Video games have come a long way since the days of Atari, Super Nintendo, and Sega Dreamcast. Every single aspect of the game experience has been enhanced incredibly with the ushering in of cutting-edge technology and epic artistic achievements. However, everything from the better visuals, to the improved realism and beyond has made the file size of games bigger and bigger! A trend is emerging that can be seen with games like Age of Conan. Being extremely large (between 32 and 50 gigabytes) is what helps these games take hi-definition gaming to the next level. The problem is games like this are well over Xbox 360’s DVD-9 gigabyte capacity. There are limited options for solving Microsoft Xbox 360’s file size dilemma, each with its own set of consequences.
There is no doubt that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been a part of this advancement. This system was the first home console to support Hi-Definition in their games and also the first to dramatically increase the quality of online connectivity in gaming. However, video games are advancing beyond what the Xbox 360 can handle. Steadily the average file size of a game is growing. Developers have found themselves challenged and limited due to a major design decision Microsoft made building the system. The decision was to use DVD’s as a game medium as the original Xbox and PS2 do. Microsoft in fact had been working to develop a new Hi-Definition Video Disc (a.k.a. HD-DVD) and it was set to go head on against Sony’s Blu Ray Digital Video Disc (a.k.a. BluRay DVD). When Robin Harris’ article “Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD: game over” was written major players Blockbuster, Netflix, and various others were deciding the fate of the so called ‘format wars’ and deciding Blu Ray was the future, not HD-DVD (Zdnet Blogs 2007). This could have been avoided if Microsoft included HD-DVD as the major format for the Xbox 360 both games and movies. We will never know for sure but instead we can look at moving forward and look at their options.
Perhaps the most plausible and most immediate solution that comes to my mind is the hard drive solution. In a blog post on his website, Ryan Brotherton expresses his frustrations with installing an incredibly large game by inserting multiple DVD discs into his PC and waiting for them to copy all of their files to his hard drive (RyanBrotherton.com 2008). Although this is not a very elegant solution, the Xbox 360 COULD possibly support these very same types of huge installs. Currently some games on the Xbox 360 use multiple discs that are played in progression, so you are only playing with one in at a time; however this limits the player to only playing in linear worlds. Installing multiple DVD’s worth of content onto a massive hard drive instead would dramatically increase the size of the world the player is in, therefore also opening up a much more engaging experience.
Another tangible solution to the file size dilemma facing this Next-Generation console is the use of Next-Generation DVD’s, either HD-DVD or Blu Ray. Many people have speculated that the Xbox 360 would obtain a Blu Ray license from Sony and get their own Blu Ray drive; however neither Sony nor Microsoft execs have confirmed this as anything other than a rumor (ShackNews.com 2008). It may never happen. So instead, let us analyze the other option on the table for the Xbox 360. So Microsoft invented HD-DVD, why not start putting 360 games on it? There is an add-on HD-DVD player for sale for the system but is it capable of supporting games? Chris Faylor’s review of the situation indicates that it currently does not (ShackNews.com 2008). However, there is no definitive proof currently available that it is or is not possible for Xbox 360 to play games on HD-DVD format.
My conclusion is that, Microsoft will probably never get Blu Ray. I believe that games will continue to grow in size. The option of using HD-DVD for gaming is unclear and I believe that this should be researched a lot more. The large install option proposes the challenge of getting gamers to buy MORE equipment for their Xbox 360, which makes me think it is an unwise path to follow. The best option for Microsoft right now is to try to revive HD-DVD, even if only to play video games on it.
Written by Jon Ireson 1/18/08
Harris, R. (2007, June 20). Blu Ray vs. HD-DVD: game over. Retrieved January 18, 2009, from: http://blogs.zdnet.com/storage/?p=149
Brotherton, R. (2009). Age of Conan - Size Matters. Retrieved January 18, 2009, from: http://www.ryanbrotherton.com/blog/archives/7
Faylor, C. (2008, January 9). Microsoft May Consider Blu Ray Add On Retrieved January 18, 2009, from: http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/50664