Retrospective: The Rise of the CD Key Digital Download
CD Keys
(Last Updated On: October 26, 2017)

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In the modern age, all games have digital downloads now, thanks to platforms like Steam. CD keys aren’t exactly unique to this generation since they had existed back when game companies were first trying anti-piracy tactics. Back then, CDKeys were nothing more than tools to check if you bought a copy of a game. Up to this day, it serves its purpose in the digital downloads era, but the anti-piracy focus has now disappeared from the standardization of the model.

It’s a given that you need the CD key to play a digitally downloaded game because won’t be able to download the game in the first place. Now, more people are going against piracy, favoring original and authentic copies due to the many features in multiplayer nowadays.

In the earlier days of the game industry, the Internet wasn’t as widespread, so it made little sense to consumers to get an original copy because of the games that were mostly single-player focused at the time. Nowadays, without an original game copy, many players won’t be able to engage in online multiplayer games, including Street Fighter V, Call of Duty, or MMOs, such as World of Warcraft (WoW).

It’s become a hassle to even buy a physical copy since how overly bloated they can be priced, unlike a digital download CD key that costs less due to the lack of physical materials used.

Every day, more publishers are even opting for digital collector’s edition options for their games, along with their regular physical versions. It’s only a matter of time before they discard the physical models entirely in favor of the cost-effective digital download scheme.

Digital download CD keys are simply the way to go. Not only is it more convenient for most users, but it’s also a cheaper alternative. From the PlayStation Network to Xbox Live, and 3rd party platforms, such as Steam and PlayerAuctions, there are many places to get games now. There’s still a place for hard copies, of course, since there’s no real way to get limited edition paraphernalia of certain games without going out and getting them. However, only a handful of people ever go for those because they are pricey and entirely unnecessary for the enjoyment of a game (it’s mainly for the hardcore fans).

The digital download CD key is here to stay, and it appears to be the method gamers, especially MMO gamers, are gravitating toward. It’s certainly looking bright for the gaming industry.


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Daisy is a content and marketing specialist for Player Auctions.