The latest console generation brought with it many significant changes to hardware and the way software performs. One of the most important, which could have significant implications for the future of the gaming industry, is that of digital-only systems. Operating without disc drives and instead relying on physical downloads has been a long time coming, and in a vacuum, it’s neither inherently good nor bad. Looking a little closer, however, and things aren’t quite as simple as they seem.

The New Digital Consoles

So far, the new systems from Sony and Microsoft offer multiple options in terms of what customers want. PlayStation players can claim the digital-only version of the PS5 for cheaper than the disc model, while Xbox users can only have a diskless version in the Series S, not the Series X. Though Xbox explored this territory last gen, this is the first time that both manufacturers have come out of the gate with digital-only options. Whether they’re good or bad, well, that depends on your intended usage and your point of view.

The Benefits of Digital Only

Physical Space

For players with eclectic collections of games, likely the most noticeable benefit of digital-only consoles is going to be the saving of space. The games of today might not require the VHS-sized packaging that they used to, but storage space can still quickly add up. For those without a dedicated draw, or who wish to keep their entertainment system simple, not requiring storage can be much appreciated.

No Risk of Degradation

No matter how well you look after gaming media, mistakes happen. No discs mean no threat of losing a disk to breakage, theft, or simple misplacement. It also means that a player can download a game as often as they want, even years later, with none of the frustrating searching that comes with physical media.

Potential for Better Prices

The retail market for games can be tricky, with physical media often costing far more in some countries than it should. By going online, proper regulation can avoid this issue, in a similar manner to what other industries manage. For an example of this, online casino Ireland has the same games that are available in other countries, with complete certainty they’ll operate within the nation properly. By working in a verified space, prices are kept low, while reliability is also ensured. Sure, casinos might focus more on titles like Premium Roulette or Wild Lava rather than the new Call of Duty, but the same concepts apply.

The Potential Downsides of Digital Only

No Second-Hand Games

The biggest downside of digital-only games for those on a budget is the elimination of the second-hand market. Though the online stores often offer enormous savings, these can rarely measure up to the savings that can be found on a clearance day at GameStop, or random deals procured through Facebook or other individual sellers.

Storage Space

A big complaint about games in the last generation is that they keep requiring more and more storage space. This problem will become even more pronounced in the new generation, where the move to solid-space storage has massively increased speed, but left total storage capacity practically unchanged. The digital PS5, for example, has a total storage capacity of 825 gigabytes, smaller than the PS4’s maximum included 1 terabyte drive. Considering even launch games like CoD: Black Ops Cold War uses 133 gigabytes for just one game, and with game sizes expected to grow, the cycle of downloading and deleting is going to be a necessity.


The final problem is that of internet bandwidth, both in terms of total speed and maximum monthly allowance. Given a player is going to have to download all of their games and cycle through them as storage space demands, users with limited speed and total bandwidths are in for a bad time. Hopefully, this issue should mitigate in the future with additional storage drives and lowering internet prices, but this is hardly a guarantee.


Looking at all of these components together, it becomes obvious that buying a digital-only console won’t be for everyone. That said, for the right person, digital-only systems could be much better than any console that came before. If you’re on the fence, just be sure to make your choice carefully, and consider how you’re likely to engage with the devices over the next few years.

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