What you need to know
Walmart will dispose of physical copies of Starfield on February 5, 2024, according to a recent leak.
Before discarding the disks, the retailer will reportedly sell physical copies of Starfield for 3 cents.
Starfield will continue to be sold digitally and has a large user base, so the move by Walmart is unlikely to affect the game in the long run.
Update: It appears that key details surrounding Walmart's planned disposal of physical copies of Starfield were not shared alongside the previous leak.
Update 1/23/2024 at 4:15 a.m. PT / 7:15 a.m. ET: While Walmart will mark down physical copies of Starfield and then dispose of those disks, the action appears to be part of a regular markdown that occurs when a new version of a game becomes available. Walmart will box up and return Early Access copies of Starfield and then continue to sell the latest copy of the game. A Walmart source reached out to us anonymously to describe the situation in more depth. The original story follows.
Despite coming out in September 2023, Starfield passed 13 million players before the end of last year. But few of those players seem to have physical copies of the game. Walmart will reportedly stop selling physical copies of Starfield within the next few weeks. Leading up to the February 5, 2024, cutoff date, the retailer will discount physical copies of Starfield to an astonishing 3 cents.
That information comes from a leak originally shared on X by Andrew Marmo. Well-known leak expert Wario64 then confirmed seeing the same memo. If you live near a store with a physical copy of Starfield still in stock, you could get one of the best Xbox games for 3 cents.
As of Monday, January 22, the physical copy of Starfield is running for $69.89 at Walmart online, so you'll likely have to physically walk into your local Walmart to verify the above claims. That sounds like work to us, but Starfield for $0.03 might be worth the risk.
Starfield launched last year with high expectations, and the title largely met them. The game earned high marks from several outlets, including our Starfield review, in which the sci-fi game earned a 4.5 out of 5.
A Shattered Space expansion is also on the way this year, so it's not like the game is going anywhere. Starfield has a massive user base and will receive new features and expansions in 2024. The news here is the potential death of physical media at Walmart, not anything negative about Starfield specifically.
The death of physical media?
Physical media has declined steadily over the years. Best Buy reportedly will not sell physical movies anymore. Physical games appear to have a similar fate at Walmart, assuming recent leaks are accurate. Even Microsoft's hardware has shifted toward digital games over the years. The refreshed Xbox Series X leaked last year was called "adorably all digital" by Microsoft, much to the chagrin of Reddit users.
While there are benefits to buying physical copies of games, the industry has gone another way, as have consumers. Global digital gaming revenue was $174.5 billion in 2023, according to GamesIndustry.biz's annual report. 95% of gaming revenue last year came from digital games, though it's worth noting that includes in-game purchases as well.
PC game revenue was 99% digital in 2023. Console gaming revenue had more revenue from physical games (17%), but that figure still pales compared to the 83% of console gaming revenue that games through digital purchases.
Physical games are easier to resell, can make great collector's items, and are often discounted further than their digital counterparts. However, retailers seem reluctant to invest the shelf space and effort needed to sell physical copies of games.
While physical games are often more affordable than their digital counterparts, it's not common to see games sold for 3 cents and then destroyed, especially when a game only launched a few months ago.
Assuming rumors and leaks prove accurate, physical copies of Starfield will be reduced from $69.99 to $0.03 starting today, January 22, 2024. Those disks will continue to be on sale for 3 cents until February 5, 2024, after which the retailer will "dispose of" the products.
Bethesda rewards the faithful with one of Microsoft's best exclusive games in over a decade. With great storytelling and an exciting new world, Starfield is a triumph.