Just hours after Sony revealed the first details of its next-generation PlayStation, Microsoft on April 16 announced an all-digital version of its Xbox One S console. It’s the first of its kind as an Xbox console that can’t accept any sort of physical media.
The new console will cost $250, roughly $50 less than the version with a Blu-ray disk drive, and is attempt from Microsoft to take back the video-game sales market from retailers that sell its games, like Walmart, Target, Amazon, and GameStop. Users will only be able to purchase games for the new console from the Xbox’s virtual store, meaning the company itself will be seeing the proceeds for every hardware and software sale from the all-digital One S.
The console comes with 1 TB of storage onboard and the ability to download games to any other Xbox the user logs into—which means you should be able share games with friends, if you trust them with your account details.
Microsoft also announced a new $15-per-month subscription service called Game Pass Ultimate. It combines the benefits of the existing Live Gold service (a requirement to play online multiplayer games like Fortnite on an Xbox) and Game Pass, a sort of Netflix for Xbox games. It’s not a game-streaming service quite yet—much like the one Google is readying (though Microsoft is reportedly working on a device just like this). But the new console and subscription service point to a future where Xbox users are playing games on-demand, whenever they want them, without having to download massive files.
Until the world’s internet connections are robust enough to allow for streaming high-resolution, processor-straining games, Microsoft seems content to win back customers who otherwise might have opted not to buy its games online, and effectively starve the market for used games.
Microsoft, isn’t, however, killing the disc drive entirely. There are still plenty of people who want to buy physical games, from collectors obsessed with owning every title to casual users who may share games with friends, and those who might have had an older console handed down to them.
The drive-less Xbox One S goes on sale May 7, presumably at all the stores that won’t be able to sell games for it.