Disc-less Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is a natural progression for Microsoft

Microsoft has launched a version of the Xbox One S (opens in new tab) that drops the disc drive, aimed at those who are ready to go all-in on digital downloads with a cheaper version of the console.

Called the "Xbox One S All-Digital Edition," this iteration of the console has already caused a fair amount of skepticism among Xbox fans. But, looking at Microsoft's past, as well as that of the console industry as a whole, provides some important context as to where a disc-less Xbox One could sit in Microsoft's portfolio.

The cost factor of a disc-less Xbox

Xbox One

Samsung 4K 65-inch (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

If you've been paying attention to the typical cycle of console generations, you'll be familiar with the way manufacturers attempt to squeeze every drop out of a console's lifecycle. That often includes new, revamped versions of existing consoles that are modified in some way to cut prices, either due to the shrinking size and costs of components or by stripping down certain features.

We saw this play out with both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. On Microsoft's side, the Xbox 360 Slim managed to shrink the console down while offering models with storage space as low as 4GB. For Sony, we saw something similar, as the PlayStation 3 eventually saw Slim and Super Slim models released. Likewise, Nintendo, perhaps the king of this sort of console refresh, released several iterations of both the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS over the course of their lifespans.

It's not at all uncommon to see cheaper variations of existing consoles hit the market.

This generation, we've seen something admittedly different, with both Sony and Microsoft outing more powerful versions of their base consoles with the PlayStation 4 Pro (opens in new tab) and Xbox One X (opens in new tab). Both consoles, rather than stripping things out, have focused on providing even more power, with each placing a particular focus on 4K (to different degrees). The Xbox One S was the exception here, launching in 2016 as a slimmed down version of the original, packing a 4K Blu-ray drive, HDR support, and a slight performance increase, with initial launch prices dipping down to $300 for the 500GB model.

In other words, it's not uncommon to see variations on existing consoles hit the market as each generation comes to a close. That's particularly true as console manufacturers look to entice more customers and as overall console sales begin to decline while buyers hold out for the next big thing. Eliminating the disc drive on the Xbox One S, Microsoft's cheapest Xbox One model right now, is one way to lower the price of entry even further, particularly for those who may not care if their game library is limited to digital downloads or who don't need a Blu-ray player.

Going digital is convenient

Xbox One S

Xbox One S (Image credit: Windows Central)

Forgetting the implications of the lack of choice involved in dropping the disc drive, it's informative to look at the convenience of an all-digital experience. Looking back at the Xbox 360, that console launched in an environment that was still largely dominated by physical media. Towards the end of its lifecycle, however, digital downloads began to gain more of a foothold.

Digital games can be more convenient than their physical counterparts.

With the Xbox One, that momentum has only increased. Even for those who may prefer to keep a physical collection of their games, they're often still subjected to a day-one download that can be as large as the game itself.

For those who have gone "all digital," doing so simply skips the step of inserting a physical disc into your Xbox. Additionally, all of your games remain accessible on-demand by heading to your collection on your console and pressing a button. There are no worries about losing or damaging a disc.

Further bolstering this approach is Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft's "Netflix for games." The subscription service gives you access to more than 100 games with one monthly subscription price of $10 (opens in new tab). With all Microsoft Studios games hitting the service on the day of their release, and broad third-party support, the service is purposely-built for anyone who is comfortable with going all-in on a digital game collection.

Don't worry, discs are here to stay

Xbox One S

Even with the convenience afforded by digital downloads, discs are here to stay. Many gamers still prefer owning physical discs, and it wouldn't be in Microsoft's interest to spurn them. The company has done a ton of work to regain good will since the botched 2013 launch of the Xbox One, and it likely won't want to burn those bridges by foregoing discs altogether.

As Windows Central's Gaming Editor Jez Corden argued in a recent piece, physical discs give Microsoft a retail presence that is incredibly important for market awareness. Exposure to the Xbox brand is integral to its success, and prominent placement with a wall of games in Walmart and GameStop remains important.

