Does the Next Xbox Need a Disc Drive?

Rumours around the internet today are about (again) the next console to come from Microsoft could be built without anywhere to put discs into it, many factors rely on the console not having a disc drive and begs the question, do we want or need  Microsoft to go digital only?

The obvious disadvantages are obvious:

  • No backwards compatibility
  • No pre-owned software
  • Broadband/bandwidth issues

Those are just a few things that I reckon would harm the sales of any next generation console that shipped without a disc drive (proper home console, not a handheld like the Vita), but here’s something, what if they [Microsoft] were planning on launching a separate piece of hardware i.e: an external disc drive? It wouldn’t just be any drive though or we’d be able to just grab a £10 one from the nearest site, it would ONLY be compatible with the console for you to play old Xbox 360 games on.
Xbox 360 HD-DVD driveWe all know what a flop HD-DVD was and now the people who bought into that have a useless lump of hardware stuck next to their console (or in the attic), so it’s unlikely that they would bring that overpriced add-on back. One of the reasons a console can be successful is due to backwards compatibility, the Xbox 360 had a couple of years of updates until they got fed up and phased it out, same with Sony and the PlayStation 3 which could initially play PS2 games until a console redesign meant they weren’t adding the chip that played them.
So how are we meant to play games on a console that has no disc drive? The obvious answer is digital downloads, then someone could come along and ask, what if I don’t have broadband at home, not everyone has an internet connection you know? I don’t personally have an answer to that, after all, I’m not a console developer/manufacturer and just run this little website here, but it is a valid question and I suppose the only answer is, then you have a problem, my friend.
There is also some speculation about flash card devices being used, that’s only going to cause a massive DRM/piracy headache for everyone and in a sense, a step backward. Nintendo suffered when they decided to go cartridge instead of CD with the N64, are we really going to have to buy what is essentially an SD card with a game on? It works for Nintendo’s handhelds because they’re compact enough for the devices and cheap enough to manufacture and keep costs down.
We could also be looking at yet another custom-made storage card which adds more cost or as I saw someone mention, the console could contain an SSD. For those not fluent in nerd, that’s Solid-state Drive which is also an expensive alternative due to it costing approximately £1 per gigabyte, so yeah, you can imagine how potentially costly that could get.
Going back to the broadband issue, it’s well-known that UK speeds are rubbish. Virgin Media have good speeds and their ‘up to’ rates are actually rather good, what is poor about them [VM] is the traffic-shaping that takes place once you have reached a certain limit. If we’re going to need to download games which could reach as high as 8 to 10 GB, gamers on lower tariffs will have to wait until after 9pm when there are no restrictions in order to download a game all in one go and not get throttled.
What happens when you don’t want a game any more and you want to sell it on or trade it in? How do you transfer that license over to someone else? The pre-owned business will cease to exist and sales will drop, there’s a market for pre-owned games purely for the reason that not everyone can afford to go out and buy games on the day of release or within its first couple of weeks. That affects businesses and just recently, GAME.co.uk are struggling and administration looming over their heads, more would go out of business without sales of pre-owned games to help boost income.
If the next ‘Xbox’ doesn’t have a disc drive, I doubt I would buy it. Not because of issues mentioned above, but because I like to build up a collection and be able to choose what I want to play there and then at any time of day without worrying about having to download anything.

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