Preservation is a nightmare in the games industry, especially as some 87 percent of retro games are swiftly vanishing with the passing of time and many recent games get unceremoniously killed off for…reasons. It seems things may only get worse before they get better, as there are now indications that some European retail stores are no longer stocking their shelves with physical Xbox games due to low sales.
During a conversation between GamesIndustry.biz EIC James Batchelor and the site’s head, Chris Dring, on a January 30 episode of the Games Industry Microcast, Dring was asked his thoughts on Microsoft’s latest round of layoffs. Of the nearly 2,000 workers cut from the company on January 25 were folks reportedly responsible for bringing Xbox games to physical retail. Dring gave his two cents on the dilemma, stating that “several retailers” just aren’t selling Xbox discs anymore.
“So I was told by a major publisher just before Christmas that across Europe, several retailers have started just not listing Xbox anymore,” Dring said. “So, they’ve just stopped stocking Xbox games because Xbox is such a digital console now that the physical performance of Xbox games is really low, and ultimately, when you’re selling a console that most people are just downloading games for, it doesn’t really benefit the retailer very much. The margin on hardware is often quite small.”
“I wasn’t able to corroborate that,” Dring continued. “I couldn’t find which retailers these are, but it was a proper senior European publishing boss that said it to me. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this is, yeah, Xbox is pushing away from physical. But actually, I don’t think physical retailers are gonna care. You know, they might sell controllers and things like that, but ultimately, Xbox is so digital. When you think of PC and mobile being the digital dominant, Xbox isn’t that far behind anymore.”
Kotaku has reached out to Microsoft for comment.
While those of us who have grown up with physical copies of major releases being a long-established norm may find this potential shift surprising, it also feels like things have been heading this way for some time. Many Xbox games, such as Hi-Fi Rush, are digital only for the time being. And some of the console’s biggest releases, such as Alan Wake II and the upcoming Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga, are forgoing physical discs for an all-digital existence. With reports that Xbox is seemingly planning to gut the disc drive from Series X in a November 2024 refresh, we should probably prepare for fewer boxed games in the future, and that blows.