Scarlett: Can A Diskless Console Work Next Gen?

Before we talk about the Scarlett and its possible two consoles, let’s talk about everything that led up to the release of this generation.

Once upon a time back in 2013, Microsoft made a choice that would ultimately shoot them in the foot. Under the “wonderful guidance” of then Microsoft President of Interactive Entertainment Don Mattrick, they wanted players to always be connected online and to have access to your entire library without requiring disks.  It was a nice thought, right up until we got more details and gamers around the world said something along the lines of, “Are you serious?”

And when he was later pressed on the issue about what Digital Rights Management (DRM) could do to hurt the gaming experience, Mr. Mattrick would say the one thing that would lead the Xbox One to stumble out of the gate and allow Sony and the Playstation 4 (PS4) to flourish this generation before the consoles actually launched:

“Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to stay connected; it’s called Xbox 360.”

Needless to say, many people weren’t too happy about the next generation of consoles coming around and how arrogant that comment was. So much so that Sony wasted no time at all stabbing that argument with a wooden stake in a simple twenty-second video:

Regardless of which console you game on, this video did more than plenty to change Microsoft’s tune and remove the DRM policies. But it was a simple combination of those two moments (and the Xbox One lacking exclusive titles in comparison to what we got on the PS4) that led Sony to run away with this generation.

The End (coming 2020)

So, what was the point of talking about the events of 2013? It all has to do with what’s coming up for this time next year. If the story was to tell you anything, it is two things: how the “console war” itself can end before it even starts, and how vastly different the world is now than it was back then.

If you were told, “Online gaming is going to be big!” and “You will be buying tons of digital games!” you probably would tell that guy that physical copies are here to stay and to stop trying to turn everything into purely digital. But look at where we are now. With the vast number of games you can download digitally, and how many are given out on a monthly basis, you can probably say that the idea of a “pure digital generation” seems more likely than ever. Not to mention that if you did buy those games through digital stores, those are basically yours forever (or as long as the publisher allows, but we’ll get to that).

And with the number of increased downloads by users, the fact is that they will likely require much more data storage. Even now, some AAA Titles can see a wide range of sizes between 20-100 GB of storage, which means that even if you invested in a system that has one terabyte of storage, you likely will not be able to install that many games. Maybe five to ten at most while getting other, smaller titles to help expand the library. And if you run the space out? Then you better get ready to remove several titles to make way for that bigger one you’re about to install. The majority of the time, you will uninstall games to make way for more.

How can the Next Xbox Look more appealing to the Next PlayStation?

While we may have a good understanding of where Sony‘s PlayStation 5 (PS5) is going to be, the next generation of Xbox (currently called Scarlett until we get its official name) is still a mystery for many. All we know for sure is that it will be the next generation of Xbox Consoles; continuing the trend that was saw from the Xbox One X in terms of what it is capable of powerful consoles and the output capabilities.

One of the key features for Scarlett (and with respect to the PS5 as well), is the use of the Solid State Drive (SSD). With it, loading times will be significantly better than ever so that you aren’t having to wait around as long as you are now for the game to load up and get going. We don’t have any examples of the Scarlett’s speeds in action, but Sony did showcase what their hardware can do with various games with long load times.

With the promise of better running hardware on both platforms, what can Scarlett do to help catch the attention of gamers both pro and casual? At launch, Scarlett could be the first console launch in the history of video games to have two different versions:

Physical? Or Digital?

If you have the choice between a regular console for the regular price, or the option of a “Cheaper System” with no drive to put any Disks in, which option would you take? If you said, “I want the regular console!” then good for you since many others would take that option too. Why? A simple reason: internet speeds are not exactly “fast and reliable” for everyone. And if you have to download a game completely, it probably would take your average game player much longer than if they install the game from the disk while downloading any additional patches and other updates.

From Pewresearch, only 73% of US adults are home broadband users. That’s rather significant (although no numbers on how many gamers are also broadband users)…

But now, let’s consider the latter option. How would a disk-less console be of any benefit to your average gamer? Much like PC players, you can pre-order a game you want to own and when it comes out at midnight EST, you can start playing right away. Maybe the weekly deals can cut the cost of the game you want to get by a significant margin; not to mention that if you jump between multiple titles, you can just select the game rather than going through the hassle of getting the disk out and replacing it with another.  Maybe not the best examples, but a few of the simpler benefits of going diskless.

We can make an argument either way about why either can be the better choice over the other. But what about for those who might have a “primary console” and wants a secondary to perhaps just play the exclusives on? Or someone who just wants to own the cheaper console of the two?

Two Versions of Project Scarlett Coming?