Xbox games on disc are here to stay.

Whether warranted or not, worry over the staying power of digital licenses means that the market for physical games will remain strong enough to endure. And after the high profile closure of Nintendo's Wii Shop in favor of the Nintendo eShop, it's not a crazy concern. When you purchase any digital game, after all, all you're doing is purchasing the right to play that game.

Given Microsoft's expansive focus on backward compatibility, it's hard to imagine Xbox's digital store closing up shop any time soon. However, we have seen some games pulled from the store over the years. The original Forza Horizon and Forza Horizon 2, for example, are a couple of high-profile examples. It's likely that their removal had something to do with licenses expiring for the music used in the games, as Polygon suspected at the time. But while the games are no longer available to purchase, they remain available to download for those who snagged them before their removal.

It's all about more options

Xbox One S

So what's the goal with the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition? Ultimately, it's about giving people more options across the Xbox One lineup.

Anyone who hasn't picked up an Xbox One by this point in its lifecycle probably isn't concerned with having the latest and greatest in the gaming world. Rather, it's more likely that the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is for parents who might be looking for a gift for their children. For people who have been in Sony's camp for the entirety of this generation, the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition could be a cheap avenue to check out some Xbox exclusives as this generation winds down.

This strategy of giving gamers more options lines up with the rest of Microsoft's strategy going forward. Xbox's Project xCloud will give gamers instantaneous on-tap access to any one of their games, whether on Xbox One or mobile devices, through cloud streaming, if Microsoft can overcome the obvious hurdles. The company even looks to be planning the expansion of Xbox Live achievements, social systems, and more to iOS and Android.

A disc-less Xbox is in line with Microsoft's current strategy

Xbox Game Pass is also a part of this strategy. We already know it is coming to PC, and Xbox head Phil Spencer outright stated the goal is to bring Game Pass to "every device." Imagine playing Halo or Gears of War on the go via Xbox Game Pass on your Android phone, for example.

This isn't to say that Microsoft's next generation of Xbox consoles will be all-digital experiences. Rather, Microsoft is rumored to be taking a two-tiered approach to its next generation, targeting two different audiences. Reportedly developed under the codename "Scarlett," the duo of Xbox consoles (referred to as "Anaconda" and "Lockhart") are rumored to be made up of one traditional, powerhouse console and one that's less cutting-edge and focused on delivering a lower cost and, potentially, with a focus on xCloud game streaming.

It is possible we could see the disc drive go away on the cheaper of Microsoft's two rumored next-gen consoles, but you can bet on it sticking around with the more powerful iteration.

