Microsoft just announced a new Xbox One without a disc drive. This brings Microsoft closer than ever to the original vision of the Xbox One and shows how far digital downloads have come. Unfortunately, it’s too expensive.
How Microsoft Abandoned the Xbox One’s Original Vision
The Xbox One’s initial rollout was marred by bad PR, too big a focus on TV features, and a Kinect apparently no one wanted. But take a step back: Microsoft’s digital gaming strategy was smart.
All Xbox One games would be digital games—even physical ones! You could still buy and insert a disc into the console to avoid some downloading, but every physical game would come with a unique identifier or license key. After you inserted the disc, your Xbox would rip the contents and, effectively, digitize the game.
You wouldn’t need the disc inserted to play the game. It’d be associated with your Microsoft account, just like any other digital game. If you signed into someone else’s Xbox One, that Xbox would recognize games you own and allow you to download them, even if you originally purchased a physical disc.
If you ever sold or gave away your disc, you’d have to transfer the game license with it for the disc to work. Doing so would remove the game from your digital library. To make all that work, Microsoft planned to enforce a 24-hour internet check-in on your home console and a one-hour check-in on any guest console you signed into. In exchange, you’d always have access to your entire game library—digital or physical—from any Xbox. And you’d never have to swap the disc to switch games.
As a bonus, Microsoft planned to allow sharing of your entire game library with up to ten family members. Those family members would be able to log into any Xbox to play any game from your game library—even if you were playing the same game.
Eventually, Microsoft abandoned that plan. The dream of buying digital games in any store and sharing them was gone. Instead, the Xbox One worked like any other console—with physical games you could resell and digital games you could purchase online. You can still see all the games you’ve played on your Xbox One—but, if you chose one that came from a disc, you’d be prompted to insert that disc.
A Discless Xbox Mirrors Microsoft’s Original Plans
While those original Xbox Ones were supposed to have disc drives, the Xbox One S All-Digital Version brings Xbox closer to Microsoft’s original vision. All the games you’ll play on this console are digital.
The original vision for the Xbox was a complete media center for your living room, with Microsoft ultimately in control of your game collection. Even if you purchased your game at GameStop or Best Buy, your physical games became digital, and Microsoft managed your library for you.
With an All-Digital Xbox, Microsoft ultimately achieves the same goal. All your games must be digital. That means either buying them directly from your Xbox or buying a digital code (instead of a disc) from a retailer. This is an Xbox One where you never have to swap discs.
Of course, you can’t buy used games for it or sell your old games. That benefits Microsoft and game developers. Fewer used sales mean more money for game developers—no more GameStop hawking used games for almost the same price as new games and pocketing the profits for itself.
An all-digital library could benefit you in interesting ways in the future, too. Microsoft was experimenting with running Xbox One games on Windows 10 PCs during the May 2019 Update‘s development process. If you have a library of digital games, you could one day end up playing those games on your PC—just like with Steam. Or a future game-streaming service could stream your licensed Xbox One games to any device.
The Xbox One Launch Was An Avoidable Disaster
2013 wasn’t that long ago,…
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