Increasing the density of data storage is crucial to the future of inexpensive digital technology. The large majority of storage in the “Cloud” consists of magnetic hard-disk drives. The continued evolution of this USD$30 billion industry depends on the commercial introduction of heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). This technology uses heat from a laser beam confined well below the diffraction limit, <50-nm wide, to write to media near 450°C with high magnetic anisotropy that would normally be unwriteable under available magnetic fields. This high anisotropy guarantees thermal stability even for grain sizes around 5-nm diameter, which are necessary for major increases in storage density. In this article and in the articles in this issue, we introduce HAMR requirements and discuss its numerous interdisciplinary materials challenges, including high-temperature/efficient plasmonic materials, low-loss optical materials, highly ordered/thermally anisotropic nanoscale magnetic grains, block copolymers for directed assembly below 10 nm, high-temperature nanometer-thick coatings/lubricants, materials/interfaces to control heat flow at nanometer length scales, and advanced spintronic materials.