I am not advocating that all of you physical media lovers be left behind. Nor am I trying to convince you to cast off your discs and cartridges. However, it is high time that gamers who prefer to buy their games digitally have an option to buy a console that supports their choice.
While the idea of a purely digital console is not exactly unprecedented. The Ouya and several other Android-based consoles had their games delivered through digital downloads. Perhaps the most mainstream video game console that only accepted digital copies was a variant of the PlayStation Portable, the PSP Go. That system’s lifespan was only about a year and a half and in fairness, its success was questionable. It has also been over five years since that system was discontinued.
It was only a few short years ago when digital copies only accounted for 10% or so of a game’s total console sales. In the case of a physical game shortage that total might have gone as high as 25% as we saw with the Japanese launch of Animal Crossing: New Leaf back in 2012.
We live in a different world today. Publishers are currently enjoying digital game sales of 30% or more. Concepts such as PlayStation Plus, the Humble Bundle, Xbox Play Anywhere or the Xbox Game pass are built entirely around digital game distribution. Every indicator points to a future where more and more players will consume their games digitally.
Yet our consoles are still built around physical media. Tablets do not support optical discs or game cartridges. Neither do phones and a growing number of laptops are foregoing optical disc drives. We are ready for consoles to at least offer an option for a system that caters to gamers who prefer the digital format. While many people also enjoy watching Blu-ray or UHD movies on their consoles I am not one of them. In fact, my physical game purchases for this generation can be counted on my fingers with a few to spare. I know I am not the only console gamer who has gone almost entirely digital yet we are paying for consoles with bulky media drives. I look at my consoles and think the cost and the space required for those optical drives could be better spent on increased storage capacity or even a much smaller console.
It is likely that a strictly digital console would be a relatively niche product but that is completely fine. We live in a world with several niche gaming products released in limited runs. The Xbox One even saw a limited Elite Xbox One variant with a hybrid hard drive a few years ago. Surely there is room to experiment with a digital games console.
At the end of the day a digital games console represents yet another choice for gamers and nobody should be opposed to more options.