Has the time come for a disc-free X-Box One?

Don’t worry, you may be able to trade in the old discs for new codes

The cyber world is always buzzing with anticipation for the next generation of games, consoles, and tech. Computer giant Microsoft is right there with its competitors, lining up the next-gen Xbox even as we speak. But that doesn’t mean the current generation is dead and buried, not quite yet. New X-Box One configurations are coming in 2019, and one of them has gamers talking; the first X-Box One without a disc drive. The move lowers the cost by about $100, a big benefit for gamers who lack an attachment to Blu-ray movies or physical game copies.

And for those who wouldn’t dare part with their massive library of games on disc, the word is that Microsoft will provide a “disc-to-digital” exchange program which swaps games on disc for download codes.

There is said to be a second system, a revised X-Box One S that does include a disc reader, but still manages to lower costs. Insiders claim this is Microsoft’s response to the legions of OG gamers who prefer physical games. Microsoft would hardly balk at such a large market share, and who could blame them?

Microsoft is also said to have two Xbox One streaming devices in development. The first design will resemble the Chromecast and will likely be priced close to $100. The other device is said to be more along the lines of Apple TV and may integrate with Windows 10 apps and support some lightweight games. It should carry a price of $150 to $175.

Microsoft has so far declined to comment on the rumor.

The cost-driven decision to lower the price makes a significant impact. A new X-Box One costs about $299, but the disc-free model is expected to run about $200, a 30% reduction.

The move to cut the disc drive remains controversial. Supporters tout the cost-cutting, as optical drives aren’t cheap and they aren’t as important as they once were. They can also suffer in quality and deliver weak performance. They are also prone to dust and scratches. Fewer and fewer people are going to brick-and-martyr game stores, and since they’re buying online, it’s easier and faster to download than to buy the disc, wait for it to arrive, and then hope it wasn’t damaged.

But there is a large contingent of gamers who like to loan and swap their games, and want to know they still have the game even if their code is somehow lost or wiped out. You also have to have reliable broadband, and that still isn’t widely available in a lot of the world, even the parts where Microsoft products and services are available.

In general, it looks like the end for the physical game, and that does make historical sense. The game on the disc is like a DVD or Blu-ray, which replaced videocassettes and laser discs the same way CDs replaced cassettes and 8-track tapes. Movies and record albums are fast abandoning their physical versions in favor of streaming, and it only makes sense that gaming would follow suit.

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