Recently it was reported that one of the versions of the Xbox One was potentially not going to have a Blu-Ray drive in it and was going to go digital-only as Microsoft wanted to make a device for the future – forward thinking. We all know how well the DRM and always online connectivity plans turned out, no matter how well intended they were. The Xbox One did a full 180 after E3 2013 and continues with the status quo of being an offline device if players don’t want to take it online or don’t have a constant internet connection – as does Sony’s PS4.
Some of the reasons why we won’t see an All-Digital Console gaming future for quite some time are the same reasons why the Xbox One has a Blu-Ray Drive in the machine which namely were ‘bandwidth’ and ‘game size’ according to Phil Spencer.
Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been toying with the idea, or already implemented, bandwidth caps which creates a maximum limit of data users are allowed to utilize per month, going over will result in warnings and potentially extra fees and even a cancellation by the ISP. The point here is, in a world of HD streaming, game downloads and more, we are really increasing our usage and the typical 150 to 250 GB caps many providers have in place just won’t be enough. We have seen even lower caps as well.
Higher caps can and will result in tiered pricing and overage fees and when combined with faster speeds, the bill will shoot up to unacceptable levels for the average consumer. Getting a connection, at Comcast for example, that is competitive with the likes of Singapore or Japan will cost you around 80 Dollars for instance – that is not cheap and also does not extent your bandwidth cap.
Below you can see a map of the United States and its speeds courtesy of gizmodo and you can tell that many states are below the median. Many families have no access to the internet or only a dial up connection and couldn’t even download a game if they wanted to. The US ranks #32 in the world for average internet speeds and is the #1 market for video game consoles.
In the digital age my family does not subscribe to cable TV nor do we have HBO or any other cable service as we use the internet for news, streaming TV shows on Hulu or renting movies on Amazon Instant Video. This means we have a high usage already compared to the average household. By adding Xbox One or PS4 games that are between 20 and 40 GB in size, you we would easily go over our monthly cap – this doesn’t even include online gaming!
Will we ever see a PC and Steam-like all digital future on consoles? Yes, absolutely but the time is not now. Too many families in the US and around the world don’t have fast and reliable enough internet connections with a bandwidth to support video streaming and game downloads of this magnitude for many years to come. Until that happens, we will need to be able to buy our games like Killzone Shadown Fall on an optical drive in addition to being able to download them digitally.
The disc drive will stick around for a bit longer.