There’s been a lot of talk about what future versions of the PS5 might look like, especially considering the difficulty Sony has in meeting demand for the current iteration. The latest rumor suggests that a future PS5 might be a little different to what people have been expecting.
According to reporter Tom Henderson (via Insider Gaming (opens in new tab)), a future version of the PS5 will support an optional external disc drive. While the console hardware is said to be the same as existing models, it will functionally be a digital-only device. However, an additional USB-C port at the back of the console will allow the external disc drive to plug into the console — provided players want to use it.
I have to say, I am a little concerned about this idea.
Right now there are two PS5 consoles on sale: a digital-only model and one with a built-in disc drive. The disc drive is the defining feature, since the two consoles offer identical performance. It’s not like the Xbox, where the digital-only Xbox Series S doesn’t have the same performance or graphical power as the Xbox Series X.
This new system would scrap all that, with a single universal console for all PS5 owners. According to Henderson, the console and disc drive will be available as separate purchases, though it will be possible to buy them in a bundle.
That means you can buy a console now and the drive later, as an upgrade of sorts, or buy replacements for either if something goes wrong. But the more I think about the idea, the more I’m getting flashbacks to the last time a console came with an external disc drive.
We don't want Sony to repeat others' mistakes
If anyone remembers the far off days of 2006, they’ll remember that the PS3 had a much better disc drive than the Xbox 360. While the PS3 was a fully-functional Blu-ray player, the Xbox 360 was only capable of playing DVDs. So Microsoft released the Xbox 360 HD DVD player, an external disc drive that plugged into the back of the console.
While Xbox 360 games would still need to run from DVDs, the HD DVD drive let gamers use their console to watch high-definition movies. Aside from the fact HD DVD lost the console war and was defunct by February 2008, the whole setup looked dreadful. The HD DVD drive was big, bulky, and looked pretty out of place next to the Xbox 360 itself.
And I should know, I bought one at college in 2009. The drive, and HD DVD discs were dirt cheap, and it proved to be a quick and easy way to watch movies in a time when I didn’t have access to streaming or cable TV.
Granted it’s been over 15 years since that drive was released, and that sort of bulky physique wouldn’t stand anymore. Henderson’s sources claim that the drive will attach to the PS5 console, “without looking external." He suspects that the design will be something similar to the current disc-enabled PS5 — though this isn’t guaranteed.
It’s enough to make you pause for thought. Because no matter how well you design a stand-alone accessory there’s always going to be some indication that it’s there. No matter whether you like the PS5’s design or not, I'm sure everyone can agree that the addition of an extra plug-in device isn’t going to make it any better.
That’s even truer for the Xbox Series S, which is also rumored to be getting its own external disc drive in the near future. The idea being that players can “convert” their discs into digital titles. Considering the Series S is a (mostly) plain white box, the drive’s presence will be even more noticeable.
There may be benefits to this approach
Of course, there could be some benefits to warrant the compromise. The first is that by consolidating its PS5 manufacturing, Sony can focus its manufacturing efforts into a single device. While acquiring a PS5 is getting a lot easier, we’re still not at the point where you can rock up to a retailer’s website and pick one up on a whim. So any way to boost production can only be a good thing.
However, splitting the two components into separate devices means you’d need to buy two things. And who knows what PS5 restock issues may come up, and how many bundles might be available; there are too many unknowns at this point.
Thankfully, according to Henderson’s report, Sony appears to be boosting its own production. As of June this year, Sony claimed to have shipped 21.7 million PS5 consoles (opens in new tab). According to sources the company aims to produce 18.5 million of the new PS5 consoles, alongside 12 million of older models, in the 2023 financial year, which is a pretty serious step-up.
If there’s truth to those figures, and the rest of Henderson’s report, it means we shouldn’t have to wait too long to find out more about this redesigned PS5. More crucially, though, we’ll be able to see what the rumored drive might look like — and just how noticeable it really is.
Let’s just hope it looks good, with a modicum of discretion, rather than a bulky monstrosity it so easily could become.