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COMMENT | Forget resolutions - the console hard drive situation is out of control

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
PS4, Xbox One

COMMENT | Forget resolutions - the console hard drive situation is out of control

I filled up my Xbox One's hard drive last month.

Sure, I arguably receive more games than the average console owner in my line of work, but less than a year after launch I'm being forced to delete entire games from my hard drive just to play and review new ones, requiring me to then re-install them down the line if I ever fancy a quick impulse play. Forza 5 swerved off the track, Ryse fell on its sword and I'm still struggling to keep on top of things.

And soon Halo: The Master Chief Collection wants to guzzle up another 60GB or so... followed by a 20GB patch. I'm sorry, but this situation has gotten entirely out of control and we're only a year into the current generation. Put the important debate about frame rates and resolutions on hold for a moment, because we might have bigger problems on the console front.

COMMENT | Forget resolutions - the console hard drive situation is out of control

Yes, I suppose I could plug in an external hard drive. I already have one to backup my PC files. And another one for my Wii U. PS4 owners can also upgrade their hard drives using off-the-shelf compontents... but this is missing the point completely. Shelling out for even more hardware masks the fact that we shouldn't have to install all disc-based console games to the hard drive in their entirety in the first place!

I understand and fully accept that some graphically intensive games need to dump their assets to the hard drive, but all of them? Is the Blu-Ray drive too slow to run any files from the disc? Instead of games installing only the files they need to run effectively, they're splurging the lot in a holdover to the 'always online' DRM regime Mattrick tried to foist on us. More annoyingly still, even graphically mediocre games like Worms Battlegrounds that probably wouldn't overly tax a PS3 or Xbox 360 still need to be installed in their entirety.

Why?

COMMENT | Forget resolutions - the console hard drive situation is out of control

Certainly not for the sake of our convenience, as we're often forced to wait for extensive periods of time on Xbox One until the entire disc finally installs, perhaps unlocking a little extra functionality to tide us over while it's cluttering up our drives. Pick-up-and-play convenience used to be the main selling point of consoles over PCs, but now the line isn't so much blurred as completely rubbed out, as we'll still need to wait around, set up accounts download a whole mess of patches just to play our games. And as the cherry on the cake, we still need to put in the disc to play games that are already completely installed.

Now, if I fancy a quick blast of Forza 5, I'll have to delete more games... then sling in the disc... then install it... then grab the title updates... before my tyres hit the track.

We're only a year into the console's lifespan. Imagine the state of affairs in 2016!

COMMENT | Forget resolutions - the console hard drive situation is out of control

This would be fine if developers did their best to respect our time and hard disc space. But they don't, and console games have gotten fat.

The Master Chief Collection is a special case seeing as it contains more content than many entire multi-game series do, but even mid-tier titles can weigh in between 15-30GB or upwards. Sure, it's arguably a price worth paying for prettier games, but I'd also argue that developers simply aren't pulling their weight when it comes to being economical and efficient in a pursuit of ever shinier graphics. I also need to point out that console manufacturers aren't solely to blame, since Titanfall's PC version weighs in at nearly 50GB, despite it only being a 15-map multiplayer shooter, because 35GB is dedicated solely to audio. Hell, though, at least most of the beefier PC games, such as MMOs, come with extra benefits and massive player populations -- and most disc-based PC titles let us run the game from the hard drive once installed.

To put this into perspective, consider that Nintendo's economical use of memory allows the entirety of 1080p 60FPS Super Mario 3D World to occupy a paltry 1.7GB of hard drive space. For shame!

COMMENT | Forget resolutions - the console hard drive situation is out of control

It's not just the games that have grown obese and flabby, though. It's the patches. These days we often have to pull down somewhere between 500MB to 2GB of day-one updates just to take our game online -- again, because the publishers were too rushed or lazy to ensure that the build submitted for certification was up to snuff in the first place -- meaning that anyone without a decent connection will have to wait even longer or even smash through their download limits before they even get to the multiplayer.

And now Halo: The Master Chief Collection demands a 20GB title update on top of its 60GB install size. 20GB. More than ten Super Mario 3D Worlds. Most of a Sunset Overdrive. Just to secure the remainder of the content and get online. 343 argues that this is the only way, but would including an install disc really have been "impractical" for a massive-selling franchise backed by an enormous software company? And does all of this really need to be on the hard drive in the first place?

COMMENT | Forget resolutions - the console hard drive situation is out of control

Perhaps I'm just a luddite standing in the way of progress. Playing more advanced and graphically capable games is obviously a good thing, and we'll do what we have to in order to enjoy our hobby. But by the same token, shouldn't developers could be doing more on their end to ensure that we can get to our games quicker and keep them installed for longer... rather than making us jump through hoops for their convenience? And should hardware manufacturers have ensured a minimum 1TB hard drive from the get-go?

No, seriously, I'm asking you. Let us know in the comments!

Add a comment12 comments
therealeric  Oct. 21, 2014 at 16:51

1TB drives are only twice the "relatively" small 500GB ones. The only solution I see for this is to put your own drive in your console combined with developers doing more effort in containing the gigs.

Not that it's that bad to delete games you aren't playing, it just takes a while to install them. Speeding up that process by being able to play erlier in the installation process could also be a big gain.

On my gaming PC I play everything from a 256GB SSD. It's even smaller but no complaints. PC games aren't that big though and Steam installs take only a couple of minutes.

