Will The Next Xbox Ditch Physical Game Discs? Phil Spencer Sounds Off

Microsoft's Phil Spencer sitting next to an Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.
One rumor that's persisted for several years—at least a half a decade, at this point—is that Microsoft will completely abandon physical discs for its Xbox game consoles. It hasn't happened, though with Microsoft confirming that it plans to keep releasing newer generation Xbox consoles into the future, the question has been raised once again—will the next-gen Xbox finally do away with game discs and fully embrace digital downloads? Microsoft's CEO of gaming Phil Spencer addressed the topic head on in a recent interview.

Spencer sat for a spell with Stephen Totilo at Game Files and touched on a number of topics. Totilo asked him point blank if Xbox would commit to supporting games on discs, a fair question in light of a leaked FTC filing of a cylinder-shaped Xbox Series X refresh codenamed Brooklin.

Image detailing features of Microsoft's unreleased Xbox Series X refresh codenamed Brooklin.
Source: Microsoft/FTC

The filing pitches the refreshed Xbox console as being "adorably all digital," and you can see from the image that it lacks a disc drive. Whether the refresh comes to fruition or not remains to be seen, but even if it does, Spencer suggest it won't be the end of the road for physical game discs.

"We are supportive of physical media, but we don't have a need to drive that disproportionate to customer demand," Spencer said. "We ship games physically and digitally, and we're really just following what the customers are doing. And I think our job in running Xbox is to deliver on the things that a majority of the customers want. And right now, a a majority of our customers are buying games digitally."

That comes off as a bit of mixed messaging, but it makes sense when you look at how Microsoft approached the current generation of Xbox—there's the Xbox Series X with a disc drive supporting Blu-ray media, and the less powerful Xbox Series S that is all-digital.

Lest there be any confusion, however, Spencer stated to Totilo in no uncertain terms, "I will say our strategy does not hinge on people moving all-digital. And getting rid of physical, that's not a strategic thing for us."

It's likely inevitable that physical media will fall by the wayside on gaming consoles, especially as pricing on bulk solid state drive (SSD) storage continues to fall. But barring a shift in strategy, it sounds like Xbox will retain support for physical discs for at least one more generation. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess—seven years elapsed between the release of the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, which is an eternity in the land of tech.