As some early reports suggested, Microsoft did in fact consider releasing the Xbox One with no disc drive, making the company's new console a purely digital system, Microsoft Game Studios corporate vice president Phil Spencer told OXM. Perhaps more surprising is that this "purely disc-less console" was considered as late as mid-2013.
"Obviously, after the announcement and E3, there was some feedback about what people wanted to change," Spencer said. "There was a real discussion about whether we should have an optical disc drive in Xbox One or if we could get away with a purely disc-less console, but when you start looking at bandwidth and game size, it does create issues."
Spencer went on to explain why he believes offering a Blu-ray optical drive for the Xbox One was the "right decision."
"So we decided--which I think was the right decision--to go with the Blu-ray drive and give the people an easy way to install a lot of content," he said. "From some of those original thoughts, you saw a lot of us really focusing on the digital ecosystem you see on other devices--thinking of and building around that."
Despite the fact that the Xbox One does have a disc drive, Microsoft still believes in a digital-only future for games. "Yeah. It's going to happen. I don't think there's anybody in the industry; no matter what you thought about our original policies around DRM; I don't think there's anybody that doesn't know that someday, it's going to happen," Microsoft director of product planning Albert Penello told GameSpot in August.
If Microsoft had gone through with its vision for a disc-free Xbox One, it would not have been the first company to release a system without a media drive. Sony launched the PSP Go in 2009--which featured flash memory instead of a UMD drive--though the company discontinued the portable just two years later.