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PS5 Digital Edition will be the first PlayStation to launch without a disc drive

What will this mean for boxed-game retailers like GameStop?

product renders of the PlayStation 5 (left) and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition standing next to each other, with a DualSense controller on either side Image: PlayStation/Twitch
Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 and is now editor-in-chief. He co-hosts The Besties, is a board member of the Frida Cinema, and created NYU’s first games journalism course.

Twist! Sony announced two versions of the PlayStation 5 on Thursday. The standard edition is the traditional video game console you’d expect from Sony. The second option, the Digital Edition, is different. For the first time, Sony will begin a generation with hardware lacking a disc drive.

The Digital Edition certainly looks nicer. Without the disc drive, the hardware has a sleeker and more symmetrical design. The standard edition, on the other hand, has an odd protruding lump to make way for discs.

This feels both surprising and inevitable. Millions of people download their games onto hard drives, rather than dealing with boxed copies. At the same time, a console without a disc drive always felt like a risk for console manufacturers who rely on partnerships with brick-and-mortar shops like GameStop to sell boxed versions of popular games.

Sony no longer appears to be concerned with upsetting retail partners. Meanwhile, GameStop leadership is looking for ways to revive its brand, testing new concept stores in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As games continue to be sold online, GameStop’s emphasis on re-selling used copies of boxed games appears to be in danger.

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