Updated April 18, 2019: Updated to reflect the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition's launch.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • I don't understand why consumers are so backwards with technology, we should already be streaming the games. Download the first level to play and while you are playing it downloads the next level and so on. I understand not all games work this way but there are some platforms that already do this download just enugh gb. to play and while in game downloads the rest. It looks like consumers still want to play with cartridges.
  • Re-sell, I only buy disk. If the game sucks [Advance Warfare], I sell it on ebay for a small loss. I paid $65 for the game, I got $55 back. Also, not everyone has access to fast internet. So a disk will help alleviate some of the time spent downloading.
  • Even in 2019 not everyone has suitably capable internet to stream all the things. For some it is the cost for a suitably fast connection or for suitable capacity (Gb/mo). Some still can't get suitably fast with enough capacity no matter how much they can afford to spend. Crazy, but it is what it is.
  • First, some of us don't game on a console, we game on a PC. Second, some of us prefer the advantages of being able to watch moves on disc versus the sometimes laggy, inconsistent internet performance (which often translates to lowered video quality). A One S All-Digital version certainly makes sense for a lot of people, so great. But until nobody actually MAKES discs anymore, some of us will continue to prefer them for watching movies. When we do buy a movie we always buy the version that includes the digital copy. When we're not at home and want to watch something from our library, the digital copy makes sense--we're not expecting to watch the absolute best quality since we're likely watching on our phone or tablet.
  • If you game on a PC, most PC games are digital. I don't understand the argument.
  • Xbox is not a PC. Most console gamers buy a disc.
  • Where do you get these numbers from?
  • I'm guessing
    Nielsen's report
  • Well, that's preferences of people and not sales numbers, but I can believe that it probably reflects the actual numbers at least with big game releases. This comparison can only be used on the big game releases anyway as indie or small games only are digital. While I perfer buying digitally just because of the laziness factor, the reality is that I buy discs because they usually stay cheaper for longer. Digital sales take longer to equal the sale price for physical media, usually over a year or 2. However, Game Pass is making me rethink buying games in general, especially digital. It's turning to where I may buy the 1-3 games I am really excited to play a year and don't wish to wait for, and then waiting for the rest.
  • Yes, I agree preference isn't sales. Yes, we have no idea what sales are like from preference.
    Recently Sony released the ration of all digital sales vs physical. Digital was at 32% for the FY 2017. 37% for Q3 2018. Since 2016 it's been going between 27% to 43%. But like you said that includes games that are digital only.
    (page 8) And these are only PS4 sales. We don't know about MS because I don't think they communicate on that. At least, I haven't seen anything from all their financial report.
  • Data caps bro
  • whos ur provider? Lol data capping is such a criminal thing to do.
  • Streaming is not a viable solution right now. Just watch a minute of Netflix at 4K and you'll notice loads of compression artefacts (similar to Youtube). That's not how you want your games to look.
  • We are talking about DLing the game locally not streaming it yet... DLing is not too early... Steam wouldn't be what it is today otherwise... That being said... It's true not everyone has access to internet bandwidth and unlimited data equally... But I believe if more devices require it... ISP will evolve accordingly or they'll take the risk to loose markets to more aggressive competitors
  • I don't understand why some so-called consumers want to remove option for fellow-consumers and give all benefit to these big companies.
    Maybe the priority of these people isn't really consumers/gamers/gaming but the profit a certain company can make.
  • Having the DRM housed in a physical disk is not an advantage for anyone.
  • Are you kidding me? This is about consumer choice. The ability to sell games and buy used games. Borrow and lend without any limit. This is digital + physical vs digital-only.
    In this console something is taken out from console gamer. Something that was always present.
  • "And that's not as strange as it seems on the surface." Pun inteded? 😏
  • I see nothing strange for a cheaper, diskless Xbox. Just seem like natural progression.
  • Does anyone have the stats on games purchased vs downloaded? I'm sure it's trending more towards digital downloads now.
  • digital downloads has overtaken physical vg media for awhile now.
  • That's if you include numbers from PC (which is mostly digital), mobile gaming, DLC/Microtransactions (again mostly digital), and services like Gamepass...
    It's a different story when we talk about game purchase for consoles.
    A study shows that majority of console gamers prefer physical games.
  • Not sure if thats true. One thing for sure you get better deals on physical disc sales vs digital.
