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There are so many rumors flying around about Microsoft’s plans for its next Xbox that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Microsoft isn’t giving any details yet, so nothing is truly confirmed. But the latest purported leak is worth noting because it raises a larger question: Are we really ready to move beyond physical game discs?

It comes from game site MCV, which reports that “Microsoft has been telling partners that the Next Xbox will NOT include a disc drive.” The site also says it has confirmed a 2013 launch date.

The site reports: “Although the console will not include a disc drive, it will offer compatibility with some sort of interchangeable solid-state card storage, although it is not known whether this will be proprietary or a more standard format such as SD.”

Here’s the problem. Even with the rise of digital downloads, we’re still spending billions of dollars on old-fashioned video-game discs every year.

Preliminary 2011 figures from the NPD Group research firm showed that U.S. retail spending on physical game content was $9.3 billion for the year. That was down 8 percent from 2010, but it still accounted for the majority of total game content sales of $16.3 to $16.6 billion (counting not only physical discs but game rentals, downloads, online games, etc.)

Clearly we’re headed toward a world where digital distribution dominates. But are we going to be there next year? Probably not. And it would be a huge risk for Microsoft to get rid of the disc drive entirely.

(Via The Next Web and Techmeme)

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