The Xbox One Came Close To Not Having A Disc Drive At All

The Xbox One Came Close To Not Having A Disc Drive At All

Of all the new home consoles on the market, the Xbox One is arguably the most forward facing but, according to Microsoft Studios’ Phil Spencer, it could have been dramatically more forward facing. He is claiming that Microsoft came very close to creating a digital only Xbox One, before backlash against Microsoft’s DRM forced changes.

“There was a real discussion,” said Spencer, “about whether we should have an optical disc drive in Xbox One or if we could get away with a purely disc-less console…”

Bandwidth issues in addition to the sheer size of modern AAA video games put the kibosh on that idea for now, but Spencer admits that the extreme negative reaction to an ‘always-online’ Xbox One played a large part in the decision to stick with discs for the foreseeable future.

“So we decided – which I think was the right decision – to go with the Blu-ray drive and give the people an easy way to install a lot of content,” explained Spencer. “From some of those original thoughts, you saw a lot of us really focusing on the digital ecosystem you see on other devices – thinking of and building around that.”

This confirms for me that, in terms of how content is delivered to us, both the Xbox One and the PS4 are really transition consoles. Throughout the course of this current generation I expect more and more consumers to access content digitally. In fact, I expect that these consoles will be the last home consoles that use disc-based content.

Interesting stuff.

Microsoft considered removing Xbox One’s disc drive [OXM]


  • Dream on, until the NBN is built media is here to stay. After the coalition announcements this year, I give it another 2 decades and a 2-3 term Labor/Greens government before we see anything resembling a decent digital infrastructure in Australia for this kind of thing.

    • It’ll happen, we in Australia just won’t be able to use it properly because out digital infrastructure will be rats.

    • Hmmm I don’t really agree, speed isn’t the issue. It’s more the fact that very very few people have unlimited internet in AUS. Lots of areas don’t even have the option for it. In America it’s pretty much all they have. My American mates laugh at me when I say I have 150gb a month.

      Microsoft would need to ALOT of research into other counties Internet options or it would be shooting itself in the foot. An American only console

      • I agree. Even some third world countries have an option for ‘uncapped’ internet. When I migrated here I was seriously bummed by the internet, even though the speed is decent (Only descent) it’s patchy and we get quite small amounts of data. That said, the whole infrastructure does need an upgrade if we want to be competitive. That and no disk drive in a 500GB console were each game is +-40 GB and they had backlash about restrictiveness… Don’t think it would have gone down well.

        The new xbox is interesting because it has potential to be different, but for now it seems like more of a stretch to catch any ‘broader’ market. Having windows 8 as a gui points towards product ‘integration’ ie. Its aimed at anyone looking to do anything AND play games. I’ll probably get one for Halo, else I’ll wait for them to start being a games console, instead of trying to be the Apple of the living room.

        And I guess thats my 2c on this article. Just my opinion, sorry if you don’t agree. Have a good day.

    • I thought that same thing would happen this time. I mean, hardly anyone who plays games on PCs actually buys physical, they get it from Steam/Origin/Battlenet or something.

      I did not however, account for the size inflation of console games. Even with PS3, my Uncharted 3 download topped 30 GBs and the next-gen stuff is even larger. For some reason, these new console games are several times the size of the PC versions. I suspect there’s little or no compression going on. Get the files under 10GBs and I could go digital-only.

  • If they’d gone discless I don’t think they would have faced the same backlash. The issue for me was always their attempt to impose the restrictions of digital distribution onto physical media. I never had much of an objection to how it worked in the context of digital purchases. Especially since if there was no physical media then the need to check in with the servers might not have been required since there was no disc for people to give to friends etc.

    But the issue of download speeds/quotas would be a bit of a killer given the size of next gen games and our shitty internet speeds. I know one person who took the better part of 3 days to download 50-odd GB of Battlefield 4 – I wouldn’t want to be doing that for every game.

    • Yep. I like digital, but a lot of the more aggressive traits of their digital service stemmed from continuing to support physical discs. Although ultimately I still chalk that up to a bad attitude on their part. No discs would make it easier but either system could have been made to work.

      That said I think no disc drive would have been a big mistake on their media center front. As it is their revolutionary media hub forces you through their services. Even though it could have easily been the best device in my house for media, the only time I’ll ever be using my XBOX One’s media playing capabilities is when I watch Blu-Ray and DVD movies.

      • But your not meant to watch DVD or bluray ms gets no money from that. You have to buy a pass from them and use a paid streaming service instead.

          • Rent a pass only for music. The movies are individually priced, at $6-$7 per movie rental. When I can get a blu ray from my local vending machine for $2, Microsoft (and most of the other movie streaming services) have their heads up their arses.

  • It’s going to be interesting for conventions to handle content that has to be tied to the console. A number of conventions still rely on loans from volunteers to get by. I worry that in the future events will struggle to get enough consoles preinstalled with the tournament titles that they need, or that the library system at PAX will evaporate.

