I realize that April Fools’ Day was only a few days ago, but I promise you that I’m being serious with this headline. Microsoft currently has two Xbox One consoles in production. The six teraflop, $500 Xbox One X is positioned as the monster; the beast of a console for the most serious gamers and those that want to live on the cutting edge. The Xbox One S is a value-oriented console aimed at the mainstream gamer, can be had for around $300, and is commonly bundled with games. Based on the current gaming landscape, I do believe that there is room for one more Xbox, one that doesn’t include a disc drive.
Before all you gaming purists out there throw a fit, bear with me. I am in no way advocating that Microsoft stop selling a console with a disc drive, nor am I saying that the concept of physical game ownership is dead or irrelevant. There will always be gamers that value the ownership of physical media, and I don’t believe that will (or should) go anywhere anytime soon. I firmly believe that the current gaming landscape is healthy enough to support both physical and digital game distribution. Having the option to purchase a game in physical or digital form is beneficial to gamers because it provides a choice between ownership/collectability and convenience, respectively. Since gamers have the option to purchase digital games, why not give those that have fully embraced the trend an all-digital console to play those games?
The concept of an all-digital gaming platform isn’t new or far-fetched by any stretch. When was the last time you inserted a disc into a drive to install a game on your PC? The PC, combined with services like Steam and GOG, have made the all-digital gaming platform a reality. The mobile gaming market, which is exploding in growth, uses digital purchases as its only distribution method. Yet, console manufacturers have not yet embraced an all-digital gaming platform. I believe that Xbox could be the first to make this a success in the console space.
For one, Microsoft clearly has the services available to support an all-digital gaming machine. There is a huge selection of Xbox One and backwards compatible games on the Xbox Store, and Microsoft frequently runs some pretty great specials and sales on digital content. Furthermore, the Xbox One is home to services such as EA Access and Xbox Game Pass, both of which are tailored to support a digital future in gaming. A consumer-friendly refund program mitigates some of the risk involved with digital game purchases. The Xbox One is an ideal console for someone that is interested in making the switch to digital.
With Microsoft embracing digital distribution services, it makes sense for them to offer a third Xbox One SKU that does not include a disc drive. Both the Xbox One S and X include a 4K UHD Blu-ray player as standard equipment. Off-the-shelf internal 4K Blu-ray drives list for anywhere between $50 to $250 on Amazon as of this writing. If the drive is removed, it is reasonable to assume that Microsoft could save at least that much on build costs. They could then pass those savings down to the consumer.
What I propose is a more streamlined version of the Xbox One S, without the disc drive. Microsoft could conceivably reduce the price from $300 to $200 USD, a significant discount. The Xbox One is being handily outsold by the PlayStation 4, and having an option that is so affordable would no doubt help to bolster Xbox One sales and market share.
Having a cheaper option would also help Xbox gain some foothold in worldwide markets, particularly in Asia where the brand has historically struggled. This is especially true for China. According to a May 2017 article from Niko, there are currently 600 million gamers in China (that’s two times the population of the United States, according to the article). The same article also indicates that the digital game market in China will increase to $35 billion by 2021, an enormous figure. I predict that a cheap Xbox without a disc drive would do wonders in territories like China by providing an affordable option that targets the desires of the market.
Do I believe that Microsoft should completely axe the disc drive on all of their current and future consoles? Of course not. However, I do believe that introducing a Xbox without a disc drive now will help highlight the excellent digital services that Microsoft has built. It will also give them some momentum going forward as the gaming landscape continues to evolve.
Would you buy a Xbox One without a disc drive, or do you think it is a terrible idea? Let us know in the comments.