Rumors that the Xbox 720 will arrive with a 2013 launch date isn’t really that much of a surprise at this point; but news that Microsoft is planning to launch the console as an all digital offering with no disc drive could be premature.
According to some rumors, the new 720 will feature some sort of solid-state card storage technology. While this solid-state technology is said to be interchangeable (bringing up images of the gaming cartridges of old) it could actually be something more like SD cards with a proprietary or licensed format.
While flash memory has come to a point where this would at least be possible, we think that no disc drive could actually mean “optional” or “add-on.” According to our sources, Microsoft may just offer the drive as a separate add-on, which will allow the play of old 360 disc-based titles. It is believed that Microsoft is very reluctant not to offer at least some backward compatibility, after learning a tough lesson with backward compatibility and the first Xbox.
It is unknown if Microsoft would sell these blank interchangeable solid-state storage cards or, like the cartridges of old, games will be sold on them as well. If they opt to go the blank route, then consumers would just buy the blank interchangeable solid-state storage cards and download the games onto them. We think it is far too soon to see Microsoft make broadband a requirement for the use of the 720. We think games on these interchangeable, solid-state storage cards will still be for sale at retail, but sources tell us that nothing is decided as of yet. However, the era of games being released on physical discs could be at an end when the 720 arrives.
It should be noted that we are still hearing from another group of sources suggesting that the information of no disc drive was bunk; and Microsoft is still planning a Blu-ray drive for the 720 as the delivery medium for new title releases, and the interchangeable solid-state storage card system will instead replace the hard disk as the storage medium for the unit. With flash memory being priced as low as it is, this would be the best solution for the 720 going forward to rid itself of hard drive failures.