OPINION: Sony has revealed an all-new design for the PS5, with a more slender design seeing fans unofficially name the revamped console the PS5 Slim.
Sony claims it has reduced the size of the original PS5 by 30%, with a tighter casing and narrower design. It’s an impressive feat, while seemingly maintaining the same level of cooling to prevent the fans from going into overdrive as they did on the PS4.
But the most interesting aspect about the PS5 Slim is what Sony has done with the disc drive. Rather than physically integrating it into the design of the PS5, Sony has instead made it a modular add-on accessory. You can still purchase the PS5 with the disc drive pre-attached, but it’s now removable and can even be purchased separately.
It’s a clever move by Sony, as it streamlines the manufacturing process since both the PS5 and PS5 Digital now have the same core design, with the only difference being the detachable disc drive. Previously, there were concerns that factories had to find a careful balance of the production of both the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition in order to meet demand.
However, when looking at the new PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition side by side, I can’t help but feel that Sony has compromised on its vision by fitting on that disc drive, resulting in an unsightly design with a bulge that looks like some kind of growth. In comparison, the PS5 Digital Edition looks beautiful, with its case curving inwards in order to take up as little space as possible.
It’s clear to me that Sony prioritised the design of the Digital Edition, and then worked backwards in order to incorporate the modular disc drive. This is a curious decision, with VGChartz reporting back in 2020 that the PS5 Digital Edition was the less popular option with gamers, only taking up 25% of the total sales – although that could have changed in the following three years.
But there’s no doubt that the digital games market is on an upwards trajectory. Push Square reported back in July 2022 that nearly 80% of all game sales on PS4 and PS5 were digital purchases rather than a physical disc. With such results, it’s no surprise that Sony is edging towards making the disc drive as an optional add-on accessory rather than integrating it into the design.
I have to say that, despite early pessimism, I now embrace the all-digital age. When the PS5 first launched I opted for the disc drive model, as I wanted to still have the option to purchase discs as well make use of my Blu-Ray collection. But that seems like a waste of money in hindsight, as I rarely ever buy physical game discs and I now find myself watching Netflix, Disney Plus and the like rather than digging out any of my old Blu-Rays.
The only use case of the disc drive that I’ve found to be useful is enabling me to play my old PS4 games on the PS5 console, especially if there’s been a ‘next-gen’ update for the likes of Witcher 3. But once the PS6 launches, I doubt that will be an issue since almost all of my PS5 games are now digital.
I also think the move to all-digital consoles will be fantastic for the environment. We’d reduce the amount of plastic waste, as well as the CO₂ emissions caused by delivering games to the many retailers across the globe.
Sony will likely be hesitant to switch entirely over to digital games, as it will risk upsetting major retailers such as Amazon. But there’s no reason why online retailers can’t stock additional game codes for digital downloads instead. Such a move would also prevent Sony from having a closed market for game sales, ensuring that there’s still competitive pricing.
The only plausible argument I can think of in favour of retaining physical game discs is game preservation. Nintendo’s recent closure of the 3DS and Wii U eShops reignited concerns that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to access older digital games. The only solace is that most old games are still available in disc format, but that would no longer be the case if Sony did decide to axe physical games entirely for the PS6.
More needs to be done to ease concerns in regards to game preservation, but there’s no reason why Sony can’t ensure that a digital library of older PlayStation games can be accessible to all, either through the cloud or even on PC given Sony’s increased interest in the platform.
Either way, the PS5 Slim is evidence that Sony no longer views the disc drive as an essential component for its console. In fact, it seems like Sony views it more like an irritating obstacle after seeing how it has been forced to compromise on the looks of its latest console. All signs point towards the PS6 becoming the first all-digital console, and that may not be such a bad thing.