The PS4 won't be a digital-only console. A new report suggests that Sony considered building a system without an optical disk drive but ultimately decided against it.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the idea of a download-only PS4 was killed because of concerns about the Internet's reliability. Connection quality varies quite a bit from country to country. Players without access to a strong connection would be unable to download games quickly. This would result in them either returning the system or simply buying fewer games - neither is an appealing scenario.
Microsoft apparently agrees with Sony's decision. The same report states that, contrary to rumors, the next Xbox will have a disk drive as well. It seems they were also concerned about relying on the Internet to deliver all of their games to consumers.
Online content has become a huge part of gaming in this generation of consoles. Players can download games add-ons, demos, or even full games to their system. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 also offer streaming entertainment content such as Netflix. Still, there's a big difference between having a choice to download full games and being forced to. I think consumers are just as wary of online-only consoles as Sony/Microsoft are.
This news will make retailers sigh in relief. Many of them make most of their money by selling game disks, new and used. If the console market went digital-only, these chains would need to scramble to adapt. In the end, there'd probably be a few thousand less GameStops in the world.
The WSJ report echoed the 2013 estimate for the PS4. With that in mind, you probably shouldn't expect any news on the console at E3 next week.