Microsoft considered a digital-only Xbox One

Possibility of ditching discs entirely was discussed in wake of last year's E3 briefing

Microsoft made some dramatic course corrections with the Xbox One after the console's unveiling, but they considered even more significant changes. Speaking with OXM, Microsoft Studios' Phil Spencer said that with just months to go before launch, the company was considering removing the disc drive from the machine entirely.

"Obviously, after the announcement and E3, there was some feedback about what people wanted to change," Spencer said. "There was a real discussion about whether we should have an optical disc drive in Xbox One or if we could get away with a purely disc-less console, but when you start looking at bandwidth and game size, it does create issues. 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."

That meshes with comments Microsoft marketing head Yusuf Mehdi made in the aftermath of E3 2013. At the time (before Microsoft had made its first big policy changes on Xbox One), Mehdi said, "We believe the digital world is the future, and we believe digital is better." However, he acknowledged consumers aren't always fond of change, and said Microsoft would have to provide "a lot of education" to get the public to understand the changes, something that would have been easier if the disc option had been removed entirely.

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Latest comments (20)

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 7 years ago
Missed opportunity.
Remove Kinect and the Blu ray.
Then you would have a far more credible device.
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I miss cartridges, true plug and play. who says tech always gets better.

PSI also think records actually have a deeper richer sound quality that digital, so there's that too. :)
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Mark Dygert Lead Character Animator, Her Interactive7 years ago
Let customers drive the changes instead of being top down about it. If you want to move customers to digital delivery, use carrots instead of sticks. Make it cheaper than physical discs and give them a stepping stone option, give customers the option to have a disc shipped to them at extra cost (but still below full retail).

They do this with digital downloads of Windows, why not open it up to games as well?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mark Dygert on 2nd January 2014 4:55pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
BS. It would be the PSP Go of this generation (with more constant need for updates) as people without an always reliable connection (we are legion, despite what the industry thinks) couldn't even BUY the darn console. As Spencer said "Bandwidth and game size" would be MAJOR factors and the educating that would have been done would have been Microsoft learning once again that enforced evolution makes for that whip being turned against you sooner than you think, best intentions or not.

A console isn't a mobile device and unless you can always get a signal or waste time downloading EVERY game and service at the same time millions of others want to be the first to do so (log-jam traffic is still a major issue in some areas in the US). If someone invents a pill that erases launch day hype and forces one to be patient while sitting in front of one's TV until a hours long download of multiple games and mandatory services is complete, that's yet another step "forward". Digital-only on consoles will only work for everyone when everyone is on the same level play field when it comes to connection and connection speed.

I'm not saying it WON'T happen, but it's more of an infrastructure issue first and foremost. Oh, and do all movies stream at 1080p ALL the time? I don't think so. That and Blu-ray offers up content you don't get through movie services, but I guess those special features and such can be streamed (slowly at times).. which isn't acceptable (to me) either. Kinect can go or be optional, but hey - NASA got a robot to work using it, so it's officially a "thing" that's "needed" now...
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Mark Dygert Lead Character Animator, Her Interactive7 years ago
"PSI also think records actually have a deeper richer sound quality that digital, so there's that too. :)"
Compared to some digital formats like what Apple uses, I totally agree. But a lot depends on how the records are stored, what they were made of, how many times they've been played and with what kind of hardware they've been played on.

The wrong temperature can cause all kinds of problems, groves can start to warp, dust can destroy sections, even being stored in the wrong kinds of sleeves can cause problems. Add to it that all record players damage records and all records degrade over time (even just sitting there) their days are sadly numbered.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mark Dygert on 2nd January 2014 5:08pm

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Micky Klugman Writer/Concept Guy 7 years ago
I liked cartridges as well and with the falling prices of flash memory in a few years you might see the replacement for blu-ray in the form of flash sticks.

as for Vinyl Records having a "deeper" "richer" sound, what you're actually hearing is the subtle warping of the record.
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Pete Thompson Editor 7 years ago
I see the appeal of buying games online and downloading them direct to your console, but I'm extremely glad they didn't do it because both consoles suffer from broadband not being able to keep up.. 12 days to download a 50-60gb game is a joke, and on top of that some people who don't have an "unlimited" broadband data plan might have to pay extra charges.. The main point for me not buying games online through either Xbox Market place or PS Store is the price of the games being way over the cost you can buy a retail version for..
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Jason Alexander Level Designer 7 years ago
I think what they should do is possibly create a hybrid model that still allows for quicker disc installs, trading in discs for credit, and being able to buy games that are on sale at retailers, while also allowing for digital benefits such as discless play, and having the option to redownload if the disc is lost/damaged...

...Oh wait.
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Neow Shau Jin Studying Bachelor in Computer Science, Universiti Sains Malaysia7 years ago
it's a vision that is even less realistic for consoles, with games going for 50GB per game.


