9 Mar 2012

The Next Xbox Won't Use Discs: Why that's both Good and Bad

This is coming from MCV and if true it means that the daddy of all non disclosure agreements has been broken and I’m betting Microsoft will be pretty pissed off. Last month they held a developers meeting in London which is rumoured to have been the first time they’ve shown off their upcoming hardware to those that need to know about these types of things before the public do.
The rumour coming away from this leak is that the next xbox will not use a physical media format to play games, instead users will be able to stream or download the content directly onto the new device which has the current code name of Durango* (see the bottom for more on this). There will be some form of SD card to allow for game transfers or whatever it is you need those things for, I currently use a usb stick to move my profile between xbox’s so I presume it’s a similar thing. Also with this info comes the confirmation of a 2013 release date, which would then back up the previous rumour of an E3 2012 reveal.
In my opinion the rumour of having no physical media format is both good and bad for various reasons;

The price will be set by Microsoft – Much like the current slew of xbox games on demand, you’ll see titles holding their value for much longer, and currently they seem to expect everyone to pay over £20 for poorly rated titles which are 4 years old. The only way I can see this becoming a good point is if they allow for a pricing structure similar to Valve with their Steam Store, having daily deals and various periods of time where they heavily discount a certain publisher’s games. However this will be good for publishers and Microsoft as they can set the price they want and we have no choice but to pay.

No pre-owned games or rentals – People will tend to be pickier with what they buy. There’s no doubt that half of the games I’ve played, I never would have if there was no rental or pre-owned system. There’s no way in hell I would’ve paid full price for titles like Iron Man 2. Again this is good for Microsoft and Publishers as they no longer lose money with people buying preowned, but may lose more with a lack of sales in the first place.

No special editions – say goodbye to statues, maps and artbooks

The end of the high street game store – The only thing you’ll need a store for is to buy the hardware and accessories. No boxed product to shift means no need for a store to sell it. This lack of stores also means a lack of competitive pricing, no longer will you go to one shop because it’s £1.50 cheaper.

Smaller console – A lack a disc drive will significantly reduce the size of any hardware.

Bigger variety of titles – Indie companies have a better platform to get their games into the public, the cost for a studio to develop for a digital only release is significantly less and would decrease the need for large publishers to advertise and to ship your game around the world.

Availability - You no longer have to worry about pre-ordering and deliveries arriving in time for release day, you no longer even have to leave the house, everything is available instantly. The only thing which may be an issue is your own connection speed, in that case streaming the game would be out and downloads may take a while.

No Piracy - Microsoft will handle the DRM on every title, much like Steam do for everything bought through their store.

Price drop on new releases – Let’s face it DVD’s are not the format for next gen games, often triple A titles are currently too large for one disc and require two or three, whereas the same release on PS3 all fits snugly on one blu-ray disc. Often this lack of space could mean a potential loss of sales for an Xbox title as well, the PS3 version is sometimes more desirable. For example on PS3 the latest Assassin’s Creed game also shipped with the first in the series on the disc as well, similarly the Bioshock Infinite will ship with a copy of the first on the same disc. But xbox users don’t have this privilege as there simply isn’t the room for it. Blu-ray is the only current disc related format that would be suitable for a high def next gen game, but then it costs to license the disc format, particularly when you think that Microsoft’s main competitor are part of the Blu-Ray Alliance and so would receive a cut of each license fee, then on top of that you have to print, store and ship the software. So bypassing this altogether saves money on development and publishing and may mean we see prices more in line with the current brand new PC release prices.

Overall the bad seems to be all about the potential price structure whereas the good would be availability and diversity. Personally I’m all for this, whilst I like having a physical product on my shelf and like going into a gaming store to maybe have a title you’ve never heard of catch your eye, or to find a bargain in the pre-owned section at the same time the lazy person in me sees this as a great opportunity to never get off the sofa because it’s there in front of me. But I’d like to hear if anyone else has any thoughts on this?

*Durango is the name of a town in Brazil. Microsoft currently have a trend of using Brazilian towns as codenames for upcoming hardware another example of this is the last offering, Kinect was previously known as Natal when it was under development.

*The console in the header is just a concept I found online, but it is quite nice.

[source: MCV]


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