The biggest game of this new console generation launches tomorrow, as Titanfall crashes down to earth for a rare spring blockbuster release. The game is available across PC and Microsoft's Xbox One, but is notable for where it is not, namely Sony's PS4.
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For Xbox One in particular, Titanfall represents a potentially huge draw for the system which so far, has lagged behind the PS4 in sales. While I disagree with the notion that Titanfall needs to “save” the Xbox One, as the situation isn’t that dire, it is a big moment for Microsoft, not to mention EA and Respawn as well.
Tomorrow’s launch is interesting for another reason as well. While the Xbox One gave up its digital download-heavy ambitions (for the time being), Titanfall will represent the first major test of what happens when a massive swarm of people try to download a new release of a hot game to their Xbox One.
Sure, at launch people may have been downloading Dead Rising, Forza, Ryse, etc, but now with TItanfall, this is one day and one game, and a huge number of players that may be thinking they want to save themselves a trip to battle the lines at Gamestop, and simply download the game through their Xboxes directly. This is a new console with a big hard drive after all, and if players don’t think they’ll be say, reselling a used copy of Titanfall any time soon, it may be time to get on board with digital distribution on consoles.
Now we get to see if one of the major fears about download-heavy consoles is accurate. What will happen when hundreds of thousands or even millions of gamers all try to download the game at once? While the file size is “only” 20 GB for Xbox One, and not the 40 or 48 GB that was reported earlier, that’s still not an insignificant sum.
We’ve already gotten a taste of the issues with downloading console games as attempts to “preload” Grand Theft Auto V a day or so early went rather terribly. There’s no preload option for Titanfall, which means the game will have be downloaded in its entirety on day one.
While Microsoft ultimately bent to the will of the gaming public to keep discs alive, there are many mechanisms in place to try and entice players to go digital. They try to combat another common problem with digital downloads, that they take a long damn time to finish, with the fact that you can play a game before it’s done downloading.
The problem is, will this system work if so many people are trying to download the same game at once?
There are now two gates for Titanfall to jump through in this sense. The first relies on the ability of Microsoft’s online store to deliver the game seamlessly to countless players all demanding it at once. The second is on EA’s shoulders as they have to ensure once the game is in hand (or on hard drive, as it were), that the servers actually work. The latter hurdle is one that EA has notoriously struggled with, and frankly there are few online-based multiplayer games that launch these days without some manner of connection issues. The fact that many might be choosing to digitally download the game through Microsoft adds another level of “things that can go wrong” on day one.
All this said, if Microsoft and EA manage to work in tandem here, and the Titanfall launch is a smooth one, it will be one of the greatest silent gaming successes of the year. While it’s true a lot more people will complain if the game doesn’t work than praise it if it does, a working launch would go a long way to prove that both a digital download-only console is at least workable in the future, and that EA has managed to overcome their allergy to successful online launches.
While whether or not the game is good is certainly the most important factor in determining a triumphant release, whether the game is accessible and working is almost even more important at this point, given how much we already know about the game itself from the beta/demo. While exploring every nook and cranny of the new maps will be fun, the first in-game mission will be actually being able to play. If Microsoft and EA can achieve that objective, it seems like relatively smooth sailing from there.
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