One of the main reasons I passed on Amazon.com’s recent half-off deal for the PC version of Max Payne 3 is because it’s a 25+ Gigabyte download. If this is what gaming will bring in the immediate future then I think a lot of people are going to start getting concerned.
Right now just PC gamers are dealing with the issue of large file sizes but I think console gamers will run into this next gen. The file sizes of games have always gotten bigger with each generation, but never before have we been downloading brand new games digitally. I think it’s gonna strain some people’s hard drives and internet connections.
If I’d have bought Max Payne 3, it would probably take me at least six hours to actually download it. The only time I’ve gone through something like this was when I upgraded my PC copy of The Witcher 2 from the base game to the Enhanced Edition – around a 12GB download that took the better part of a day. I remember being shocked finding out that the PC version of Mass Effect was 11GB, so I guess we’ve come a long way since then.
Many PC gamers praise this trend as a sign that developers are actually putting the power of high end PC gaming to use. Rockstar claims that Max Payne 3 on PC is 25GB (30 for the Steam version I think) because the assets haven’t been compressed as much as they were for the console versions. The visual jump to the PC version is indicative of an impending generational leap in video game visuals which is typically followed by a bump in file sizes, but are we ready for it?
A lot of people would probably have great difficulty buying a digital copy of games like Max Payne 3 or The Witcher 2 on PC because they either have slow internet, low bandwidth caps, or both. I often wonder what would happen to digital distribution if bandwidth caps persisted in big markets like North America. In that case ISPs are probably to blame, not game developers.
This problem might be ready to hit consoles too. The Wii U’s retail games will supposedly be available digitally as soon as they’re on store shelves, and the platform will use 25GB discs for its games. Never mind Wii U owners requiring external hard drives to store digital games, will console gamers see the file sizes coming?
Sony and Microsoft have managed to skirt around these problems for now. Most of the full PS3 games available on PSN are smaller, more compressed versions the save files to which aren’t even compatible with retail versions. I don’t think I’ve seen a PSN game over 11GB but I could be wrong. The Xbox 360’s loyalty to DVD has kept its file sizes down for all but a few multi-disc cases. Final Fantasy XIII is 18GB on the system and RAGE is over 20GB which has caused some trouble for people who install all their 360 games to the hard drive. If I have to install one more game on my own HDD I’ll have to start making room.
I think we can reasonably predict that all game platforms next gen will have games available digitally day-and-date with retail, so this might be an issue for everyone if internet speeds and policies don’t catch up. I think it’d be nice for consumers to have some choice in the matter.
From what I’ve heard, pirate copies of Max Payne 3 on PC are actually available in various sizes of varying qualities. Some have had assets compressed to a degree or only support one language (voice acting being a big chunk of game file sizes) in order to cut down file size by more than half. Downloading The Witcher 2 from Good Old Games gives customers the choice to download language tracks individually, each one of which is around 1GB. Back in the day PC games used to let you choose to only install essential files and stream the rest off of the disc. I think Diablo III let’s you do essentially the same thing, except you can do it with the digital version and stream the non-essential files off of Battle.net.
Cloud gaming is another option but I’m not sure I fully accept it yet. I personally like having the stuff I buy inside a box that I own, whether it be a DVD case or a hard drive. I can understand the convenience of never having to download large files again however.
At last there is just going back to buying retail versions of PC games. I already do this for any games I buy that use Steamworks DRM, since I’ll end up getting a digital Steam copy anyway. I’ll probably also do this if I ever buy Max Payne 3. I’m already running into enough multi-disc PC games to remind me of the PS1 era. RAGE is three discs, Max Payne 3 is four, and even Modern Warfare 3 is two discs on PC. When I bought the PC version of Call of Duty 2 I made the mistake of buying the CD-ROM version, much to my shock as I opened the box to find six discs that I had to install.
Whatever happens, I think someone is going to have to shift their policies on something, whether it’s game publishers or ISPs.
- Sega does another thing right by announcing a western release for their free-to-play successor to Phantasy Star Online… and it’s another one we can dump into the “2013 crowd” pile.
- The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is still just $6 on GoodOldGames as of this typing. Very good game. I think there’s a demo on Xbox Live and PSN.
- Spellsword is free on iOS right now. It’s kind of a horde-style slash-em-up with magic and stuff. Pretty fun.