While everyone is talking about Nintendo and their current inability to give the Wii U a price cut, Microsoft is still feeling the heat from being the priciest next-gen console in the field at $500. While the system has sold incredibly well, it’s still lagged behind the PS4, and the price gap is a huge factor.
While Kinect is often cited as a big reason, or really the only reason, for the price disparity, there have been rumors circulating the past few days from The Verge, VG24/7 and NeoGAF who report that sources told them Microsoft may indeed release a $399 Xbox One in time for next year’s holiday season. The interesting part is that it isn’t the Kinect being shed to cut the price, it’s the console’s Blu-ray drive, meaning the device would be download-only. The new console would also have a 1TB hard drive and a bluetooth adapter. And it might be white.
While there’s been no official PR denial from Microsoft yet, Chief of Staff for Devices and Studios Group Aaron Greenberg responded to queries on Twitter by saying “No, don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” Still, Microsoft is reportedly seeking legal action against the anonymous NeoGAF leaker, which would imply some validity to the claims.
So, despite initial denials, it’s easy to see that Microsoft wouldn’t confirm anything like this even if it was true. They would want to make such an announcement with the appropriate amount of fanfare on their own timetable, something that’s increasingly hard to do in this age of leaks.
All of these rumors combine to form a picture of a console that doesn’t seem all that far off from the reality of what Microsoft would need to do to potentially make the One more competitive. A Bluetooth adapter and a double-size hard drive would both be important if they were indeed making a discless console, something they more or less wanted to do before public outcry made them change their plans for the original release of the Xbox One. Originally, the One was only using discs as a way to install content to the hard drive.
It’s pretty clear that Microsoft can’t cut ties with Kinect at this point, so sacrificing a more archaic disc drive to save that extra $100 is a potentially smart move. This way, the option would still be there for disc-loving players to pick up a “normal” system for the full $500, but players ready to move on from physical discs would be able to get a cheaper console (though likely not cheaper games, as logical as that would be).
I still worry about if the industry is ready for a download-only console given the infrastructure of the internet in many countries (the US included) and the reliability of serves from both Microsoft and other game developers. I’m picturing something of a nightmare scenario as a million people try to download 50 GB of the new Call of Duty on launch day, only to have everything collapse from the strain and no one with this sort of console be able to load the game or play.
Still, if this works, it could change the industry irreparably. Could Sony then follow up with a disc-less PS4 for $299, undercutting Microsoft even further? Would that finally start to make discless the new norm, even after the public clearly rejected idea for the initial launch of these consoles?
Yes, this is just a loose collection of rumors, but I think it’s a very safe bet that Microsoft is going to find some way to shave off $100 from the price of the Xbox One to better compete with Sony by the end of the year. And since they don’t want to divorce themselves from Kinect for any reason, the disc drive is the next logical thing to go.
Do you still hate the idea of a discless console, or is this simply an inevitable step forward for the industry at this point?