Internet infrastructure problems prevent digital only consoles for now, he says.
The idea that consoles could go discless is one that has been floated for a while now—in fact, we even have rumors of a discless Xbox on the way. But these questions always forget the all important factor that is bandwidth—given how large games are now, and how internet infrastructure is still not up to par in most of the world, how exactly does one propose to have a discless console work?
Marc-André Jutras, technical director of Cradle Games, the developers on the promising looking upcoming science fiction action RPG Hellpoint, feels like discless consoles are unviable for the next generation for precisely that reason. He feels that discless SKUs might be a thing, but there will also be versions that accept physical media.
“I think they will have a discless version, but I think that for the next generation there will still be a version with discs,” he said while speaking with GamingBolt. “There are a few reasons: not everyone has internet, and if you do have internet, a lot of people don’t have enough bandwidth to download 80GB per game. The current generation of games is huge. Not everyone can afford to download a game and its patches, there are still internet providers who have bandwidth caps. And if we have bandwidth issues here, you can imagine that it might be worse in other countries.
“The second issue I see is that if you go with a version of a console that has no disc, then why would GameStop sell those consoles? The whole market is you sell the games for profit. So you pretty much say, “hey, sell our console that makes you no profit, and sell no games”. So I don’t think you will see discs die this generation. But one thing I would like to see is, because right now I have issues with Blu Rays, they are slow to load. So that’s why in the last generation of consoles, you have games with long loading times, and the games needing to be installed.”
So if not discs, then what? Jurtras feels like cartridges or USB keys would be a far better alternative to discs.
“One thing I would like to see, is some games should be able to be offered on cartridges or USB keys,” he said. “For developers when we end up trying to ship games on a disc, it’s pretty much always the same issue, you have not have your game ready ahead of time by two months, so they can be pressed on disc. I think the issue of having a disc or a USB key or a cartridge is pretty much the same. I could see that printing Blu Rays takes time, just to do it properly. Flashing a USB key with an existing image on the other hand is much faster.
When the question of the cost of cartridges was brought up, he said that while there were well publicized issues with higher capacity cartridges being expensive on the Switch, time and technology should have resolved the issue by next generation.
“The Switch came out almost two years ago,” he said. “Time flies so fast! But if you look at it, it’s insane how storage capacity has exploded in the last two years.”
While I would personally love cartridge based systems—cartridges have negligible loading times, are compact, not as susceptible to disc rot, don’t need installation, and more—I don’t know if Microsoft and Sony will go with something like that. On the other hand, Nintendo, for now, I see sticking with cartridges for the foreseeable future.