Microsoft Is Working On An Xbox One Without A Disc Drive: Report

Microsoft Is Working On An Xbox One Without A Disc Drive: Report
Image: Alex Walker/Kotaku

While Australia may fumble about in the digital dark ages, setting fire to forward-thinking broadband policy as if it were an onion-scoffing heretic, online connectivity in general has come a long way in the last five years, usurping industries once dominated by the physical. Why rent movies when there’s Netflix? Why leave the house for a new game when Steam exists? It should come as no surprise, then, that Microsoft wants to release a new model of the Xbox One, sans disc drive.

The disc-less Xbox One should arrive sometime in 2019, according to sources that spoke to Thurrott’s Brad Sams.

If you’re wondering why Microsoft would bother with such a change for its current-gen console, it’s almost purely to save costs:

Currently, it costs about [$US299] to buy into the Xbox One family of devices, Microsoft is looking to lower that price by possibly as much as [$US100]; the new console price point is expected to be [$US200] or less.

That said, it’s suggested the model will serve to test the waters, to make sure a disc-less next-gen console isn’t commercial suicide.

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A question you probably have — and I can tell you already it’s a good one — is how Microsoft will manage the transition from physical to digital. The last thing you want is for mum and dad to pick up the latest Forza for little Astrid’s birthday, only to find there’s no way for Asterisk to play said game. I don’t think any of us could stand a weeping Asteroid.

Fortunately, Sams says Microsoft “has you covered”:

In addition to the new console, there will be a ‘disc-to-digital’ program that, as the name states, turns your physical games into digital downloads. The idea is that you can take your disc to a participating retailer (like the Microsoft store) and trade in your disc for a digital download.

Regardless of whether this disc-less Xbox One bombs or not, it’ll be a great experiment, one I’m sure Sony and (to a lesser degree) Nintendo will watch eagerly from the sidelines.

Microsoft’s Building a Disc-Less Xbox One for Release in 2019 [Thurrott]


      • My thoughts exactly. I’d say if they go 100% digital they will need to accommodate other retailers somehow or else I smell another anti-trust/competition law suit coming on.

  • The real story here is that MS haven’t yet decided if Scarlett will have a disc drive or not, and a disc-less XBone is a good way to see if the market will bear an entirely media-free console.

    Personally I’m hoping Scarlett uses game cards, but that’s just me.

    • If the Switch has taught us anything, publishers won’t bother to pay for the more expensive option and just make you download the rest of the game, as almost all Switch titles do. Bigger cards exist to have all the game data without download, but it costs extra, so they stick what they can into a smaller card and you download the rest.

      Pretty pointless in the end.

      • I don’t own any Switch games that do that, so it’s not universal. I would definitely not buy a game that worked that way on the Switch.

      • In seconding @stormo the switch most certainly does not work that way.
        I think the switch is one of the best consoles of its generation for its mix of new and old ‘console methods’.
        It’s made great use of its nVidia shield underpinnings, and stuck to old console truths.
        If you buy a Nintendo game cartridge, you can literally plug and play.
        No download required.
        Source: I now live in a ‘developing nation’, and this function alone really makes me appreciate that at least one console manufacturer still operates this way.
        Game cartridge arrives in the mail, and it’s good to play.

        • Not sure what games you are playing, but several games require a download to play, they even have it plastered on the outside of the box. They include (but aren’t limited to)

          L.A. Noire (apparently the full game IS playable, but the audio lags without the update which is several GB’s)
          Wolfenstein 2 (8GB of ‘required’ download, no sure if some if playable without it)
          2K18 (some of the game is playable, but the rest is locked under a download)
          Doom (update is the multiplayer experience)
          Resident Evil Revelations Collection (second game is download only, despite it being a physical product)
          Star Link (required download, not playable without it, this apparently is a prime example as it was only 12 GB game and could have fit on a 16gb cartridge, but Ubisoft went with a 8 gb cartridge instead to cut costs)

          These are just some, but there are quite a few and they are easily known as they have an ugly banner over the top telling you a download to required.

  • Question is what do you do with the space, do you make the unit smaller or do you use that extra room to beef if up?

    • The drive isn’t that big. Go look at an external optical drive, and its really only a 14x14cm square, about 1cm thick. Being thin makes it trivial to squeeze into a box that size, even moreso once you remove the casing.

      For an alternative example, go back and look at the PS1’s. When it shrunk, the drive stayed front and center. It was other things shrinking that let them make it so small (relative to the original), not the drive.

      We wont notice the drive going. If the unit is smaller, its because other things have shrunk instead.

