Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

PS5’s new Digital Edition brings console gaming one step closer to PC

When Sony revealed updated models for the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition, one specific accessory for the latter caught my eye. That would be the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Drive for PS5, which players can purchase separately and then attach to the Digital Edition console if they decide they do want to own physical media after all. Coming right in the middle of a console generation where multiple versions of each Sony and Microsoft console exist, it hews a lot closer to a console future that draws from the PC experience.

A PS5 consxole is opened up, showing its removable hard drive.

By that, I mean game consoles are becoming more modular and customizable. Something like the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Drive points toward a future where you can swap console parts in and out as you would with a gaming PC. This not only gives companies a chance to be more digitally focused while still supporting physical media but potentially makes it easier to expand a console’s memory or power without doing a full-on mid-gen console refresh. It’s unknown if this is the real future for console gaming, but the new PS5 models at least lay a bit of groundwork.

A more modular future

While “slim” versions of consoles have been an industry trend for a while, the significance of mid-gen console refreshes has grown over the past decade. The PS4 improved with the PS4 Slim and then the PS4 Pro, while Microsoft flooded the Xbox One market with the One S, One S All-Digital Edition, and One X updated version of the console. And while the long-rumored Nintendo Switch Pro never came to fruition, the Switch still saw hardware variations with the Nintendo Switch Lite and Nintendo Switch OLED model. It’s also already possible to tinker with your PS5 a bit and expand its storage capabilities, something that typically felt relegated to modded consoles in previous generations.

This more frequent and incremental hardware release cadence reflects other parts of the tech industry and allows these companies to test new ideas for hardware going forward. The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition played a role in paving the way for the digital-only Xbox Series S. As such, it wouldn’t surprise me if Sony is experimenting with a new hardware approach with these updated PS5 models, even if they aren’t massive technical overhauls.

The new slimmer PS5 models.

The most notable changes come with the new PS5 Digital Edition, which features slightly more storage space than its predecessor and lets people swap one of its four faceplates for the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Drive that plays physical media. Typically, customization on PS5 was limited to console covers. Now, instead of making console modifications something relegated to the hardcore gamer willing to take apart the console to expand storage, Sony is offering an optional upgrade that changes a core aspect of the hardware initially purchased. Something like an added disc drive is more common in the PC space but a rarer occurrence on consoles.

As such, it feels like Sony is testing something significant with this updated version of the PS5 Digital Edition. If successful, it could demonstrate that people are okay with more modular and upgradeable consoles. Niko Partners’ Director of Research and Insights Daniel Ahmad reflected this sentiment on X, explaining how Sony could use these updated consoles to test ideas for future platforms.

“The new digital version, with the option to buy and attach a disc drive, might encourage additional sales due to that psychological factor, even with the $50 price increase,” Ahmad writes. “That being said, I believe this is more indicative of Sony’s current thinking around its approach for next-gen. If the new digital edition does gain traction and we see a continued trajectory of increased digital software sell-through, then I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony makes digital + disc drive add-on the default option for next-gen.”

To Ahmad’s final point, this disc drive add-on could be the future for flagship gaming hardware. The gaming industry is skewing more digital-focused, with mid-gen refreshes like the leaked Brooklin concept from Xbox not having a disc drive at all. That’s disappointing for fans of preservation and physical. Still, this more modular approach to console design could allow console manufacturers to support physical media without making it necessary on every console in the future.

The slimmer PS5 console laying on its side.

In turn, that begs an important question: If the disc drive on a system is optional and can be swapped in and out, what else on the system is modular? Sony could use this approach to forgo mid-gen console refreshes with its next console, instead letting players swap out individual pieces to improve it like they would with a PC. That feels reminiscent of 1900s console add-ons like the Sega CD and 32X. Of course, Sony has not announced its intent to do any of this, but this subtle change to the PS5 Digital Edition could have some important repercussions on gaming hardware as a whole.

The downside to this design approach is that the cost of upkeeping hardware gets more expensive the more modular its design is. Look at how expensive new hardware for PCs can get, or even just that getting a new PS5 Digital Edition and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Drive will be about $30 more expensive than just buying the new standard PS5 model that already comes with a disc drive. Even the Vertical Stand is now a costly add-on rather than being packed with the console.

