Last week budget specialists Mastertronic announced they were moving away from the physical, retail market to focus on digital distribution. Essentially, this means the end of a number of boxed budget lines, including one of my own favourites, Sold Out.

I guess such a move is hardly surprising in the world of Steam and GOG megasales, and the bare bones, disc-only nature of the Sold Out releases mean that they don’t even have any appeal to collectors of boxed games who tend to want the original packaging, manual etc. (Incidentally, I remember the Replay line of budget games just having a yellow sleeve over the original packaging which you could remove and discard, and then pretend you paid full price, but I think they gave up on this after a while).

It is rather sad though for the generation of UK gamers who fondly recall impetuously taking advantage of the ongoing 3 for £10 deals (usually there was only one or two that you actually wanted, and you’d take a punt on something else to round out the deal). If the shop you were in didn’t have what you wanted, you could get the same deal ordering from Mastertronic direct.

It was great, particularly for the young, the hard-up, and the cheapskate – or anyone saddled with old technology, for whatever reason – for whom it gave an opportunity to sample ageing greats or unfairly-ignored games. Even as Sold Out titles were themselves discontinued, their re-release ensured a plentiful supply of second hand copies that could be snapped up on eBay for a reasonable price.

Going back further than that, of course, Mastertronic were masters of the 8-bit budget scene, offering games at a £1.99 price point, some of which were remarkably good despite never having been released previously (budget games weren’t always just old games for cheap, you know).

Are indie games the new budget games? What does the future hold for physical media? Who knows? Not me. All I want to offer now is a hearty thanks and farewell to the boxed budget title – it’s certainly given me a lot of gaming over the years – as well as the best of luck to the guys at Mastertronic themselves.