Readers of a certain age probably amassed a significant collection of CDs, DVDs, and maybe even Blu-ray discs in the days before digital downloads largely took over (and vinyl made a somewhat comeback).

These days you don’t see a lot of CD or DVD players at electronics stores. And it’s becoming more and more rare to find laptops that still have optical disc drives. Some small desktop seven omit them.

So what’s next? Game consoles, apparently.

The Nintendo Switch already lacks one. Now rumor has it that Microsoft is working on a version of its Xbox One game console that doesn’t have a disc drive.

According to a report from, Microsoft’s next-gen game console isn’t set to ship until 2020. But sometime in 2019 the company will introduce a new, cheaper version of its current-gen Xbox One.

The main difference is that the new model won’t have a disc drive. Users will be able to download games, but not load them from a disc.

If you’ve already got a collection of games on disc that you want to play, Microsoft will let you trade in your physical media for downloadable versions.

The upsides is that the new version could sell for as little as $200 (which would be about $100 below the usual list price for a Xbox One S — although right now you can pick one up for as little as $299 during a Black Friday promotion).

The down side is that I have to wonder what will happen if and when Microsoft decides to stop supporting the Xbox One some number of years from now.

Nintendo recently announced it would be pulling the plug on its last online services for the Nintendo Wii game console. That means you won’t be able to download Virtual Console games anymore or stream online videos. But if you have discs for games you’ve purchased you can continue playing them until your Wii dies on you.

What happens if Microsoft decides to shut down its download servers for Xbox One games five or ten years from now? Avid gamers will probably have moved onto next-gen consoles, but casual gamers or fans of older titles may still want to fire up their old console from time to time — and I wonder how they’ll be able to load any titles that aren’t already saved to local storage.

It’s not so much the optical disc drive that I’m going to miss when it’s eventually put out to pasture in all arenas. It’s the idea that you could buy digital content that came tied to physical media making it easy to re-play old games at any time, watch old movies whenever you want, or listen to any song you’ve already paid for without paying for a subscription — as long as your disc doesn’t scratch.



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26 replies on “The slow death of the disc drive continues (next Xbox One may not have one)”

  1. Im pretty happy about this, if it does become a trend. Moving to a digital-download-only model will be beneficial in many ways:

    – It will usher in more indie-type games, as indie developers are no longer competing with the ultra-exclusive retail business.

    – Increased variety in games will mean competition, and cheaper prices, or better sales.

    1. Hate to bring on the stormclouds but that’s not what will happen. Sure they may market it with that spin, and they may EVEN have a couple successful indie titles.

      All this means is to make a smaller, cooler, quieter, more reliable and cheaper box. However, where they give slightly in one-hand they take plenty with the other. This asserts full-control to Microsoft only and essentially cuts out the like of Brick and Mortar stores and GameStop (which will go out of business).

      Though the worst part is the hostility towards actual owners/users who want to trade, loan, lend, or sell games. It’s exactly like a new government body that serves little purpose, restricts your freedom, and creates a lot more redtape.

      I’m not against going Disc-free. I’m against big corporations like Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Nintendo, Samsung, Amazon, Google, and yes even SONY using stepping stones like this to benefit themselves at the expense of consumers. It is not competition, and it’s not providing improvements as people generally think about in the free-market economy (it’s essentially cheating). Because if we know one thing, they all have a track record and a greed to follow this path….and the people who get shafted are those below the USA median household income.

  2. This is probably the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Even if most of the games I get for mine are the free games with gold. We use it a lot as a dvd/bluray player. How are you going to play physical items without the drive? No backwards compatibility with the older systems if you have the physical disc.

  3. At least the Nintendo Switch has cartridges.

    Anyway, with massive release day and beyond patches to fix game bugs nowadays, physical discs/cartridges may not save you when vendors decide to shutdown their servers.

  4. When I read the story elsewhere, it was implied that there would be some form of “disc-to-digital” service that allowed people to convert the games they have on disc. I would think it would work very much like the Flixster/Vudu disc-to-digital services, where you can simply point your phone’s camera (or Kinect) at the barcode and pay a smallish fee per title.

    1. Right. I’m sure step two is to crush your disk with a hammer can send them a photo so you can prove that it is permanently destroyed and has no resale value.

      1. Ah, good point!
        This is the real reason why Microsoft wanted the original Xbox One to need to connect to it’s servers every 24hours.

