The rumor has it that Sony's next PlayStation and Microsoft's next Xbox might lose the optical drive altogether in favor of digitally downloaded games. The WSJ learns that these ideas were real at some point during development.

Digital distribution is bound to become a norm. What with disc storage taking up physical space in the console. If downloads can be remotely triggered in an app, its no surprise that this brings convenience. Would people be happy to shed the plastic disc in return for a slightly cheaper price on the digital copy? Perhaps!

The only losers in a digital-distributed world are used game sales shops. They'd have to find a new source of revenue because there would be no more physical discs to buy and sell.

In a new story from the Wall Street Journal:
Sony decided against a download-only model largely because Internet connections are too inconsistent around the world, one of the people familiar with Sony's thinking said. Because game files are large, customers in countries where Internet connections are relatively slow would be hobbled by a requirement to download games, the person said.
Micrososft ditched the idea citing Internet bandwidth as a problem. Sony has more to lose than Microsoft if it ditches the optical drive, since a PS4 without an optical drive would mean there wouldn't be any backward compatibility with Blu-Ray movie discs or PS3 games.

The WSJ also believes that Sony's next console will be released in 2013. With no planned next-gen hardware announcements, we're not sure 2013 will be enough time for Sony to mobilize the hype machine.

Via Wall Street Journal