PS4 essentials: can you download disc games on PS4?

3 minute read

I still remember the brilliance of downloading Halo 3 DLC with no need for brick and mortar stores. The immediacy and convenience made playing that much more palatable and exciting.

Since then, consoles like the PS4 have completely changed the availability of digital games. No longer a novelty, digital downloads have transformed the way we play.

But for those using a mix of discs and digital on the PS4 it can be confusing as to the two work together.

Can disc games on the PS4 be downloaded? Do you need to buy a game twice?

The short of it is that you can’t download disc games. You’ll need to have the disc inserted into the PS4 every time you want to play.

Alternatively, you could sell the disc version of the game and buy a digital license on the PlayStation store.

Why you can’t download disc games

Like most, I love the convenience of having my games ready at all times. Swapping discs, while not a huge deal, can really get in the way.

And as great as it would be to convert disc games to digital games on the fly, it wouldn’t make much sense from a business standpoint.

If this were the case you could download a disc game and then sell off the disc version.

In fact, the reason you need to keep discs in the PS4 is to perform DRM checks.

No data is streamed from the disc and each one is installed to your hard drive in the same way a digital game is.

How to play games without a disc

If you’ve installed a game via a physical copy you will always need the disc in order to play. The only way to play games without a disc is to download games from the PlayStation store.

Playing downloaded games is as simple as selecting a title from your list of games. As with physical games, you can find them on the PS4’s home and library menus.

Disc vs digital: which is worth it?

Disc and digital PS4 games are identical in all aspects but convenience and pricing.

Neither is superior in terms of graphics, performance (frame rate), or resolution. The reason of this is simple – every PS4 game needs to be installed on the hard drive. This includes physical PS4 games.

I tend to go physical when I can due to the ability to play indefinitely. More specifically, I want to know that I’ll be able to play my games even if Sony decides to stop supporting PS4 game downloads years down the line. Yes, most physical games will be absent of major patches without the internet, but it’s better than nothing at all.

Disc rot is also a thing, but I’ve never run into this issue myself.

Physical games also tend to fall in price over time while digital titles often rely on PlayStation sales for savings. PS4 discs can also be resold or traded in to lower the cost of future game purchases. At this time, you’re not able to sell digital licenses on the PS4 (or PS5 for that matter).

Can you download disc games in rest mode?

PS4 games can’t be installed in rest mode (similar to sleep mode found in PCs). Your system will need to be fully powered on in order to populate your hard drive.

Digital games can be installed when using rest mode. Often times, game downloads will be faster when using rest mode.

It’s an amazing feature for those who have slower internet and would like to download games overnight.

Do disc game installations require an internet connection?

Although you can’t exactly download disc games, the upside of going physical is that your PS4 will install without being connected to the internet.

The only way you’ll be hamstrung by offline installs is through the inability to download PS4 game patches. In some cases, these will iron out game breaking bugs.

Games have never been as constantly updated with new content, but that also means being regularly nagged to update your library.

In summary

For all of the simplicity of consoles, even the most basic features can be a bit of a head scratcher.

No, you can’t exactly download physical PS4 games. Unfortunately, you’ll need to purchase a game digitally if you want to play a game without needing a disc.

But the nature of disc based games is not without its upsides – going physical sometimes means savings, the ability to sell and trade, and a lack of reliance on the internet.

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