The digital game gifting situation has some issues in the console world. While distributors like Steam allow you to directly send a gift to a friend from the storefront and it is possible to buy codes from outlets like Amazon, there is no quick and easy way to efficiently send something to someone. It is not like you can head to the store on your system, pick a title, pick a friend, pay, and send it on its way. Nope. Things have to be complicated. Unfortunately for folks with PlayStation 4s, an already bad situation is about to get worse, and that's inexcusable.
Right now, there are ways to gift people digital PlayStation 4 games. However, you have to go through a middleman. Someone could stop by GameStop or go to Amazon, buy a code for a game, then redeem that via the store to get a copy of the game. A lot of companies offer this feature, to be honest. You can get Xbox One and Nintendo Switch games this way too. But Sony, for some reason, decided it was tired of this practice. Who knows why. It probably realized it was losing money and business by not forcing people to visit their store to buy something through them. As of April 1, 2019, that ended. The Global Digital at Retail program was shut down, meaning the only digital things you can buy in stores are PlayStation Network cards to add money to your wallet, codes for add-ons, and season pass codes. It completely sucks.
The thing about the digital codes is how practical they are. For gifts especially, these digital codes at retail stores were a big deal. Maybe you wanted to buy someone a specific copy of a game, but maybe wanted to not have the hassle of physical media. Perhaps you wanted to buy an online buddy a game and couldn't send one through the mail. A digital at retail code would let you give them something special easily. There's a sense of efficiency here and, since there is no way to otherwise get and gift digital games, taking the ability away without announcing a replacement program is inexcusable.
It is also handy for people who are traveling. Here's something that may shock you. People don't always stay in the same country. Sometimes, they move to other countries in the world. This can mean getting a whole new credit card that a store might not normally accept. For them to easily get games in their native language and through their original store without a hassle, they might buy a digital code for a game at a retail store. With this program ending, a valuable resource in a world where barriers are continually breaking down could be locking people away.
This is also just foolhardy. You don't take away one program, one people need and use, without offering an explanation. The announcement of the PlayStation Store game cards not being sold at retail stores wasn't a major one. Wario64 revealed information from an internal GameStop memo supposedly going around that was verified eventually by Sony a few days later. There was no announcement from Sony about this PSN card situation changing a week ahead of time, so people could prepare. The news had to be leaked. There was no consideration shown for customers. Sony's first PlayStation State of Play presentation even came and went without addressing the issue, when that would have been the perfect time to say, "The policy is changing. Here is what will be done to make gifting digital games possible."
Sony is making a mistake. Worse, it made this choice without alerting people ahead of time and perhaps giving them a chance to properly prepare. Having digital game cards at retail stores was a big deal for many reasons. To cut that off without another means of gifting or getting these games is going to make life harder for a lot of people. It's a shame things turned out like this.