  • What do you mean by you don't know if it's true? I posted a link.
    Unless you're talking about the numbers?
    "Digital format sales include subscriptions, digital full games, digital add-on content, mobile apps, and social network games."
  • I am fine with this, as a second machine in the house, it would be cool. Have you heard more about the rumored ability to "convert" disks to digital? That would be huge for our 2 xbox family who would then be able to play some games multi-box coop instead of being tied to a single machine when playing disk based games. Not having a disk drive is the standard for so many devices nowadays, my gaming desktop did not come with a Disk drive, and of course my last couple of notebooks did not either.
  • This makes me think about so many what if's, had this been an option when the xbox one first launched.
  • I don't get this. So these are supposed to be pros for the all-digital box? 1. Options/convenience - doesn't this mean the consumer would have more options with the regular Xbox One S? If they decide on going all digital, or using a physical disc, they have those options now. Also, if they decide on watching 4K UHDs that's an option too. 2. Pricing - I purchased an Xbox One S for under $199 last year. Unless the new box is under this price range, it's going to sit on shelves. For this all-digital version to be a success, Game Pass will need to be included and the price has to be very competitive.
  • Yes, I agree. I don't see many advantage for consumers here besides the price. They are taking out an option compared to the XB1s. Since we've already seen XB1s going for very small price, this will need to be a lot cheaper for it to be a real benefit for gamers...
  • Everything will be streamed starting next year
  • You mean downloaded I am sure, not streamed.
  • People seem to be equating the two for some reason, even though we have been buying digital for over 10 years now.
  • I agree one hundred percent about the Game Pass. If Microsoft bundled a year of Xbox Game Pass with this console, they'd see a huge amount of success. As far as the price is concerned... The One S actually retails for $299, technically, it's just usually on some kind of sale. Expect the All-Digital Edition to be approximately $50 cheaper than the One S on a normal basis.
  • * delete *
    Basically the same as what Zachary Boddy said.
  • Eh, I want Anaconda to not have a disc drive. I don't see how a disc-less One S is going to do anything for Microsoft. The ones that are most interested in digital are clearly core gamers (that own an X) who buy many more games than the casual audience Microsoft is targeting with Maverick. I'd exchange my X for a disc-less version in a heartbeat - and my 700+ game library plus 200 Game Pass games would be right there with me.
  • Sorry but your post make no sense. Why would you exchange a console having more option with one that has less? Aren't they targeting people who wants a cheaper console?
  • why did my other comment go here?
  • same here. id trade my xbox one S for a smaller look which i assume is going to be since the disc drive is going away, and own a discless version. ive been gaming on xbox, the only disc i own for it is Ryse. LOL. Its time we kill gamestop, and Sony's bluray.
  • You guessed wrong.
    Plus it's funny to see people like you. People who fight "company wars". Fighting to kill gamestop and a format by a certain company.
    A consumer fighting for a company. How funny...
  • Can you stop categorize / labeling people who don't need a disc-equipped console?
    You have your preference / opinion and they have theirs. Just repeat (copy & paste is fine too) you prefer console with disc because of balbalba, stop labeling. From what I can see, both arguments are valid but from logical thinking perspective, all individual preferences are pointless. Statistic decides. I don't need a disc, cause I prefer to have my full library and saves on ever possible devices and platforms. And I can game share with my girlfriend and family. And I've never felt the need to sell anything, even the games I didn't (an still don't) have time to play. And I only need 1 (beefiest) console in my living room. No switches, no multiple cables and 2~4 gamepads per consoles. And I don't want to waste time maintaining. Minimalism.
    Whether you accept the benefit of digital life or not, I'm not forcing you to follow. It's my lifestyle and I have money to support it. So, obviously, those "I can resell", "I get to keep it on my shelves", etc, are pointless to me. Actually, those are burdens.
  • Lol the king of copy paste comes and trying to lecture me.
    Did you even read the original comment? Did you read my reply?
    Look at the guy's posting history.
    He literally said "no more money going into sony's pocket". It's more a post against Sony and Gamestop.
    My response is not physical + Digital vs Digital-only. My comment is in direct response to him wanting to kill Gamestop and not putting money in Sony's pocket as a reason to support this thing. I mean where are the priorities here, a consumer product or a "company war"?
  • > Lol the king of copy paste comes and trying to lecture me.
    And you should do the same. Stop emotional writing, just copy&paste. > did you even read the original comment? Did you read my reply?
    He comment was
