When’s the last time you bought a physical copy of a PC game? Like, on a disc? Yeah, I can’t remember either. I don’t even have an optical drive in my desktop tower anymore. But consoles are still a bit behind the curve, with discs still the primary means of distribution for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Digital sales have slowly grown this generation though, enough so that Microsoft apparently feels comfortable offering an Xbox One sans disc drive. The rumored “Xbox One S All-Digital Edition” is indeed real, and was officially announced this week. It’s exactly what you’d expect, an Xbox One S without the optical drive slot on the front.
And yes, that cumbersome “All-Digital Edition” is the official name.
It’s due to release on May 7 for $250, or $50 less than the standard Xbox One S. Note, that’s an Xbox One S as in “Slim,” not the high-powered Xbox One X we were so impressed by in 2017. The S is essentially the original Xbox One under the hood, and the hardware is very outdated at this point—the equivalent of an ancient Nvidia GTX 750 Ti or AMD’s antiquated Radeon HD 7850. The Xbox One S outputs 4K HDR video content (if you can stream it, obviously) and will up-res games to 4K. It will not run games natively at 4K though.
Included with the All-Digital Edition are three games: Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, and Forza Horizon 3. That’s not a typo, by the way. For some reason it’ll come with the previous Forza Horizon game, not the current iteration (2018’s Forza Horizon 4). That said, you’ll get a trial for Game Pass, Microsoft’s $10-a-month subscription service, enabling on-demand access to all its first-party content and a selection of older third-party games as well.
Whether the All-Digital Edition is worth it though? I’m not sure. I didn’t necessarily expect more than a $50 price cut for the All-Digital Edition, given all Microsoft did is remove the Blu-ray drive. Still, saving $50 doesn’t seem like much incentive to give up physical media. Hell, the All-Digital Edition might even cost you more in the long run, depending on how you plan to use it. Giving up discs means giving up used games and third-party sales, greatly limiting your options.
If you plan to primarily use Game Pass and don’t already have an Xbox One, a drive-less model might be worth a second look. I’d hoped Microsoft would take a bolder loss-leader stance though, opting for a $200 (or even $150) price tag with the promise of higher digital prices and boosted Game Pass subscription numbers down the line.
It’s early days for this experiment though. With a new console generation right around the corner, the bigger question is what this All-Digital Edition indicates for the next Xbox. We already heard this week that the PlayStation 5 will have a disc drive, meaning Microsoft could potentially undercut Sony on price by offering an all-digital option at launch, with a focus on Game Pass and the forthcoming Project xCloud streaming solution—and that could be very interesting indeed. We’ll keep you updated.