by Brandon Butler
PS5 Digital Edition 6/20/2020

The PlayStation 5 was revealed by Sony last week and I’ve been thinking a lot about that Digital Edition, which lacks a disc drive but is otherwise identical to the (regular?) PS5.

I’ve heard it called a surprise, but I’m wondering if it was more of a “finally” type of announcement.

I realize many people in the US don’t have broadband connections, and I know many of the major platforms still see up to 60% of sales in physical discs, so I don’t think it was likely for any console to abandon their disc drives entirely. However, many US households do have always on broadband, and I’d be surprised if Sony doesn’t market the PS5 Digital Edition almost exclusively online.

I’d also be surprised if the Digital Edition didn’t cost at least a hundred dollars less than the disc drive edition.

Sony makes more money on a digital sale than on a physical disc sale. If they sell directly through their online store, they don’t have to give a cut of the profits to Amazon, or Target, or Walmart, or Best Buy. Cut out the middle man and reap the profits (30% of the sale price, according to IGN). And gamers who are watching eSports or playing online are already more likely to have the broadband connection necessary to download the games. If Sony can lock these gamers into an online-only distribution service (and subscribe them to the PS Plus service with a free trial), they stand to make back their money on the console’s discounted price and much more over the next five to seven+ years.

In the lifespan of my PS4, which I purchased in 2014, I’ve owned and played two games on disc: The first was GTA5, which came in a bundle with the console. The second was Red Dead Redemption 2, which I picked up on sale at Wal-Mart about a year ago, then resold when I was bored of it. And to be honest, the process of buying that game on sale at Walmart was a real pain. When I saw The Last of Us Part II (likely my last hurrah on the PS4) available for pre-order on the PS Store, I immediately clicked buy, knowing I’m guaranteed to have the game downloaded and playable at 9 p.m. PDT Thursday. If you bought the game from Amazon you likely wouldn’t receive it until mid-day Friday, assuming your delivery isn’t delayed. And I definitely remember the days of trying to pre-order a game disc online only to discover they’d sold out of the pre-orders. I’ve never had a digital pre-order sell out on any platform.

One caveat on buying from Sony’s PS Store: They don’t offer refunds, period. But then again, if you peel the shrink wrap off your physical game box you’re unlikely to return it, either, although you could resell it and make back some of your money. Over the years, I’ve just learned to do my research and read the reviews before pre-ordering any new types of games. (Part II’s are usually safe for pre-ordering.)

I suspect this won’t be a difficult decision for most gamers. They can simply look to their bookshelf to decide if the disc drive is something they’ll want in their next console. Personally, I find the convenience of digital downloads, the lack of a bookshelf full of game cases, and the (assumed) discounted console pricing reason enough for me to order the PS5 Digital Edition. And while you might be able to think of several reasons why you personally would find the disc drive in the PS5 beneficial (watching Blu-ray movies, borrowing games, buying used games) it just doesn’t fit my minimalist lifestyle and values. The lack of a disc drive isn’t going to change the PS5’s size (which looks enormous) or weight or graphics quality, but it’s a concession to how I live my life and play my games that I find a disc drive unnecessary and easy to leave behind to the consoles of the previous decade.