Rumour has it that the next iteration of Xbox hardware will be a diskless console. Now this makes a lot of sense – apparently, 80 per cent of video game sales (in the UK at least) are now digital, so you can hardly accuse Microsoft of trying to impose a lifestyle onto unwilling consumers. Like it or not, digital is here to stay.
Okay, admittedly, there has been no official confirmation that Microsoft will be releasing a new console anytime soon, let alone a diskless one. But there’s no denying that the world of digital downloads is an ever-expanding one, and this fact alone quite literally blows my mind. Okay – not “literally.” I’d be dead. Figuratively. Emphatically.
I for one am an individual who loves the physical product, but at the same time I am a complete hypocrite. I mean, I adore my vinyl player, and I love the experience of buying a new LP and salivating over its shiny newness – before stowing it on my shelf and streaming the album on my smartphone. The idea of owning a video game console that doesn’t allow me to feed it disks – let alone ones that come packaged with snazzily-decorated sleeves – makes me rather sad.
First, you have the problem of the internet. I am convinced that stellar download speeds are the preserve of the few, unless you live in South Korea or Sweden. (See here for a related rant about how the world isn’t ready to download epic files en masse.) Like, I recently purchased Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and it took no less than five precious hours of download time. Now, I appreciate that such a time frame is hardly catastrophic, but imagine if it took that long to make a coffee? It’d be chaos.
So presumably the rest of the world is either incredibly patient, or they’re all hooked-up to some super-fast fibreoptic set-up, meaning that they can be laying waste to Young Link before the kettle has even boiled. I say “presumably” – one of these options is almost certainly true, unless the gaming world is made up of download masochists who like nothing more than a steady download bar and an infinite buffering spiral.
There is also the issue of ownership. I’ve paid £60 for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate but where is the product? I can’t touch it, I can’t smell it. I reportedly “own” this punishingly-difficult game but I can’t prove that to anyone unless I have my Nintendo Switch curled up in my backpack. And before you accuse me of sounding a tad geriatric, imagine buying clothes but having to permanently store them at Primark. Hmmmmm!
The thing is, even if I stick to my principles and preferences, the ownership of my PS4 games is illusory anyway. These titles will only be consumable so long as I have a working PlayStation. They’re temporary – just as temporary as having files installed on a harddrive. And actually, I suppose you could argue that if you have all your game purchases permanently stored in a cloud, they will never tarnish or go out of date; you can simply re-download.
And for all my ranting about how I’m not ready for a diskless console, I have to take a long hard look at myself in the mirror. I’m already there. I am the downloader – I’m one of the UK’s 80 per cent. I’ve already admitted to acquiring Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as a digital purpose. The same goes for Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! Okay, I own Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as a cartridge, but it resides permanently in my Nintendo Switch, so it’s not like I ever experience the thrill of liberating it from its box.
The same goes for my PC. At no point have I ever booted up my Steam account and lamented the fact that I don’t have a shiny DVD-ROM to slide into my disktray. My library is there and waiting; all I have to do is double-click and enjoy.
Clearly I am conflicted, reader. I say I don’t want a diskless console, but I am already living out this reality. Do I need to let go of my amaray cases altogether and accept that my future purchases will be confined to the ether? Is it possible that, in a couple of years – my preferences notwithstanding – the gaming world will be diskless anyway? Is this something you’d like to see? Or heck, are you there already? Have you gone fully digital?
Let me know in the comments below!