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Game downloads are huge – Microsoft wants to fix that

by Eric Frederiksen | September 17, 2017

Game downloads have grown from a few gigs just a few years ago to upwards of 100GB with the upcoming Forza Motorsport 7. And you know what? A lot of that data goes unused. Many Call of Duty owners never touch the single-player mode, for example. The first Titanfall‘s PC install was made up mostly of audio in different languages. Microsoft is working to improve that problem on the Xbox One platform alongside the launch of the Xbox One X, and I’m hoping what they’re doing becomes the norm.

https://youtu.be/PBw30

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It’s time to say the word “chunks” a lot

With the Xbox One X, Microsoft is working hard on data management. Games will be broken down into chunks – that’s what Microsoft is calling them – in a system called Intelligent Delivery.

The first part of this directly affects Xbox One S and Xbox One X owners. If you own an Xbox One X, you’re going to see a benefit from 4K textures, whether you’re on a 4K television or not. On an Xbox One S, though, those files aren’t even touched. It wouldn’t make sense to have one file package and ask everyone who buys your game to download it. If you’re on an Xbox One S, those 4K files won’t download, as they’re split into a separate chunk.

But it’s bigger than that. Developers will be able to use this system to bust out different chunks of a game so that owners can download the parts they’re going to use. If you’re playing a game in America, you’ll probably want English, and you probably won’t need another language track. But if you’re an anime geek, or English isn’t your first language, you might want an alternate one. Languages can have their own chunks, and developers can give you the ability to just download the language tracks you’ll actually use.

The same goes for game modes. I’m still playing Doom on PC, but I’m never going to touch the game’s multiplayer. If I could uninstall it, I’d save a few of the 65GB download it asks for. Once you’ve finished the campaign in Battlefield, you could theoretically delete the campaign chunk leave just the much-smaller multiplayer mode.

This also, Microsoft says, finally allows for multi-disc games. Different modes could be split across different discs, and extra content, like other languages and high-res textures, could be shunted over to a second disc if necessary.

Everyone should be doing this

Everyone should be doing this, and they should’ve been doing this for years. This is something that not only helps Microsoft, but is a huge benefit to Xbox gamers all over the place. Hard drives haven’t grown alongside game installs, and many gamers are still playing on systems with 500GB hard drives. Being able to clear out unused chunks of games will make those drives seem much bigger for much longer, giving people more choice about when to expand their hard drives. It also means Microsoft won’t have to pump out nearly as much data to gamers as they would otherwise.

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But it also gives gamers a choice about what all they want to download and keep. It puts the power in our hands to play the games the way we want, and not stare at modes we’re never going to use when we login. And let’s not forget that we’re in an age of restrictive data transfer caps. Even on a generous 1TB cap, Forza Motorsport 7‘s Xbox One X pack is 10 percent of your monthly bandwidth – just for that game alone. And let’s say your connection stalls out and you have to start over halfway through. It adds up fast. Letting us download the parts of these games that we’re actually going to use is only a good thing.

The tough part will be getting companies like Sony and Valve to see the benefit of this. Even with big games, Nintendo likes to keep game installs down, but the other two aren’t beholden to any such restrictions. While PC gamers have an easier time dropping new hard drives into their systems, the proliferation of smaller SSD-based drives means the situations for many gamers is just as bad as it is on console.

Hopefully we’ll see this kind of game “chunking” embraced by developers on Xbox and picked up by other platform managers.


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Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...