  • NO NO NO NO, so much mis representation of this story. Especially that headline.

    It was discussed, as a thought, an IDEA, just like having a controller that emits SMELLS was also thought of but neither of them was ever going to come to fruition. The entire idea is not viable and wont be viable for at least another 10+ years if even then.

    Just the raw numbers alone (about people with internet capable of supporting this model, as in there is almost no one) would have made it one of the largest blunders in the entire tech industry. So i really wish media sites would stop reporting this as a serious this could have happened incident.

  • My problem with all digital on consoles is that the prices are too high. Just based on the current offerings on digital games on xbox and psn its just not good enough compared to steam. I would hate to be forced to buy a game day 1 and have to pay $89-$109 and have no alternatives like importing from OZgameshop. Then to see that same game 7-9 months later still at $89-$109. I will admit that playstation+ has me buying and downloading a ton of stuff on my ps3 I am still not confident that if we went all digital on ps4/xbone that we would get any sort of value in the present or short term future.

    • And for me, one of the big bonuses of their original plan was that with competition from retailers, I wouldn’t have to pay the full price for digital copies. AND have a physical backup hard copy , that’s a lot quicker to install/reinstall than a download – and no download towards my internet usage cap.

      If I want to play a new AAA (Non EA) game on Steam, I have one choice of price – unless its on sale. If I could buy it from EB, jb, bigW, ozgame etc at whatever their varied prices are – instead – that’d be great. Think of the retailers as keystores – but not sapping 25gb off your cap (I only have 200gb a month).

      I really wish they did a better job of promoting the benefits of their original plan, it suited me.

      • Thats not exactly true. Greenman Gaming, Gamersgate, Amazon Digital (U.S) Humble store are all places you can go to buy a game for steam but not through the steam store. I pre-ordered borderlands 2 from greenman for $38 last year. If the new consoles were digital only you would have no options other then the prices they dictate. Evidence now shows us that Australians would be screwed. I can find GTA 5 in almost any retailer cheaper then what it is on PSN. I absolutely believe that Australians would get screwed over if there isn’t some market other then Microsoft and sony making them drop there prices to drive sales and be competitive.

        • I was referring to the original disc based digital copy plan they had, not the all digital/disc free console model that never really became the “plan” so to speak.

          And, sure – there are a handful of options to get Steam Codes apart from Steam (which is why I mentioned retailers in the disc/digital copy model essentially becoming keystores – albeit also providing you a physical backup which is quicker to install than a redownload) – but when EVERY retailer you can buy games from essentially becomes a competitor for the same product – you essentially get the wide and varied pricing consumer benefits that a TRULY open market provides, rather than just a handful of competitors.

  • when digital takes over i wont be buying anymore AAA games as i want my physical copy, and digital goes hand in hand with always online, another deal breaker for me. with the industry raping most game with absurd dlc practices, fee-to-pay(eg:any xbox one exclusive), and online requirements for singleplayer (eg: assassins creed 4 ) i am looking at giving up on paying for my AAA experience
    most people say the only reasons we have not gone digital is price, bandwidth, and speed but i am someone to whom these are not an issue yet i do not want digital. i want physical and isnt the industry supposed to supply the customer with what they want?
    i have been gaming for 15 years and i guarantee i am not the only one that feel like this so microsoft was right to include a blue ray drive in order to not hurt their sales

  • With the majority of the world still only having access to low Internet speeds, is a minor issue.
    The reason why a Digital only future will never be acceptable is because Gamers like owning a physical copy of their games.
    Having a digital only future for consoles means DRM will become a heavy feature for games and we technically wont own the game, we have just paid for the right to play it by their rules.
    A digital only future for gaming means the end of gaming.

    But the fact still stands that the model that works now is perfect. These companies forcing the industry to change is a joke. They dont want to change it for the good, these companies want to go Digital to make more profit.

    But I dont know anyone who likes buying games online. It doesnt feel like we own the game. But when we have the disc, you know for a fact it is ur game.

    It will never go digital only. PS4 and Xbone have proven the consumer likes it how it is and that the formula used for console isnt going to die off anytime soon. The industry is getting bigger not smaller, so no need for change yet.

  • this is a bit crazy… considering they wish to be the center of home entertainment… this would mean that its not backwards compatable with xbox 360 games as well as all of the dvd’s and blurays everyone owns! madness! nice in theory but im glad it didnt pan out.

    for the record… i have an xbox one.. not just trashing it

  • My PC is a digital only console. Well, that’s a bit of a lie since it has a DVD-RW, but I haven’t really used it in years. #ModernConsolesAreAlmostPCsNow

  • Control of every aspect console must always be fully with the customer. I think everyone has lost some but I guess these consoles get a satisfactory report card.

  • how about stores sell digital download cards like the one we got for fifa ? that way you get your store sales prices and the perks of it being all HDD ? or is there something wrong with that idea ? lol

Log in to comment on this story!