I wrote yesterday about how gamers are continuing to resist the seemingly inevitable age of download-only console gaming. While I focused mainly on the lack of used game trade-in or offsetting price cuts on new games, right now there’s another issue creeping into view. Hard drive space.
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This weekend when I booted up Call of Duty: Ghosts for the first time in a few weeks, I found that I had yet another update for the game, a 1.6 GB patch that promised “bug fixes” and a few balance/customization tweaks. It feels like every game I play across both my systems has some sort patch to install alongside it every other time I go to play, not to mention the large installs required even when I do indeed have a physical disc in hand.
When installing the COD update, I was troubled to discover that in just the first few months of owning my Xbox One, I’d already filled 38% of its hard drive space. When I first bought the system, 500 GB seemed like a bottomless pit of storage space, but it seems I was blinded by being used to my dinky 20GB 360 that required me to delete DLC every time I wanted to install more DLC.
In this new console generation, 500 GB is proving, as some predicted, to not be very large at all. Anyone who owns anything with a hard drive these days knows that the promised storage space is never what you actually have free. Such is also the case with the Xbox One and PS4. Out of the supposed 500 GBs, only about 360-390 GB is free for games on the One. The PS4 isn’t much better, hovering around 400 GB usable.
My 38% full pie chart is particularly alarming to me given the fact that I only own four games for the system, Call of Duty, Dead Rising, Forza and Ryse, all of which were physical discs, not download from the store. But yet, because of the massive installs required with disc purchases anyway, my hard drive is filling up fast. It doesn’t seem like those games, plus a few downloadables like the Titanfall beta and the Netflix app, should have my system approaching being halfway full only three months after release.
I spoke to one avid Xbox One fan online who says that he’s tried to be the wave of the future and only download games for the system. He’s downloaded 16 games so far (of varying sizes), and three months after release, his One is already 70% full.
It’s clear that the next models of both the PS4 and Xbox One will probably have at least double that hard drive space, and we might even see those by the end of the year. When this console generation ends, I wouldn’t be surprised see either console with a 3, 4 or 5 terabyte drive. After all, look at the leap between the storage of first gen 360s and PS3s and last gen ones. The hard drives increased 10 or 20 fold in size from the first systems to the last.
But what will become of the 10 or 15 million or so early adopters who will have picked up a first gen system? Though the PS4 has relatively easy to remove and replace storage, the Xbox One’s hard drive is firmly entrenched in the system, designed never to be swapped out. As a result, I predict that external One hard drives are going to become a must have accessory by the end of the year. At this current pace, that’s when these 500 GB hard drives seem like they’ll fill up. It seems like poor foresight on both Sony and Microsoft's part, and these chickens will come home to roost earlier than expected.
I haven’t heard much about this issue yet, but perhaps I’m more sensitive to it because of how awful it’s been dealing with my jam-packed 360 these last few years. I have a hunch that PS4 and One gamers will feel that sort of pain soon enough, if massive installs, patches and downloadable games continue to fill up hard drives at this rapid of a pace.