MICROSOFT is planning to reveal a super-budget-price Xbox One next month that will ship without a disc drive, reports suggest.
Windows Central is reporting that the long-rumoured device, code-named Maverick, will be available for pre-order in mid-April and be on general sale across the world in May with a price tag of as little as $250 (£152).
If you want to play games on it you’ll have to either buy them through Microsoft’s store, or subscribe to a service such as Xbox Game Pass or EA’s Origin Access service.
This means you won’t be able to resell games once you’re done with them or if you decided to sell the whole console, or take advantage of retailer discounts.
These differences can be quite stark too.
If you want to check out Anthem, for instance, you can get a physical Xbox One copy for £40 from Amazon UK, while a digital copy from the Microsoft Store will still set you back £59.99.
You do have options for games that don’t involve paying through the nose to buy them one at a time, though.
There is the Xbox Game Pass service which costs £7.99 a month after a cheap trial period and gives you access to an ever-growing library of Xbox One games.
Game Pass does include all first-party Xbox games, such as Crackdown 3 or Forza Horizon 4, on the day they come out, while games from other publishers are showing up on the Netflix-like service increasingly speedily.
And that could add up into a significant saving for some families, according to Andy Robertson, author of the upcoming Taming Gaming book for parents.
“For families, the combination of a cheap digital-only Xbox and the Game Pass is good value,” Robertson says.
“It also means that the costs of gaming are predictable throughout the year and can be better planned. The hand-picked range of games on offer makes it easier for parents to play more of a role in picking games for children. Families that I work with who have gone this route have ended up playing a more diverse range of games, rather than investing in one high-price title.”
According to Microsoft insider site Thurrott, Microsoft’s plan for the console is to use it to cut the PlayStation’s lead this generation by aggressively cutting the costs of getting into Xbox before totally new consoles arrive in 2020.
The aim is to get the retail price of the new device under $200 (£152), according to the report, compared to the current £249.99 list price.
The new discless device will be followed by a new Xbox One S that will have an optical drive, but will cost less than the £250 you currently need to shell out for one.
Alongside the device will reportedly be a new disc-to-digital trade-in service that will allow Xbox fans to get digital download codes for games they already own and ditch the physical copies.
The report suggest that Microsoft’s focus on both devices is to get the cost down as much as possible “without sacrificing the core gaming experience”, but it is unclear which corners may be cut to try and bring the costs down.
Gamers will have to wait until 2020 for an Xbox Two (or whatever the follow-up to the Xbox One family is called), though that is widely expected to come in two flavours too, one of which will also lack an optical drive.
The new device “family”, codenamed Scarlett, has been in the works for some time.
Microsoft confirmed at E3 2018 it was working on traditional next-gen hardware as well as a new game-streaming platform, which has since been revealed as Project xCloud.
It has promised information on its future plans at E3 2019.