Next-generation problems: big file sizes, relatively small hard drives, long download times
The future is digital. We’re already used to streaming our movies and television shows, and I’m willing to bet that it’s been a while since you’ve been inside a record store to buy your music. Games are going the same way, and we’re likely to see a larger percentage of people buying their games online rather than going to the store for a disc.
Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are all investing in more games being available online on Day 1, and for many of us buying online and downloading the game directly is a more convenient solution.
The problem is that the hard drives on the next-generations systems are too damned small.
500GB may sound like a lot of storage, but Grand Theft Auto V, which is a current generation game, required an 18GB download and 36GB of hard drive space. The upcoming Killzone: Shadow Fall is expected to be even larger.
“First of all, it is definitely going to grow as a means of consumption. And there are big innovations in the PS4 to make it more attractive and more easy gamer-wise to want to download,” Sony UK’s Fergal Gara told Eurogamer. “The Play as you Download functionality, for example, means you don't need the whole file before you go. This is a little bit counterbalanced by the fact the files themselves are getting bloody big. Killzone: Shadow Fall is an uber file - I think it's cracking on for 50GB. It looks it, too, when you see it.”
Not every game will be this large, and many will be quite smaller, but even 500GB fills up quickly when you begin to download large, AAA games with high resolution textures and all the bells and whistles. We discussed the work that goes into the audio of games like inFamous: Second Son, and all those different layers of sound took up space.
The ability to use external hard drives won’t be available on either system at launch. “The future plan is definitely to support external storage, much like we do on the Xbox 360,” Major Nelson stated. “My understanding is that feature will not be there at launch, because the team is working on some other things, but it definitely is on the list. I don't know when it will come in, though.”
The Xbox One hard drive is also locked in the system. Unlike the replaceable Xbox 360 hard drive, if anything goes wrong with your Xbox One hardware you're going to have to take the whole thing in for servicing.
It’s likely that external storage will be added long before even the hardest core gamers can fill up the built-in hard drive, but there is also the issue of bandwidth caps, areas of the country with slow Internet service, and the time commitment of downloading a 50GB file with even a zippy connection. For many of us, picking up the disc at the store is likely to be a faster, more efficient way to get the game on our system when want to play on day one.
Everyone is pushing digital, but storage space is going to be an issue, and the online infrastructure of the United States is far from ideal. File sizes will only grow as next-generation becomes current generation and games increase in scope and complexity, and what seems like a roomy hard drive and a fast connection now may prove frustratingly inadequate in the near future.