  • The lead of this story should be “Microsoft is going to allow you to convert discs to digital”. $69 Jb Hifi prices compared to the $99 Microsoft store price…

    • This. This is what this article is about.
      Remember the XBone announcement?
      Remember Sony’s pisstake ‘how to share a game with a friend on PS4’ ‘media spot’ AT THAT SAME E3?

      This is a safe way for MS to test the waters on totally cornering their own market.

    • The smart thing to do would be to also release games as physical download codes (so basically a piece of cardboard with a scratch off code) so that other stores could still them at their cheaper disc prices.

      • They’d be stupid not to!

        No one is going to pay the $99 digital starting price for games but you offer a digital option you can buy at a retailer and it becomes a better proposition

        • I currently share an account with a friend so I set his console as my home and make purchases under my account, he can access everything and so can I and we split the cost.

  • Bring back the cartridge!

    I don’t think download will usurp physical discs any time soon. Considering that shitty internet still exists in western countries, it would be foolish to dump the disc when next gen consoles arrive in 2020. But could a disc-less console co-exist with a disc drive console this gen and next? Yes, I believe so, perhaps serving as a base or economy model.

      • In this country where it takes over a year for anything to come to streaming, and it being hit and miss if it does, yup.

        • Exactly. Netflix basically has very little content in Australia so it’s not gonna cause the death of physical discs anytime soon.

      • Honestly, Blurays still a thing???

        Yeap. Not going to go away thanks to studios being dicks with their streaming licenses.

        Outside their own made content, selections on Netflix rotate when the license expires (or if the studio demands more cash).

        Even if Australia had fantastic Internet, I’d still buy physical so I can watch content down the track on my own terms and not have to worry if Netflix or others still have a license.

        It’s not just Netflix that has to wrestle with this.

        Years back, Amazon found it didn’t have the correct copyright for Nineteen Eighty-Four so had to remove it from the Kindle story, but took it miles too far and also remotely removed it from the Kindles of those who purchased it (an real act that actually takes place in that book).

        For a period of time, GoG didn’t have the earlier Fallout games because the agreement with Interplay had run out and Bethesda were being jerks.

        And for a while, Alan Wake (also on GoG) was absent because of the copyright holder of the music.

        • Re Alan Wake: Father’s Day 2017 I got a disc copy of Quantum Break and the Alan Wake download code still worked even though it had been delisted!

      • There’s really not a lot of 4K streaming options yet. There’s like maybe 10 actually good shows on Netflix in 4K and usually it’s only really the home brew Netflix content

          • I’m on both. There isn’t enough that I would recommend to anyone to buy a 4K tv. I only got mine cause it was cheap on gumtree “broken” and just needed a firmware update.

          • Yea fair call, I wouldn’t suggest buying a new TV for it, just saying there is quite allot of content for when you do.

          • If someone is buying a new TV they absolutely should buy a 4k TV, preferably with HDR as well. If you have a perfectly good HD (1920×1080) TV then I probably wouldn’t bother upgrading, but if you need a new one why not?

            I don’t really care about 4k for most TV shows, but I love being able to watch the latest “spectacle” movies in 4k. It’s amazing what a difference it makes, especially if you have HDR.

          • Sort of my standing anyway. I wouldn’t go out and buy a TV just to stream 4K content. If you’ve got a good 1080p tv I’d hold off another year or at the very least wait till you see a real bargain.

          • There are some pretty amazing prices out there if you’re willing to forego the highest end, big name brands. Of course there are trade offs in performance and features.

        • Qualifier: There isn’t a single streaming service that can successfully do UHD. They might claim to, but I’m betting if you compare it side by side with a disc you’ll see that they are liars.

  • Not sure how different it is on Xbox, but digital games on ps4 cost anywhere from $20-40 more than physical copies.

    Roughly, that means after the first 3-5 games, a ps4 with disc drive has paid for itself.

  • Interesting idea. I’m more concerned about how this will affect sales over time – I don’t want to be buying from the overinflated Microsoft Store. I only buy physical games for my Xbox because it’s much, much cheaper (sometimes nearly half price!) than digitally. The PC sector has been sliding backwards lately with region-locked keys on Steam, third party store specific keys (eg Uplay) and shitty regional pricing. I hope we’re not about to see the same trend in consoles.

    • Probably have the same situation as now where people head to other websites to buy the keys such as Kinguin etc.

      • Yeah but these sites are slowly becoming less relevant as region locking comes into play – unless you want to set up multiple accounts and use a VPN. Many new AAA releases have this region lock bullshit on Steam now, and they end up not being much cheaper on cdkey sites. Sad truth is that you can often get a new release AAA game cheaper on consoles from JB or Amazon than Steam or a cdkey site.

