Entertainment

Xbox Lockhart threatens a treasured tradition of gaming culture

Are disc drives dead?

Unsplash / Kamil S

Xbox chief Phil Spencer seemed to have quashed speculation that Microsoft planned to release a cheaper, all-digital version of Xbox Project Scarlett, codenamed “Lockhart,” back in June. But a Thursday report provided evidence that Xbox Lockhart might not be dead in the water after all.

Four anonymous Microsoft sources told Kotaku that the company still intends to launch a lower-cost console alongside its premium system. Lockhart’s graphics are said to be similar to those of the PlayStation 4 Pro. The console will include a solid-state drive and forgo a traditional disc drive, just like the Xbox One S All-Digital. That final feature seems to be in line with consumer trends, but could mark the beginning of the end for the used games market.

Thanks to digital distributors — like Steam and the Xbox Games Store — gamers have been choosing to download games instead of physical copies more than ever. In fact, analysts at investment bank Piper Jaffray estimate that game purchases will be entirely digital by 2022. That could lead to a decrease in pollution by e-waste, but it could also make gaming less accessible.

Microsoft

Buying used games or sharing physical copies has been a budget-friendly way to enjoy beloved titles since the dawn of gaming. GameStop has been reselling used games at a discount for more than three decades, and more than 50,000 gamers use Reddit to pass along physical copies for a fraction of their original cost.

The practice is like lending a buddy a book after you’re done reading it. You do them a solid and you get to geek out together about the story, gameplay, and characters afterwards. But even though sharing titles has long been baked into gaming culture, its clear the developers and publishers aren’t on board.

GameStop has taken flak from gaming companies in the past for making a quick buck on used copies of their intellectual property, even before the retailer was caught trying to pass off used titles as new (not cool). A majority of developers solely rely on the income from these IPs to stay afloat, so it’s unfortunately natural for them to want to speed up the digitization of game distribution.

Lockhart might look a lot like the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition.Xbox

Xbox fans will now have a choice to either pay a premium price for a console with a disc-drive or a slightly lower price for an all-digital version that might cost them more in the long run. But even with the possibility of Lockhart further popularizing digital game purchases in the next-generation of consoles, the used market likely won’t disappear over night.

Backward-compatibility was one of the most requested features for the PS5. An all-digital console would render all the CDs gamers have amassed over the years completely useless, which veteran gamers would seemingly be upset about based on what they want from next-gen consoles.

In the end, it will be up to gamers to decide how quickly the disc-drive disappears based on which Xbox variant they choose to pick up. But Microsoft does seem to be heavily implying it wants it gone.

Microsoft will reveal the Xbox Project Scarlett console or consoles in the holiday season of 2020.

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