I fail to see how removing features make it more credible.
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Add to it that all record players damage records and all records degrade over time (even just sitting there) their days are sadly numbered.
same can be said for all types of digital audio. CDS lose information all the time. After 7 years its a crap shoot. Records have stood the test of time, its very possible to play a record from a hundred years ago. In a hundred years you really think anything or anyone will be able to play an "itune"?
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
Reality - Feel free to correct me:

(1) If you grant favors to digital only, you anger physical retail and you still need both markets.
(2) ISPs are in love with bandwidth caps, which is why you should have discs just in case.
(3) If Amazon and Ebay Now can ship a BluRay sized disc faster than you could download it, digital is not the hottest fastest way for you to play a game.
(4) If you have no disc drive and only 500GB of HDD, then there is even more pressure on the Internet connection. Read this as: pressure on something MIcrosoft has no control over - as opposed to shipping discs.
(5) We do not have smartphones requiring people to buy a 3G module and contract, we do not buy our consoles bundled exclusively with Internet subscriptions. Cell phone nets cover more households than broadband internet, more people have cellphones than broadband.
(6) If Microsoft wants 24/7 remote controlled DRM, then just put a bloody 3G modem into that thing for solely that purpose. Like the Kindle does. Take matters into your own hand, instead of hoping your customers will provide any additional thing you think they need. PS Vita memory stick anyone?
(7) Software as a service is a business optimization, ownership is a core ideology of society. The mobile space effectively knows no ownership, or resale, look what that did to the market in terms of quality and type of product that is profitable.
(8) Don't groan about publishers having to sell games at full retail price in their digital storefront. Online keyshops are a reality.
(9) If vinyl discs were cylinders, they would sound even better.

If you look at this as reality, the Xbox One does the best for what it can do. It is one 3G module short of its own vision and the vision people have in regards to futuristic DRM solutions, offering a blend of publisher rights and consumer rights. It is also one cylindrical drum and needle short of being the best vinyl player a hipster party could hope for.
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Marty Greenwell Senior Software Developer 7 years ago
10) Some people enjoying having a collection to display (and why vinyl is far from dead - Amazon lists 888 releases for the next 30 days) - there's little joy in having games/music hidden away on a hard disc and why I prefer physical media.
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Nick Wofford Hobbyist 7 years ago
Thank you for that. Really needed to be said :)
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd7 years ago
It's pretty obvious that high speed broadband penetration still hasn't reached the point where they could do this.

It's still possible that one of the console manufacturers will release a discless machine this generation, but as hardware revisions tend to be designed to fully replace previous ones, that is a long shot too.
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Rogier Voet IT Consultant 7 years ago
If they wanted to do a digital only Xbox One, why choose only 500GB of HD-space which is (also on the PS4) really low if you have a device for the future. I know that I'm already thinking of switching the HD of the PS4.

About downloading games, it's not only the average connection that is the problem if you want to download games on the Xbox One and PS4. Both Xbox Live and especially PSN is dead slow. I can download 10 times faster on Steam than on PSN (wired connection).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rogier Voet on 2nd January 2014 9:33pm

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Paul Jace Merchandiser 7 years ago
The two reasons why this wouldn't work:

1.) the already mentioned bandwith issue

2.) price

Maybe it would be different if there were no retail disc to compare price to but the price of digital versions of games released offers zero incentive over their disc based counter parts because those versions are cheaper and include a case, disc and sometimes a manual. Oh, and you can also trade, sell or give those versions away too.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 3rd January 2014 12:25am

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
Physical retail:
Tax man gets his cut,
retailer gets its cut,
distributor gets its cut,
shipping costs occur multiple times,
the box costs money,
money switches hands, so some payment processing provider gets a cut.

Tax man gets his cut,
even if you own the online shop you paid money programming it,
payment processing still costs money
bandwidth still costs money,
servers still cost money,
securing the shop with firewalls and making your online shop as air tight as you can costs money

Online shop earning power is depending on...
the resources of your company,
the type of copy protection you are running,
the number of digital releases you are going to have over the years,
the kind of exposure your own website/platform generates
and the number of units you expect to ship,

Online sales might not be as cheap as they are commonly portrayed. Certainly cheaper than physical retail and more immediate, but Apple and Valve don't take 30% for no reason. They know their service is worth that.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Klaus Preisinger on 3rd January 2014 1:50am

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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 7 years ago
Digital only? Lucky Microsoft didnt do something so soooooo stupid...
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Sasha Yelesin Student 7 years ago
Nintendo was just apologizing for network outages on Christmas Day and then few days afterward. Imagine the backlash from angry parents and sad children who couldn't play any games the day they opened their Xboxs, Microsoft. Digital only would need to be flawless before people start to take a discless console seriously. With disc drives or cartridges you just stick a game in and play. There's nothing more disappointing than a useless piece of hardware customers just shelled out hundreds of dollars for.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Sasha Yelesin on 3rd January 2014 7:34pm

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David Serrano Freelancer 7 years ago
I think if Microsoft had been as focused on working with the core and indie development communities to help turn futuristic game concepts into realities as they were on creating schemes to force impractical and self serving DRM and monetization models down the throats of consumers... they could have doubled or tripled the size of their potential audience.
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