Not that long ago, Microsoft considered releasing the Xbox One without any support for optical media whatsoever.
That news comes courtesy of a recent OXM interview with Phil Spencer, when the Microsoft Studios head revealed that the company was considering a disc drive-less console as recently as E3 2013.
“Obviously, after the announcement and E3, there was some feedback about what people wanted to change,” Spencer said. “There was a real discussion about whether we should have an optical disc drive in Xbox One or if we could get away with a purely disc-less console, but when you start looking at bandwidth and game size, it does create issues.”
Much of that feedback was centered around the now-infamous always-online policy Microsoft proposed at E3, which would have allowed users to take their digital games with them to any console and share them with family members at the expense of a regular Internet check-in to validate licenses. Popular reaction to the scheme was overwhelmingly negative, causing Microsoft to backpedal on their plans. That was likely the final nail in the coffin for the idea of a disc-less Xbox One, though Spencer didn’t explicitly say as much during the interview.
“We decided—which I think was the right decision—to go with the Blu-ray drive and give the people an easy way to install a lot of content,” he continued. “From some of those original thoughts, you saw a lot of us really focusing on the digital ecosystem you see on other devices—thinking of and building around that.”
It’s interesting to imagine how different the market might be had the Xbox One actually launched with only digital distribution. Would the public had warmed up to the forced connectivity if discs were a thing of the past? Would the console’s form factor have been a little sleeker? Would the system have had a better launch reputation if it hadn’t had to cope with failures of its Blu-ray drives (and the silly solutions for the problem)?
Perhaps, right this moment, in some alternate universe, the disc drive–less Xbox One is the fastest-selling product in history, while Don Mattrick sits atop a throne of solid gold prepared to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for mankind. Probably not, though.