MCV is reporting today that they have it on good authority that Microsoft’s third-generation Xbox, the 360’s successor, might just ditch optical disc drives altogether in favor of digital downloads.
To which I say: yeah, duh.
Whatever the next Xbox is called — be it Xbox 3 (nah), Xbox Next (maybe), or Xbox 720 (not a chance) — of course Microsoft is considering doing away with its optical drive. Discs have served their purpose, but the time of digital distribution is upon us. Anybody with an ear to the industry grindstone knows this. It’s not news. (Besides, Microsoft has a reputation for mimicking everything its longtime rival Apple does, and Apple stopped distributing its own software on optical discs with last year’s OS X Lion release.)
MCV’s report comes from what they claim is a leaked communique to its top game developer partners in which Microsoft gives those devs advanced notice about what’s to come with the next Xbox console. The report also claims that even though optical drives are going away, Xbox may stick with some kind of solid-state card storage, at least in the new console’s infancy, probably as a way of easing newbies into the digital distribution age.
The report also states that Microsoft has set the third-gen Xbox’s launch date for 2013. Rumors have been swirling for a while that Microsoft might unveil their next Xbox at this year’s E3, and a 2013 launch date would seem to support that. A higher-powered version of Kinect will no doubt play a major role in the next Xbox.
Is this the beginning of the end for GameStop and its ilk? Unless brick-and-mortar retailers can somehow adapt to the changing winds, then yeah, it might just be.
Nintendo has shown that their new Wii U console will continue to rely on an optical disc drive, though digital downloads will be just as much of an option as they are now on the Wii. I kind of doubt Sony will be so quick to follow Microsoft’s example; they have a lot invested in their proprietary Blu-ray disc format, and might not want to do anything that might detract from promoting it. But they already have a high-powered console that’s more than capable of running games without the need for an optical drive.