Microsoft has revealed that their next iteration of the Xbox One console will be designed with ‘digital natives’ in mind, the generation that is thoroughly comfortable with technology. This is why Microsoft has felt sufficiently emboldened to make the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, a console devoid of a disc slot that leaves users completely reliant on downloadable content. This could be a landmark moment for the presence of discs in gaming.

The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is set to be released in most locations on May 7, with this new version cheaper than the standard Xbox One S. With the launch of a new subscription service, the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, it is evident that Microsoft is working hard to move gamers purely towards digital content. With many gamers becoming increasingly dependent on downloads, there is an argument that this transition to disc-less gaming will have a negligible effect on most gamers’ lifestyles.

However, the counter-argument is that many will consider it better to have the option of a disc slot and not need it, as opposed to needing the slot and not having it. In an interesting move, Sony has diverged from its main rival to allow players to look back rather than forward. The next version of the PlayStation, with a so-called PlayStation 5 rumoured to arrive in 2020, will be backwards-compatible, allowing gamers to dig out discs to play their favourite titles from several years ago.

This promises to be an intriguing battle for market supremacy between two classic rivals. While mass adoption of disc-less consoles may seem inevitable in the years ahead, the immediate transition could be jarring for those accustomed to their discs. However, the success of browser-based games throughout years demonstrates that a disc is not essential to a richly-detailed gaming experience. One notable example of a browser-based game reaching peak popularity is RuneScape, launched in 2001.

The MMORPG took a format of gaming popularised by console-based games and used browser functionality to make the RuneScape available to players from across the world. Part of the mass appeal of RuneScape was that it didn’t require anything more than a computer and an Internet connection. The attraction of such a streamlined process has also witnessed the mass migration of slot gaming to the internet, with players appreciating the practical nature of online slots. WinningRoom offer hundreds of slot machines that would take up huge amounts of space in the real world, but these virtual machines are collected together in an online game collection that allows for easy access.

One of the biggest benefits of disc-less games is that titles can be updated with comparative ease. This is why RuneScape was able to keep expanding its world in real time, while the latest 3D slots from developers such as NetEnt can be added straight at the top of the list of online slot libraries. Similarly, the total reliance on downloadable content for the Xbox One S will allow games to be updated seamlessly to ensure players are always accessing the most recent version.

To make the immediate move away from discs more attractive, the Xbox One S will come with Minecraft, Sea of Thieves and Forza Horizon 3 as pre-installed options. However, those who have less reliable internet connections may be bemoaning the forced switch away from discs. Only time will tell how the gaming population will embrace this move, but it has set the stage for an intriguing clash of ideas between Microsoft and Sony.

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