New video game consoles are coming. Microsoft's Project Scarlett platform is scheduled for release in Holiday 2020, while Sony's next-generation PlayStation system is rumoured to release around that time as well. Both Scarlett (now officially named Xbox Series X) and the PS5 will have disc drives, and retailer GameStop is pleased about that following some ongoing turmoil related to the all-digital Xbox One S model.
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The retailer's chief customer officer, Frank Hamlin, told GameSpot that both Microsoft and Sony are "keenly aware" that people want to have the option to play a disc if they want. Digital game sales and the popularity and prevalence of digital services like streaming and subscription programs are growing year-over-year, but at the end of the day, giving people the option to play physical media is important, Hamlin says.
Not only that, but unlike TV, movies, and music--industries that have all adopted a digital-first approach--the file sizes for games are generally much larger. And they're growing all the time as games become more and more content-rich and graphically impressive. As such, discs will continue to be important for some portion of the gaming audience for a long time to come, according to Hamlin.
"I think both Microsoft and Sony are keenly aware that the consumer needs that optionality," he said. "We're very much a believer in helping our customers sell them a physical game when they want it."
Hamlin went on to say that people still enjoy buying physical games because they enjoy owning something tangible when they pay $60 USD or more.
"I think both Microsoft and Sony are keenly aware that the consumer needs that optionality" -- Frank Hamlin on PS5 and Xbox Scarlett having disc drives
"It's much like a collectible. They like the collectibility and trophy on the shelf," Hamlin said. "That tangibility is something that's extremely important for the right game experience. Not giving the customers the privilege of having that is something I think both Sony and Microsoft are aware would be a foolish thing to do."
File sizes for games are indeed growing. Just recently, it was reported that Cyberpunk 2077 will be 80 GB on PS4. One of 2018's biggest and most impressive games, Red Dead Redemption 2, is over 100 GB. With the kind of 8K graphics that Project Scarlett and the PS5 can offer, the file size for a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 could balloon to 400 GB, Hamlin estimated.
Microsoft experimented with an all-digital Xbox model with the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition that was released in May. The console has no disc drive, so it doesn't seem to be the most attractive product for a retailer like GameStop that relies on physical media. Unlike Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target, GameStop does not sell the system. Hamlin told GameSpot that GameStop continues to have conversations with Microsoft about offering the system, but those talks haven't amounted to anything yet.
"We're absolutely excited about it, but we're not presently selling it. Microsoft is a wonderful partner and we're in conversations about how that could be a possibility," he said.
It's not immediately clear what's holding things up, and Hamlin said he wouldn't comment on conversations between GameStop and Microsoft that are currently ongoing.
Whatever the case, Hamlin says he believes physical will continue to be a better way to experience larger games, and start playing faster.
"For the larger, more immersive games, I think a physical experience is going to be a better get-your-game-in quicker experience," he said. "Even on increasing bandwidth speeds. I think that's why the customer doesn't want to throw away that optionality. It's not like movies where the file size of a movie is pretty much the same file size forever year after. These games become more and more immersive, and as they do, their file size gets exponentially larger."