  5. Strange, my comment disappeared.
    Anyways, I wonder if you’ll be able to hook up an external optical drive to play games you have…

    1. The comment system has been acting up today. Same thing happened to me earlier, except I didn’t repost. The comments showed up on that article(odroid) much later.

      1. Oh ok, so it’s not just me. Also had a comment on the One Mix Yoga 2s article never show up – it wasn’t a major contribution so I didn’t bother reposting, but good to know it wasn’t me doing something wrong.

    2. I was wondering this also, I doubt it though, you couldn’t run them on external optical drives on the 360. Inline with my prior comment, you cannot even use the 360s HDDVD drive on your One due to MS not licensing whatever you have to license to run HDDVDs.

  6. Slow death of the OPTICAL disk drive (not the hard disk drive). Current article title is a little click-bait-ish.

  7. Don’t forget with the disc versions, you have the original version, unedited or modified by licenses expiring for the soundtrack or content. When you let “them” hold your stuff for you, you give them full control to change it, or never even give it back.

  8. It’s always irked me that the general intelligence level of consumers leaves a lot to be desired. The more you support digital downloading, the more compromised everyone else becomes. No disc? No trade-in. No disc? No use for third world countries. No disc? No selling used. No disc? Time to download. No disc? Need a bigger more expensive hard drive. No disc? It’s your data paying for the bandwidth. Currently don’t pay for month home usage of data? Don’t worry. Once most of you rely on digital downloads, the internet companies will do away with unlimited. Like where I live, one does, one doesn’t (for now). Sometimes it’s not enforced. But be assured it’s only a matter of time. The fact that digital downloads aren’t given right now at a discounted price? People who do it are idiots and or have a lack of appreciate for money. So lazy that not having to switch a disc is the selling point? Foo.

    1. Too many cowards it looks like. If you disagree, have the balls to counter point. If not willing to engage? Must be one of the fools caving in and paying same price for a digital version. I get it. Swapping discs for you is cumbersome, so actually typing a comment vs. clicking a downvote makes sense.

    2. I kind of see your general point (although I don’t think you’d have to make it with so much vitriol), and I don’t like the reliance on DRM servers and similar aspects of the move away from actually having physical media – although I think legally even with CDs/DVDs all you normally purchase is a license to use? Of course, the big difference is still that you’re able to transfer ownership without too much complication, which is something the mainstream distribution channels like Steam etc. don’t give you an option for (not even sure if you could resell a game if you bought it on something like GOG?).
      However, there is a major advantage to going disk-free, namely that it’s doesn’t require a physical disk. Physical items, as you know, require storage space, which not all of us have in abundance. Even more relevantly, if you happen to not live in the same place all your life, having less stuff to carry around on a move can be quite significant. I’ve had to move home (and city, and country) several times over the last three years and believe me, there was already enough stuff to carry around without a collection of DVD boxes and games…
      So even on this (apprently very touchy?) subject, things aren’t just black and white.

      1. Thanks for having the “you know what” to say something on the matter. That said, it’s funny to me that you consider not having a physical disk as a major advantage. For corporations? You bet. Save the manufacturing costs and pass those savings…right on to themselves. You also obviously have no moral compass as you’ve disregarded the donation aspect to this. A lot of older consoles are valuable to those less fortunate. Making this transition easy (by purchasing digital) ensures that these will be the last consoles that can be passed down. Here comes landfill! These issues can be resolved of course. Have a great day everyone! (seems fake for me to say that)

        1. “you also obviously have no moral compass as you’ve disregarded the donation aspect to this.” Wow, I have been an awful person for years by using Steam. They allow for sharing of digital purchases. Digital purchases are also immune to scratches and physical damage.
          I look forward to you next comment about people who don’t use Linux and open source software.

  9. I wonder if you’ll be able to hook up an external optical drive to it…

    1. I highly doubt it. Microsoft wouldn’t engineer, market, sell, and support a $59.99 product, only to save $5 on the cost of an Xbox.

      An external drive sounds like a product that would rot on the shelves, and put on clearance after a year.

      1. Precisely.
        It could work only if the XB1 gets hacked/modded/chipped and a Custom Firmware. And it will only work on selected external drives, because free/enthusiast developers could only do so much.

        Pretty much pointless either way.

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