Microsoft pulled back the curtain on one of gaming's worst secrets yesterday in the Xbox One S All-Digital, a console that amusingly—and perhaps prophetically—abbreviates to the Xbox One SAD. While we've long known a Microsoft console that didn't have a disc drive was a likelihood, little could prepare the industry for the reveal and the subsequent complete lack of excitement that it generated out of the video game consumer base.
The idea seems interesting in theory, but when it was first floated around, the landscape of the gaming scene was significantly different. Now, we have Google Stadia, a powerful streaming platform that takes discless gaming to the next step and transcends console-owning all together. The idea of an all-digital console that needs a physical purchase and location to function seems much less enticing with that knowledge available, and the Xbox One S All-Digital might have struggled to gain traction as a result if that were the only influencing factory.
Unfortunately for Microsoft and Xbox fans, it isn't. The biggest knock against the Xbox One S All-Digital is that its price tag of $250 USD makes no sense in any way. The Xbox One S All-Digital is the same price at most American retailers as the much more capable Xbox One S, which features the same specs but has a disc drive to play both previously owned Xbox One S games as well as backward compatible titles and movie discs as well. Essentially, Microsoft is offering players the choice between paying the exact same amount for less features—not exactly an appealing marketing ploy.
It gets worse, though, as there are currently some incredibly good deals to be had on the Xbox One S thanks to this console generation winding down. An Xbox One S with the highly-touted The Division 2 is the same price as the Xbox One S All-Digital at BestBuy and other retailers in the US. The Xbox One S All-Digital features three games that come pre-downloaded on it, but those games—Forza Horizon 3, Minecraft, and Sea of Thieves—are all available on the Xbox Game Pass service that has recently been offered as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate as well.
The current iteration of the Xbox One S All-Digital also seems lacking in a key feature: hard drive space. The model comes with a 1TB hard drive, which is sizeable by gaming standards but seems like it could quickly become an issue when a console is only able to play games that it has stored on it. If All-Digital was really a selling point, Microsoft should have leaned harder into it, offering a massive hard drive to help sell potential customers on the sustainability of the console moving forward.
Finally, there's also an argument against the Xbox One S All-Digital that states its entire business model is worse and less appealing to consumers simply because it can't play used games. Any game purchased on the Xbox One S All-Digital will be online, which means there aren't used copies for significantly cheaper prices. Many of the platform's biggest hits maintain pretty steep prices digitally as their life span continues or are added to the Games Pass offering, the latter of which can be had on regular Xbox One S as well.
Ultimately, it doesn't seem like the Xbox One S All-Digital is really for anyone at this point. It's hard to imagine what Microsoft was expecting from a console that costs as much as a more functional version of itself, has severe restrictions on how it can access and maintain its content, and doesn't offer any real savings in terms of game collecting, either. For now, it appears that literally no one should buy the Xbox One S All-Digital right now, and that Microsoft will need to severely drop the console's price to remain competitive with not just other consoles, but Microsoft's own offerings as well.