Is Xbox getting out of the business of selling physical boxed games? While nothing has been officially announced, various reports seem to point in that direction. Recently, we heard that most of Microsoft’s teams devoted to preparing Xbox games for physical release have been laid off, and now according to another report, many retailers in Europe simply aren’t restocking Xbox titles anymore.
This comes courtesy of GamesIndustry.biz boss Christopher Dring, typically a reliable reporter when it comes to industry news. Per Dring, publishers have told them that European retailers simply aren’t restocking Xbox games, which he attributes to the leaked digital-only Xbox Series X refresh, and the fact that sales for physical Xbox games are “really low.”
“I was told by a major publisher […] that across Europe several retailers have started just not listing Xbox anymore. Right, so they’ve just stopped stocking Xbox games because the digital, the Xbox is such a digital console now. 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 so, I wasn’t able to corroborate that, I couldn’t find which retailers these are, but it was a proper senior European publishing boss that said it to me.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this is ‘Xbox is pushing away from physical.’ but I don’t think physical retailers are gonna care. They might still sell controllers and things like that but ultimately, Xbox is so digital, like you think PC and Mobile being digital dominated, but Xbox is not that far back anymore. PlayStation’s a little further behind and Nintendo is a little bit further behind that, but it’s [Xbox] such a digital dominant console so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these moves [The layoffs to the department that handles physical releases] are just necessary, you don’t need as many people focusing on box shifting when, ultimately, fewer retailers are stocking your product.”
Again, Microsoft hasn’t spoken publicly about this, and there’s a chance they never really will, but I have a feeling the sight of Xbox games on store shelves is going become increasingly rare in 2024. For better or worse, Xbox is now a subscription and digital download brand.
What do you think about the phase out of Xbox physical games? Do you think Sony and Nintendo will follow or is this just a Microsoft-specific thing?