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    same here. id trade my xbox one S for a…
    gamestop, and Sony's bluray.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    He doesn't need disc, so he thinks disc is outdated and GameStop / Blueray will fade.
    So? Does it sound illogical from his standpoint? No.
    He's not the representative of majority / consumer, yes?
    It's just his opinion, yes?
    There's nothing to counter, unless, it's illogical and flawed. There's no right or wrong in his statement, or in what he thinks or wish. He's only right, only / when / if he's lucky that he's in the majority camp. And yours,
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    You guessed wrong…it's funny to see people
    like you…who fight "company wars"...
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    You should just stick to copy&paste "why you think disc is better", so people can read and decide what's better for their lifestyle.
  • God no, online infrastructure is nowhere near the level for everyone to be able to stream games.
  • as it seems on the "surface" I see what you did there.
  • Cheap, fast and uncapped internet isn't available in maybe country and places, but.... this could means opportunity for new business?
    Xbox can install games from another Xbox right?
    Maybe someone in the neighborhood e.g. local coffee stores, game retails, phone dealers or small electronics, can provide such service for a fair fee?
  • I think an xbox without disc drive is a bad move, I like to use a console that is versatile and does everything, If i want to download and play a game, then I can, or If i want to play a disc based game or watch a movie on dvd or bluray then again no problem. Also If microsoft produce just one console, then surely it can keep its cost low for producing just one console and providing backup service for it. Keep it clean and simple !
    What I would like to see is A microsoft Tv range, with built in console/ computer, just think of it less clutter less wires ! The asian companies used to produce all in one systems during the 8 bit era and with the ps one, so why don't microsoft ? Come on microsoft take the lead on this one, before Sneaky apple steal the idea ....
  • The only real problem with this machine is pricing. I can buy a more capable one s with disc for less. This should be priced at 200 or 250 with 6 months of game pass plus or the like to lower cost of entry. So street pricing is the problem. I assume we will see these at lower prices by holidays.
  • I agree pricing is off and sales will be dismissal. Second it should have been a disc less xbox one x not the inferior s that struggles at 900p
  • No. People who want the One X are also more likely to want the disc player for 4K BluRay. This system is meant for more casual play or second-room systems, which means that the S is the only model that makes sense.
  • Don't compare MSRP of the diskless to the sale prices of the regular One S.
  • The key thing in the title "Disc-less Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is a natural progression for Microsoft" is "for Microsoft".
    This is actually perfect for MS, gets the monopoly, control the price of games, get a MUCH bigger cut of the revenue per game sold, the gamer can't sell games or buy used games. ofc all that while taking option from gamers. The fans of the company will support them, no matter what, so don't care really about them. What's important are the real gamers. What will the general public do.
    MS fans will try to push the idea that we should all be against physical games. This is like how these people were trying to push the idea that removing our right to sell games or buy used games is actually a good thing for us gamers. Just like how some are trying to tell us that paying to play online is great for us or how exclusives doesn't matter (only if they are made by a certain company) MS is trying to push their agenda. But in this case they were way too greedy. A "new" console that will cost them less to produce, that's all benefit to them but that is sold at 250 bucks. If they really wanted this to work they should have not been greedy. They should have sent a clear message. Put it at 150 bucks. But no... Looks like Sony is looking this and might try to push the image that MS wants to push for digital-only or streaming services... What it could mean is, if you like physical games don't buy XB because maybe in the future all their consoles will be digital-only consoles.
  • You realise Sony is first in the streaming games model? They got their service out before xCloud even had a name, so if you don't like streaming you need to place your anger in the right place, Sony actually got this ball rolling, not Microsoft.
  • Personally, I don't really care about PSNow. In fact I really don't want either this or Game pass to be the future of gaming. Also I would love both of them to fail.
    The thing is MS tried to push 100% digital in 2013 and it backfired on them. Here they are trying to re-introduce it. Something that has very little benefit to consumers when we see what was offered. Yes, Sony started streaming bs service with PSNow but MS has taken over that with game pass. And from what I can see in gaming news, Sony has been mostly focusing on it's exclusives or on VR this generation, MS has been focusing a lot more on game pass than Sony with PSNow. Looks like this E3 they may talk a bit about XCloud as a response to Stadia.
