The rumors were true. Xbox is going disc-less.
Microsoft has confirmed that the previously rumored Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is a real thing. It’ll cost $250 — that’s $50 less than the model that comes with a disc drive — and will arrive bundled with three entire games: Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon 3, and Minecraft. Blu-ray support is out though, obviously.
Pre-orders went live with the announcement, and the console will launch on May 7. While the price of Xbox consoles will likely change over time, Microsoft’s announcement did note that “we expect to maintain at least that price difference between the two consoles going forward.”
In separate-but-related news, Xbox users also have a new subscription option to look forward to. An “Ultimate” subscription will launch later in 2019 at $14.99/month, roping together all the subscription benefits of Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass — $60/year and $9.99/month, respectively — under one umbrella.
To be clear: there isn’t actually a cost savings here, just convenience. At $15/month, you’re spending a total of $180 each year on the bundled subscriptions — exactly the same amount you would spend if you paid for the two subscriptions separately.
For those who might need a refresher: Xbox Game Pass subscribers have on-demand access to a library of more than 100 games. That library includes a variety of games from both Microsoft and third-party publishers, but the biggest benefit of the service is it hosts all Xbox-exclusive games the day they launch.
If you’re the sort of Xbox user that jumps on every console exclusive released in the space of a year, this is the subscription for you. If Microsoft releases two $60 games in 2019 and you play both of them through the subscription, it’s paid for itself.
Xbox Live Gold, on the other hand, is Microsoft’s gateway to online play. You can’t play games online without a Gold subscription (save for a tiny handful of exceptions), nor can you access features like private chat, party chat, game recording/sharing, free-to-play games, or . Bl
Gold subscribers also get access to Games With Gold offerings, a set of freebie games that changes monthly (similar to what Sony does with its PlayStation Plus program). Any games you unlock and download via your Gold subscription are yours to keep even if the subscription lapses.
The new Ultimate subscription option should be especially appealing to anyone planning on picking up a disc-less Xbox One S, since the new console commits you to downloading your games. That also makes the All-Digital Edition a tougher sell for people who have already invested in a collection of Xbox games on disc.
Don’t make the mistake of viewing that as a drawback, however. If you’re the type of player who has a large collection of games on disc, this new Xbox isn’t really meant for you. Microsoft is introducing a whole new type of console into its product line with the All-Digital Edition, and one that’s designed to appeal specifically to a segment of customers that haven’t yet hopped aboard the Xbox train.
The Ultimate subscription doesn’t appear to bring any major benefits based on this initial announcement. It makes subscribing to all things Xbox easier by roping two subscriptions together under a single umbrella. But whether you have one subscription or two, the price remains the same.
Still, both of these moves support what could be characterized as a broader shift at Microsoft toward more of a service-driven Xbox ecosystem. All first-party Xbox games are cross-compatible with PC, so if you have a powerful Windows 10 gaming system you essentially also have an Xbox.
That technically means portions of Xbox Game Pass as it exists now are PC-friendly as well, but Microsoft has already confirmed a more official plan to bring the subscription service to PC. The hardware may be costlier, but Xbox gaming on a Windows PC also carries the distinct advantage of not requiring a Gold subscription to play online.
Expect more clarity on Microsoft’s plans for late 2019 and beyond — most likely including a more specific launch plan for the Ultimate subscription — when the annual E3 trade show kicks off in June. Until then, watch for Xbox One S All-Digital Edition to launch on May 7.