  • Makes sense, I haven’t had a DVD-ROM in my PC in yonks.

    That, plus the new keyboard and mouse combo they added to the Xbox.

    It’s like it’s undergoing a metamorphosis.

  • this is going back years but didn’t the xbox 360 have an external HDDVD drive.

    I was just thinking that it might be a good idea for it to have a drive that is not needed all of the time

  • As long as this ties in with some sort of digital resale system I don’t particularly mind (which it definitely won’t because, y’know, profits are everything).

    • The endgame goal has always been the murder of the re-sale industry and the enshrining as games as a service/subscription, rather than an owned product subject to first sale doctrine.

      It’s just taking them a while to get there, systematically trumping related objections. It still is, and always was, the goal to ensure that games are not products that you buy and own.

  • Microsoft is probably hoping that this new Xbox will increase membership in its Xbox Game Pass. If we had decent internet where I live that would actually be a good selling point for me.

  • Downloaded games make it slightly easier as you don’t have to pop a new disk in every time you swap, and if there’s a sale, they’re in stock! I know heaps of games EB have advertised cheap but can’t get them in store.

    I still like disks though, they tend to be cheaper sooner, I would be worried with a diskless console that it would be harder to get cheap games and I don’t have much time or money for games these days so probably wouldn’t bother with a diskless next gen console.

  • One of the big benefits with the Xbone is that its one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest 4K players going around. That makes it beneficial to more than just gamers, and if its selling to non-gamers for that purpose, possibly convincing them to buy games down the track.

    Consoles work as multimedia centres as often as not these days, and losing a core part of that functionality is a mistake. Many people still have libraries of blu rays and DVD’s that they like watching, if for no other reason than to watch something when they want, or because its not available on a popular option. Disk becomes a preferred option.

    Personally, I have well over 1500 discs (DVD and blu ray) floating about that I’m not going to be getting rid of and would like an option to play them. A big chunk of those are things you simply dont see on the main streaming services. I also like gaming, so something that combines the two means one less cable.

    I also remember various consoles playing big roles in discs taking off at different times. It was no coincidence that the PS3’s inclusion of a blu ray player helped both it, and the blu ray standard itself. Microsoft is in the same position now with the 4K standard, being worth it as a 4K player by itself.

  • I recall back in the last generation there was a lot of talk about bricks and mortar stores being highly opposed to this because their gaming departments make most of their margin on games sales and hardly any on hardware. Can’t expect them to dedicate floor space to hardware if the software sales are going to disappear. I have no numbers to support this argument.

    • Just look how EB games is adapting combining the Zing stores now, I think they will survive but you won’t see them in every shopping center there are 5 in a 15km radius in my area.

      Might see a few close but I just think the remaining stores will get bigger.

  • Ive been doing this since a week after it launched since my child fed my xbox toast and banana. It was a welcome relief when they made the game pass a thing. Best ever! Now they need to reintroduce that digital game swap policy they were gunna promise when they first announced it but eveyone had a hissy fit cause you needed to be online.

  • When I read the title I thought you were talking about a console that was streaming games. NOT a console that still has a disc drive but no optical drive.

  • I am very interested to hear more about the disc-to-digital program, I have a handful of discs that have picked up more than a few scratches. They work fine to show the console I can play the game, but in order to do that, I need to install off a friends disc first. Would gladly exchange a faulty disc for a code to ensure I can play the game.

    As for a disc-less console, we unfortunately live in a world with far too many digital delistings, I’m going to hang onto my precious copy of Too Human until the end of time.

  • I personally would love to see a return to cartridge in the form of a hotswap SSD for game releases and maybe to a minor extent, movies.
    Think about it, for an average joe consumer, a basic 120 GB SSD is now around $35 to $39. With bulk discounts and improvements to tech, the price of this is going to drop further for a developer.

    Here are my pros and cons.
    + lower noise ’cause there is no moving parts
    + load times are quicker
    + the option to save data or updates directly to the drive (going to a friends place or lending them your game means that any updates you have done are already done).
    + newer / larger games don’t require multiple discs (just a single larger drive)
    + newer resolutions won’t require a rework of the delivery method (8K gaming, while still a long time away, is something that is on the horizon)

    – physical storage is easier to hack / break
    – price is higher no matter how cheap the drive becomes.
    – SSDs still have a lifespan comparable to HDDs (though this is getting better)
    – still have to have the media present to play (the major advantage of download is that its simply there, an important feature for a console like the switch to me)

    I think the benefits far out weigh the cons though.

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