    I think it's also a question of image here. Yes, Sony introduced streaming (they also got into remote-play and VR) but their messaging since then isn't as much focused on services, and digital-only products as MS.
  • Why is Game Pass such a bad thing to you? This is the equivilant to renting games
    Sure you don't have a guarantee to play a specific title all the time, but some people don't really need this. I think it's a great thing for casual gamers. I have a huge backlog and I still like it more than I thought I would. Do you feel the same about game rental services, like Gamefly ( which I hate for different reasons)?
  • On the one hand, I think it's a good option for consumers but on the other it should not be the future of gaming.
    It should not be the only thing. It should not replace buying and owning games. I've already talked about how bad this could be as the focus could be quantity over quality.
    Devs and publishers can rush unfinished games and there will always be the excuse "but it's free on game pass".
    Also, we have to see how much devs and publishers gets from this. What's the business model?
  • I don't think that a service like this will ever fully replace game ownership, just simply from the fact that contracts can always end to provide the material. I think it will end up cooexisiting with ownership much like current streaming services like Netflix and Hulu do with physical media and digital purchases of Video media. I would be interested to see the business model for GP participants as well. I'm pretty sure it's based on subscriber numbers and not usage of the actual game, but there may be some kind of perfomance bonus to it. Either way, it's got to be something significant as it seems like they have to keep somewhat of a tight leash on the number of games on the service at a time by the number of games they dropped already.
  • Do you know about the whole Office 365 vs Office 2019 ads by MS?
    Where they literally puts the two against each other and show that Office 365 is "better" because they removed some features from Office 2019.
    The all service model is what I'm afraid of. Maybe not in this generation but maybe in the next one, where they will go all-service. Whether it's the streaming service or game pass. And by that killing the game ownership just like how they are trying to kill the Office ownership. I wish a gaming journalist or devs leak the business model. We can see that many GWG or PS+ games include previous versions of upcoming or recently released games, probably to get people hyped about the new sequel. We've seen it with Battlefield and Far Cry. We can see it with Metro or Hitman.
  • One big issue is price, physical games tend to be cheaper than digitally
  • Everyone is going to move towards a streaming, subscription based model, Sony is first out the door with it's trial, Google will be next but eventually Microsoft will follow suit. Consoles, from a manufacturer point of view, are quite simply dead money. I envision one more generation and that is it.
  • They'll have streaming available, but for a very large percentage of the population of the US, let alone the world, they won't be able to get internet anywhere near the speed required. Only those in the big cities will see the advantages, if they can be called that.
  • Fewer moving parts also means a much more reliable system, especially one in a kids room where things (and disks) constantly get kicked around, dropped, lost behind the couch, etc.
  • haha, true.
    Disc-less + gamepass def suits hospitals.
  • I buy digital and physical games probably about a 50/50 split for xbox one x. However, digital games need to be substantially cheaper than physical versions after all you do not own anything as such. If the internet is sketchy or MS having issues your library is affected.
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  • Streaming only reduces choice. Micro$oft will have a monopoly as they will be the only retailer. If you no longer play it for whatever reason, there is no way to pass it on.
  • It was so funny how MS says that this console is all about giving choice. Actually it's not. Those buying this console will have only one store to get their games. XB store.
  • Except it also has EA Access, and if one publisher is allowed to do that, then Microsoft would allow more.
  • The product is a good addition to the available models. Just not sure about marketing execution. I can get a xbox one s with a blue-ray drive for about $200 one amazon. If the all digital matched that price and offered a discount on xbox live/Game Pass combo subscription and/or a significant game pass trial, I would snatch it up. I think with this model and the consumer they are appealing to, they should try flooding the market by reducing the price further and offering a better Game Pass trial to get the customer to buy into it (as a parent, I am not going to get my child a Xbox one X because of the cost, not to mention getting a more expensive HDTV to take advantage of it). They can makeup unit cost loss by getting more Game Pass subscriptions. They have made a commitment to Game subscription model, they should make it a household name by getting more customers to buy into the service.