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The Xbox is a very popular game console that includes the Series X and Series S as well as the Xbox One. Some of these models allow you to play both digital and physical games, but how do you know which one to choose? Learn more about how quickly they install, how much space they take up, and the pros and cons of each one.

Do Physical Xbox Games Come With a Digital Download?

In most cases, buying a physical game copy will not come with a digital download. When you buy a physical disc, you need to insert it into the Xbox tray and walk through the installation steps . Only after the game installs can you play it. If you buy a digital game, the marketplace will automatically begin the download as soon as it confirms your purchase.

Keep in mind that some Xbox consoles are digital only. Those consoles require an internet connection and do not let you buy or play games unless you go through the Xbox marketplace.

Should You Buy Digital or Physical Xbox Games? (Pros & Cons of Each)

The pros and cons of both Xbox physical and digital games can help you decide which type to buy. It can also help you decide whether to buy a digital console or one that still reads physical discs.

Pros of Physical Xbox Games

Let’s start with a look at the pros of physical Xbox games. The biggest pro is that the game lasts forever as long as you take good care of it. When you buy a physical copy, it belongs to you. Even if the developers pull the game from the marketplace or Xbox takes it down, you can still play it.

Another benefit is that you don’t need to rely on servers. How many times have you heard players complain that they spent a lot of money on a game and could no longer play it when the server went offline? Many online games run on servers the developers design. While physical games may have an online mode that uses one of those servers, you can still use the different modes when the server is no longer available.

One of the hot trends in the gaming industry is subscription-based games. You must sign up for a monthly or annual plan to play those games. With as much as you already spend on Xbox Live, why should you pay even more for a game subscription?

Physical games usually do not require a subscription. Another pro is that you can resell physical games. If you have a game that you don’t like or one you finished, you can trade it in at a game store or sell it to another player. You also have the option of letting another player borrow one of your games and getting one from them.

Cons of Physical Xbox Games

Do you remember playing Sega Genesis or Nintendo games and blowing into the cartridge when they stopped working? Ever since video game consoles hit the market, players had some problems with physical games. These games are more fragile than you might think and can easily suffer some damage.

When a game gets a big scratch across the center or has some fingerprints on it, it may not play. It can also skip when you try to play it. While you can pay a pro to clean your disks, you have no guarantee that they’ll work again.

Another issue is that you need to find a place to store your games. While you won’t have a problem making room for a few games, finding space for all of the titles as your collection grows can be a hassle.

If you plan to sell them later, you must also take good care of them and save the original case and booklet. Many buyers do not want games that are damaged or have missing parts. Even if they do buy from you, they won’t pay as much as the games were worth with those extras.

Pros of Digital Xbox Games

When you want a new game, as soon as it arrives, you can preorder it from a local store and pick it up when it arrives or buy it online and wait for the vendor to ship it. One big benefit of digital Xbox games is that they don’t have a waiting period. As soon as the game appears on the marketplace, you can buy a copy and download it to your console.

Sometimes, Xbox will even release the game before the listed date. You don’t need to keep checking the mail or take time to visit a store just to snag a copy. With digital games, you don’t need to worry about a local store selling out either.

Another benefit is that they help you save some space. Why dedicate a whole living room or bedroom shelf to a game when you can save a copy on your hard drive? As you check out stores that sell video games in your area, you’ll likely notice that they sell fewer games than they did in the past.

Even stores like Walmart and Target keep reducing their physical media section. With a digital game, you don’t need to check multiple stores to find the title you want or worry that the store won’t put the game out when it hits. Keep in mind that some stores can wait until later in the day to stock the shelves of a new game.

There’s also a chance that you might save some money on games, too. XBOX Marketplace has a habit of running big sales a few times a year, especially on Black Friday and around the holidays. You might get several games for less than it would cost to buy one physical game.

Many Xbox digital games are also available on different platforms, too. As long as you use the same Xbox Live account, you can play those games on the go and pick up where you left off.

Cons of Digital Xbox Games

The biggest drawback of digital Xbox games is that you don’t own the game. When you buy a digital game, you buy a license to play the game and not the game itself. There’s always a chance that Xbox will decide to remove the game from the marketplace, or the developers might take it down. Xbox may also delete the game from your library.

With digital games, you cannot share or sell them. The game only exists on your console, so you cannot sell or trade it in a store. Your friends can only play the game if they have access to your console.

Don’t forget that you also need an internet connection to download the games. If you have an outage in your area, you’re out of luck until the internet comes back. Some digital games also require an internet connection just to play them, too.

Do Physical Games Take up Less Space on an Xbox?

A common misconception is that physical games take up less space than digital games, but on the Xbox, both digital and physical games use the same amount of space.

Some of the consoles from past generations read games from their discs. When you inserted a disc into your Xbox 360 or PS1, it read the disc and used the game data. This also meant that you could not play the game unless you had the disc in the console. The Xbox now installs game data from the disc to the console and uses that data when you play. Both physical and digital games now take up the same amount of space.

Do Physical Xbox Discs Install Faster Than Digital?

When you install a game , the console will start the install from the disc, but it also goes online to find any patches for that title.

As long as you have an internet connection, your Xbox will do both tasks at the same time. Not only does this help you set up your game faster, but it also lets you download fixes that solve the bugs and glitches that other players found.

Disc installs are usually faster than digital installs. It depends on how fast your internet connection is though. If you have a strong download speed, you might find that you can download and install a digital game much faster.

Many players find that disc installs work faster because they have slow internet speeds. To install a game from a disc without using the web, open your Settings and turn off your internet connection. Once you finish the installation, turn your connection back on and let the console search for patches.


Physical Xbox games can suffer damage and take up a lot of space, but have some resale value and don’t require a lot of extra money. While you cannot resell games and can find that they take up a lot of room, they are easy to find on sale and arrive instantly. The best Xbox games for you will depend on how fast you want to play them and how much storage space you have.