy for people to exchange money for digital goods online. PayPal completely changed the world for people looking to sell downloadable products online. With its quick and wide acceptance, nearly anyone online could become a quick entrepreneur.
While the ability to accept payments through the web progressed relatively quickly, it was not without its issues. As payment processors accepted more customers, their restrictions on who they allowed to own a digital storefront became more relaxed. This led to unscrupulous people using their access to payment information as a way to get rich quick instead of providing a reliable product or service. But as more people in power became aware of the situation, laws and safeguards were put in place for consumers. Even so, laws are being made to help define the markets for virtual products.
Nowadays, a major sticking point for many people buying digital products is the question of product ownership. With more and more of what we own becoming a virtual good, some consumers may be uneasy with how much of their belongings are in “the cloud”. With digital goods like music, movies, games, the question of whether or not you really own something also changes depending on what storefront you buy the virtual good from. This of course adds an extra layer of complexion to the question of ownership.
Even then, some customers enjoy the freedom of not having physical items. Having all your games or songs in the digital world means less clutter and that you’re less likely to lose your stuff. For digital goods in the entertainment industry, it’s also much easier to find what you’re looking with search functions. With so many advantages, the digital marketplaces online will not be going anywhere anytime soon.