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Microsoft’s Project Scarlett Xbox console will have an optical drive

Microsoft’s Project Scarlett Xbox console will have an optical drive

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Physical media will live on in the next console generation

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Photo by Nick Statt

In case you took the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition as a hint that Microsoft might omit an optical drive from its next-generation console due in 2020, fear not: Project Scarlett will indeed have one and support physical media. Confirmation comes on two fronts: GameIndustry.biz interviewed Xbox boss Phil Spencer, and Eurogamer got the same word from Matt Booty, the head of Microsoft Game Studios.

“We know, because we see it, that more and more players are buying digital. We think the experience in certain instances, specifically if I am away from my console and everything is on my hard-drive with the entitlements are all there, there are some scenarios that are easy,” Spencer said.

“But we know that people still have discs. So even when we put out things like the Xbox One S All-Digital edition, we are very clear with the name because I am not trying to confuse anybody, that if you are somebody that has a library of discs, or that’s the way you want to acquire the content, then you should buy the Xbox One S, not the Xbox One S All-Digital... which is why we put it in the name.” Spencer added, “I want to give people choice, and right now physical is a choice that millions of people love.”

Booty echoed that message in his interview with Eurogamer. “Scarlett will have an optical disc drive. I still have films at home on physical media — not many, but a few of my favorites,” Booty said. “We know people have an attachment to buying games on disc, to building a collection.” Microsoft offers a 4K Blu-ray drive in both the standard Xbox One S and flagship Xbox One X. Sony’s PS4 and PS4 Pro each support regular Blu-ray, but cannot play 4K discs. Sony has similarly pledged that the PlayStation 5 will retain an optical disc drive.

Microsoft is being very deliberate in its messaging here, as the company’s executives still remember the Xbox One’s misfire of a launch. During Sunday’s keynote, Xbox boss Phil Spencer made a short reference to that lesson as he spoke about the new console, saying “We heard you. A console should be designed and built and optimized for one thing and one thing only: gaming.”

But remember that we’ve now seen three iterations of the Xbox One in a single console generation — four if you consider the All-Digital Edition to be a big deal. So there’s a reasonable chance Microsoft might make a Project Scarlett console without the optical drive at some point down the line.