Part of the beauty of console gaming is its simplicity, and a more malleable design can complicate things. Still, a future where game consoles are designed as customizable as PCs could give console players more options in adapting their gaming experience to their personal preferences. For now, though, the choices will just be whether we want to add a disc drive or vertical stand to our PS5 Digital Edition.

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
Take a closer look at Sony’s special-edition Spider-Man 2 PS5
The Spider-Man special edition PS5 and controller stand on a table.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is just over a month away, but Sony is already celebrating its launch. You can now get your hands on a special-edition PlayStation 5 based on the upcoming game. If you're curious about whether or not it's worth the price, we got a close look at the new bundle.

Sony's special package costs $600 and includes a standard PS5 and all the components that usually come with it. However, it comes packed with three specific extras that make it an enticing value: custom faceplates, a digital voucher for the upcoming game, and a nifty DualSense controller.

Read more
PS5 finally gets Dolby Atmos device support in latest system software beta
The Razer Kaira Pro sitting next to a PS5 console.

Sony is rolling out the latest system software beta for PlayStation 5 today, and it brings a plethora of helpful new features to the console. One of the most notable is that the PS5 will now support Dolby Atmos-enabled audio devices. 
Select PlayStation users will get emails today inviting them to the beta. If they accept, those players will help Sony test out all of these features ahead of the patch's wide release sometime later this year. It's a beta worth opting into if you have any sort of Dolby Atmos-enabled sound system, as this update will make the PS5's proprietary Tempest 3D AudioTech compatible with soundbars, home theater systems, and TVs that utilize Dolby Atmos. 
You'll be able to change this setting by choosing Dolby Atmos in the Audio Format (Priority) menu, which is located in the Audio Output tab of the PS5 Setting's Sound menu. In beta, Dolby Atmos support will only work with games; a footnote in the PlayStation Blog post about the update explains that "media app providers can update their apps on PS5 to support Dolby Atmos audio" but that "these app updates are not currently supported in the PS5 beta."

Dolby Atmos support isn't the only notable feature to come to PS5 as part of this update. New accessibility features that let players use a second controller for assistance and give the System UI haptic feedback on DualSense and PlayStation VR2 Sense controllers are also part of the update. On the social side of things, this update lets players send party invitations to groups, smooths out the process for adding a new player to a closed party, adds a Share Screen preview window, introduces a "Joinable" icon for friends you can join a game with, and adds a more detailed tournaments tile to the Game Hub and the ability to react to player messages with emojis.
Under the ease-of-use category, this patch will finally give players the ability to search for games in their library and mute the PS5 beep sound, makes Game Help cards more helpful, and adds a new Discover Tips menu. Finally, for those looking to expand their system's memory, this update will increase M.2 SSD support to 8 TB devices. 
Overall, it's a pretty hefty update with tons of helpful new features, so you might want to try to opt into the preview before the patch rolls out to everyone later in 2023.

Read more
One of 2023’s most anticipated RPGs is coming to PS Plus on day one
The Solstice Warriors stand under a full moon in Sea of Stars' key art.

Sabotage Studio announced that its highly anticipated retro-style RPG Sea of Stars will be available as part of the PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium Game Catalog when it releases on August 29.
Sea of Stars is a turn-based RPG inspired by classic games like Chrono Trigger, where the main heroes' powers are based around the sun and moon. Sea of Stars' distinct visual style and polished-looking gameplay has allowed this indie game to stand out alongside the liks of Baldur's Gate 3 and Starfield, other RPGs that will release around the same time. Clearly, Sabotage wants to get this game in front of as many people as possible during this busy period for games, so it makes sense to put Sea of Stars on game subscription services. 

It's in good company as a day one PS Plus Extra and Premium title, as it follows solid indies like Stray, Tchia, and Humanity. Sabotage also released a demo for Sea of Stars on PS4 and PS5 today so people can try a bit of the game early. 
PS Plus Extra and Premium actually aren't the only subscription services that Sea of Stars will be on at launch. Previously, Sabotage had confirmed that the Xbox and PC versions of the game are launching on Xbox Game Pass on day one as well. So, if you have either of the major video game subscription services, you'll have ample opportunity to play the game across three platforms without having to pay for it. It will launch on Nintendo Switch, though, and you'll have to pay the full $35 price for it there.
Sea of Stars launches across Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium, and Nintendo Switch on August 29. 

Read more