With Microsoft announcing and building upon their big plans since last year for the next generation with Scarlett, they could be looking into allowing players to make this exact choice. Disk? Or Diskless?

At this time, we don’t have a good idea of what the full price of Project Scarlett will be. If we are getting two next-generation consoles though, there may be one that could be $50-$100 cheaper if you take out the Blu-Ray player. Some disk readers might not cost much but really if the cost itself would be a cut of $20-30, most consumers might just go for the more expensive console anyway.

I wonder if Scarlett will share the same design philosophy as the xbox one S and X?
A method that Microsoft already is testing with the Xbox One S. Must be successful enough if they could consider another “All-Digital Edition”

At this time, we don’t really know if the PlayStation 5 will offer the same kind of choice, nor does anyone think they will. If their focus is more on virtual reality and other various experiences, the option of a diskless PS5 will likely not happen. Meanwhile, for Microsoft, they are banking rather highly on online gaming experiences.

With the Game Pass showcasing the closet, will we ever get to a “Netflix for gamers”? The idea of a diskless Scarlett would seem all the more enchanting for the more casual players. Really, what could possibly go wrong with an all-digital front?

I mean, I‘m sure I don’t have to state the negatives upfront, but for the sake of finality, let’s cover the biggest and most glaring issue.

When You Stop “Owning” a Game

If the gaming world has shown us anything, it is the idea of how some games only live for the moment rather than wanting to preserve itself for generations to come.

It might sound harsh, but there are plenty of examples out there that show us why we should have our worries had the DRM did happen and suddenly became the norm. What happens to the games you want to download if the store itself suddenly vanishes into thin air? Who knows, but the Wii Shop owners can answer that question for you. Why were so many people hesitant on supporting Google Stadia? Well, besides its lackluster library, charging full price for games that are years old at this point, and how that is even more dependent on the internet speeds you have, it is that you don’t really buy a game to own it.

Google Stadia Connectivity
There maybe no downloading, but if your internet is poor, so will your experience.

Even now, there are games that you could play online, but if anything were to happen to that game in the future, then that is something you’ll have to deal with.

If Marvel has a fallout with Capcom again, say goodbye to the Marvel vs Capcom titles. What about games with online servers that decide to close up shop? That will be Battleborn at the start of 2021. And what about a game that with outdated DRM which will not allow you to play the game you bought online? That’s what we are seeing right now with TRON: Evolution–a game that we got nine years ago.

Source: Tron Evolution

It is because of these and many other reasons that players should have worries about an “All-Digital” future.

Conclusion

With the evidence out in the open: would you consider a console that has a disk drive in it? Or a simple console that you can just download all your games on? It seems funny to think about how many people could find their opinion changing on this question. There is no right or wrong response to this since it all comes down to personal preference. For some people, they might not have enough room for physical copies and can clutter up a room. And for the indie developers, they can certainly benefit more when going on a digital front than a physical one.

For Microsoft though, they certainly are in a rather special situation. If we break down the “Big Three” right now, we can summarize as the Switch is a portable home console with Nintendo goodness; Sony with the most unique gaming experiences, titles and VR; and Microsoft showcasing what can be done with hardware and a strong online presence with (what some would argue) better online experiences and the Xbox Game Pass that lets players experience a wide collection of games. If Microsoft plays their cards just right with Project Scarlett, they could find themselves in a position to go toe to toe with Sony on a more even playing field.

The main things we need to know will be what those exclusive game experiences will be and how much the systems are. If one console goes cheaper than the other, that will certainly give them an edge (such as PS4’s $400 to Xbox One’s $500 at launch). Let’s just hope though that in the future home consoles don’t go 100% digital, or we will definitely be in for a bad time… But having a choice between the two would still be nice.

Thank you for reading.

If given the option, would you take the Scarlett–a purely diskless console? Or the Scarlett that would still come with a disk? With the next generation of consoles like Project Scarlett and the PS5 making some high promises of games that you can perform almost instantly, who knows what the next generation will look like? Hopefully, by the time we get to E3 next year, we will not only get Scarlett’s true name but also see what it is truly capable of (and if there are actual exclusives titles to its name too).

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Michael Solseth

How’s it going everyone, I’m Mike Sol and I am one of many contributing writers to Culture of Gaming. You can usually find me playing some of the latest games to come out, although I tend to avoid anything related to sports or strategy. I enjoy the big three and all the games on them but my main console is the Xbox One. I don’t have a specific preference in gaming, but any game that has fun action and beating up waves of enemies is usually my cup tea. If you ever want me to game with me or want me to write about something of interest, feel free to hit me up. I hope to have a personal blog set up soon, but my loyalties shall remain with CoG.

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