Microsoft tried to make some bold moves in regards to the design of the Xbox One. When the system was still a mystery to the broad consumer audience, rumors swirled that it would be a digital only console without even the option for a disc drive. People were in a panic and retailers were no doubt sweating with anticipation.
When the Xbox One was finally announced, it wasn’t as drastic of a change as some suspected, but that didn’t stop it from getting serious backlash. Microsoft backed down, and everything worked out for the best, but it’s clear that the Xbox One won’t be the last console from Microsoft. The Xbox Two is coming, but the question remains: will it have a disc drive?
Xbox One’s Rocky Start: What Does it Mean For Xbox Two?
It’s no secret that the Xbox One has a tough time when it was first announced. Prior to even that, rumors were swirling that the system was planning to ditch discs altogether. After the console released, these rumors were confirmed. Microsoft seriously considered releasing the Xbox One without a disc drive.
Phil Spencer, now the president of Microsoft’s Xbox division, spoke with Official Xbox Magazine in an interview and revealed that discussions around a “purely disc-less console” were happening as late as mid-2013, mere months before the Xbox One would release!
“Obviously after the announcement and E3, there was some feedback about what people wanted to change,” Spencer said during the interview. Really, you think? He went on to describe these discussions saying, “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.”
Phil hit it right on the head there. Our current internet speeds, combined with the growing size of game installs means that a digital console in today’s world just wouldn’t work. Not only would you need a gigantic hard drive, but you would need faster internet speeds to boot. Phil believed that putting an optical disc drive in the Xbox One was the right call:
“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. From some of those original thoughts, you saw a lot of really focusing on the digital ecosystem you see on other devices,” he said.
This is really interesting news, especially because Phil Spencer seems like the rough start didn’t phase him. Microsoft is still very much interested in a digital-only console.
Microsoft: “Digital is Coming, You Can’t Stop it”
Microsoft’s director of product planning, Albert Penello, spoke with GameSpot in August and offered his personal opinion on this digital future saying, “Yeah. It’s going to happen. I don’t think there’s anybody in the industry; no matter what you thought about our original policies around DRM; I don’t think there’s anybody that doesn’t know that someday, it’s going to happen.”
Bold words, but ultimately the Xbox One still has an optical disc drive. The future, as always, is uncertain, but one thing is clear: Microsoft was not phased by the backlash surrounding the Xbox One’s announcement. They still have plans to remove the disc drive from their future consoles.
What Do the Gamers Want?
If we look at today’s modern game industry, disc-based consoles are still the primary contenders. The opposite is true if you look at PC though. Take Steam for example. This is a digital-only store that has a huge popularity and a massive number of users. Any semi-hardcore PC gamer knows about Steam, it’s a household name.
The company has even released their own digital-only consoles known as “Steam Boxes” that are designed to blend into your living room setup like a traditional console would. They’re not outselling the PS4 or Xbox One mind you, but they represent a step towards a digital-only future.
We recently had a poll here on Xbox 2 Gamers where we asked you, the gamers, what you wanted in the Xbox 2. A resounding 45% of the votes said that the Xbox 2 should have an optical disc drive. Surprisingly, 31% of the votes said it should not. This is an interesting split, and one that continues to divide gamers.
I myself prefer discs that I can hold and display on a shelf. It imparts a sense of ownership that a download can’t. That being said, when I game on PC, I’m using Steam so I appreciate both sides of the coin. The way I see it, consoles have always had discs, and PC has been digitally-focused for years now. Why rock the boat?
As Phil Spencer said, the biggest issues with a console that only plays downloaded titles are the following:
- Storage Space
- Bandwidth (internet speed)
By the time the Xbox Two releases in 2020, both of these issues will be fixed to an extent by growing technology. We’ll have solutions, but they probably won’t be widely available for mass production in a game console. If Microsoft does indeed remove the optical disc drive from the Xbox 2, then it will need to compensate with faster internet speed, and massively larger storage capacity.
All hope is not lost though, there’s always the possibility of a cloud-based console. This type of approach would make the Xbox 2 feel more like a streaming service. Think Netflix, but for video games. This type of approach would remove the need to storage, but it would make the need for faster internet speeds much more prevalent.
Over to You!
Microsoft wants the Xbox 2 to be a console without an optical disc drive. They aren’t afraid to boast this desire, but it’s clear that gamers are divided on the subject. Time for you to weigh in. Microsoft has listened to feedback before when the Xbox One changed its tune, so it’s time for them to listen again.
Share your thoughts in the comments and let your voice be heard! Ultimately, the gamers will decide the future.