"And as the cherry on the cake, we still need to put in the disc to play games that are already completely installed."

This is what bothers me the most in this new gen. I was pro Microsofts first vision. Sure this would put constraints on selling the game. But the big advantage was: you get a retail box and all privilages of owning a game digitally with DRM, so being able to launch a game without putting a disc in it. Just as bying a retail PC game, never to use the disc, but just a code to redeem on your steam account. However the public opinion was opposing change, what is in Human Nature to be fair. I think it's a real shame and a missed opportunity.

crafton  Oct. 21, 2014 at 16:58

What really annoys me is that for most games a large portion of that space will be for cut scenes, which really you will only ever watch once or twice.
It would be great if they were more flexible with which parts of the game you wish to download in order to save space.

XxPostCarnagexX  Oct. 21, 2014 at 18:31

So what you are saying is you have never built a PC for gaming? Oh - ok.

Well when you play a lot of games, you need a lot of space. 500GB is generally a high standard on most machines these days. So when you run out of space you know what you do with a PC???? UPGRADE!!!!!

You have the same option on consoles as a PC to do so with an external HDD.

All I hear is QQ.

JonLester  Oct. 21, 2014 at 19:04

@ XxPostCarnagexX: Thanks for the input! I take your point RE external HDDs (which I covered in the article, btw), but I can't help but feel that "just spend even more money" isn't the most consumer-friendly way of looking at this issue.

Also, I do most of my gaming on PC, which allows me to download games much cheaper, run them off the hard drive without inserting the specific disc and other benefits that the consoles do not provide.

Remember, we're talking about convenience here - and not having to upgrade used to be one of many ways that consoles were more convenient than PCs.

Emphasis: "were."

Last edited by JonLester, Oct. 21, 2014 at 19:12
JonLester  Oct. 21, 2014 at 19:10

@thealeric: Yeah, good points all.

"Not that it's that bad to delete games you aren't playing, it just takes a while to install them. Speeding up that process by being able to play erlier in the installation process could also be a big gain."

Very true. In fairness, PS4 install times tend to be much quicker than Xbox One, while some games let you play them during installation (usually in a very limited fashion).

@crafton: Interesting idea! Either that, or the devs need to make that decision themselves.

Dev8000  Oct. 21, 2014 at 19:16

The reason for the full install is to ensure parity between people who buy the game on disc and those who buy a digital copy. Developers cannot rely on streaming some data from the disc and other data from the hard drive because with the current generation more and more people are going to digital downloads. If the game relied on a dual streaming system then people with digital downloads would have a lesser experience. As a choice between the two, you are going to get better performance streaming from the hard drive than from a blu-ray and, again, digital downloads are hard drive only anyway.

happymealer  Oct. 21, 2014 at 22:22

My first thought when I installed COD: Ghosts on my PS4 was how if I got 9 more games my hard drive would be full. 500GB is pathetic for a next-gen console where a single game is ~50GB. The size increase of games, files, code, etc. is inevitable, but selling a console with less HD space than my mid-tier laptop is silly and cheap.

Escopablobar  Oct. 21, 2014 at 23:09

I agree that devs are not doing their best to optimize their software. I didn't expect average file size to exceed 25 gigs. I was very wrong. I've already replaced the stock HDD in my PS4 with the 2TB external/internal drive from Seagate.

I believe things will change within a couple of years. Optimization will improve as the cycle matures. Raw assets will get larger necessitating more efficient forms of "lossless" compression and resource management. These efficiencies will be utilized industry wide which should push file size down across all projects.

Until then we haven't any choices beyond purchasing additional storage.

Satixx  Oct. 21, 2014 at 23:36

One thing MS/Sony/Nintendo could eventually do (if it's not already possible) is offer a compression feature. Instead of always deleting/re-installing files, you could choose to compress some games' assets (depending on the compression, it might offer faster re-installing speeds and potentially save a lot of space in the long run).

I agree though: it would be just a "patchy" feature as it wouldn't solve the problem and it would still be inconvenient.

TheFacts  Oct. 22, 2014 at 01:15

Super Mario 3D World is not 1080p, its 720p/60fps.Everything else i agree with

zidane1341  Oct. 22, 2014 at 01:44

Actually Microsoft does have a nice compression technique, called tiled resources. I do believe that's why the Rayman xbox one game is so small compared to other versions.

One thing MS/Sony/Nintendo could eventually do (if it's not already possible) is offer a compression feature. Instead of always deleting/re-installing files, you could choose to compress some games' assets (depending on the compression, it might offer faster re-installing speeds and potentially save a lot of space in the long run).

I agree though: it would be just a "patchy" feature as it wouldn't solve the problem and it would still be inconvenient.

dox2020  Oct. 22, 2014 at 02:30

I've filled 2 Xbox ones with unique games. I filled my day 1 edition within 3 months. I buy basically every decently rated AAA title on both xb1 and/or ps4 so if you are just filling a drive now imagine me.

I have multiple 3+ TB external drives ready for when I need them but honestly I just delete games and if needed download them again (90% of the 30ish games are digital) luckily I have a 75mbps connection with no cap. Downloading off xbl is never an issue I can usually get an excellent download speed, psn on the other hand is an issue. It took me about 40 min to download sleeping dogs on ps4 and it's only about 9 gigs. Comparatively speaker I downloaded the 50+ gig master chief collection and the 20+ gig sunset over drive in about an hour.

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