Digital delivery of video games is slowly, but surely, winning market share from traditional optical media. Nonetheless, when Microsoft considered removing optical disc drive from its latest Xbox One game console in 2013, the company came to a conclusion that there are still a lot of areas without high-speed Internet connection that would appreciate games on optical media.
Distribution of video games via the Internet clearly has loads of advantages over physical media: it is fast, it is convenient for gamers, it eliminates piracy, it reduces expenses of game developers, and can it even allow them to earn more. However, there are disadvantages as well: it requires end-users to have high-speed Internet connection, it necessitates platform holders to build expensive and power-consuming data centers.
Microsoft originally considered making Xbox One game console without an optical disc drive and rely only on digital delivery of game titles. But given that there are a lot of areas without high-bandwidth access to the Internet, new video games keep getting larger in size, the software giant decided not to follow the “disc-less” plan and installed a Blu-ray disc drive into the Xbox One.
“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. From some of those original thoughts, you saw a lot of us really focusing on the digital ecosystem you see on other devices – thinking of and building around that,” said Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Game Studios, in an interview with the Official Xbox Magazine.
If Microsoft had eliminated the optical disc drive from Xbox One, it would have cut the console’s manufacturing cost by $32; not a big amount of money, especially keeping in mind that in order to achieve price-parity with PlayStation 4 the software giant needs to reduce Xbox One’s cost by around $100.
While sales of optical discs with video games are dropping, they still represent a significant revenue driver for various department stores and online shops. Retailers and e-tailers are crucial partners for Microsoft since they sell Xbox consoles in addition to game media. For merchants, it is more important to sell games since they sell a piece of hardware once in several years, but customers buy new games throughout the period that their console lasts.
A good news for those, who no longer want to purchase optical discs with games is that both Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 3 allow to download new titles directly from servers without any need to visit offline stores to get physical media.