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Wings Over Sealand

The Modern Videogames Console: A Guide

Posted on February 23, 2017 by RevStu

The process of simply buying the Xbox One took me either three days or eight weeks, depending on how you look at it, due to a combination of how retail works these days and the gibbering random madness that is GAME's pricing and corporate structure. But I'm not even going to get into that here.


What you should know is what happened next.

In the time between deciding to buy the Xbox and actually having it in my house, I'd accumulated a small pile of games, nearly all on disc and mostly at bargain prices:

Forza Horizons 3 (disc, £10 as part of a bundle)
Gears Of War 4 (digital, bundled with the console)
Doom (disc, special edition, £15)
Halo Master Chief Collection (disc, £10)
Sunset Overdrive (disc, £7)
Battleborn (disc, £3)
FIFA 16 (disc, £3 – FIFA 17 was £45 preowned)
FIFA 15 (disc, £1, because why not?)
Rare Replay (disc, £11)
Assassin's Creed Unity (digital, £1.49. No, that's not a typo.)
Instant Indie Hits (Curve Digital compilation, gift from a lovely friend)

That's 10 standard games and one package of pretty tiny indie stuff. By the time I'd finished installing them all (including compulsory updates), I'd filled up more than 60% of my "1TB" hard drive – which actually turned out to be just 780GB, a quite astonishing and borderline-fraudulent amount of storage to lose to an OS – and spent three full days doing nothing but install and update games, morning noon and night.

Gears Of War 4 alone took over 26 hours to download and install. I could literally have walked to the shops, bought an Xbox 360 and Gears Of War 1, 2 and 3, set the console up, finished all three games and still have had hours to kill before the fourth in the series was done installing.

If I keep buying games, within just a couple of weeks I'm going to run out of space and have to delete stuff if I want to play them. If I delete GOW4 (because it's hogging a whopping 75GB all by itself) and then fancy playing it again, that'll be another 26-hour install. (Putting it on disc/s in the box instead of a download code – knocking a good 25 hours off that time – would have cost Microsoft maybe £1.)

Whenever I tweet something about this, people always chuckle about how we used to complain when it took five minutes to load a ZX Spectrum game off tape. But that's obviously not a fair comparison – Speccy games were microscopically small, with eight-colour graphics and rudimentary beeping for sound, barely recognisable as the same category of entity as a modern AAA blockbuster.

A more relevant comparison would be with the most recent previous generation – the Xbox 360 and the PS3. There's been no spectacular generational leap in tech between the 360 and the Xbox One. Sure, games look a little bit better, but you'd barely notice the difference if you'd just landed from Mars, and it's not like they've become more complex – they're basically the exact same racing games and FPS games and sports games you were playing on the 360, but with more detail on the characters' eyelashes.

Is this Forza 4 (360) or Forza 5 (XB1)? I defy anyone to say without Googling*.


Yet on the 360 you could buy a game and be playing it within two minutes of getting into your house. Even if you were so unutterably stupid as to buy the digital version (almost certainly more expensive than a disc, but with zero portability or resale value), you'd be looking at a worst-case scenario of no more than a couple of hours with a humble basic copper-wired broadband connection.

Now you can easily be looking at a full day even for the disc version, twice that if you buy the digital version. (Battleborn is a 19.7GB initial install, but then you've got a 21.3GB compulsory update to download – no, you haven't read that wrong, the update is bigger than the entire game – because for some incomprehensibly cretinous reason the Store insists on downloading the out-of-date version and then making you update it, rather than just GIVING YOU THE PATCHED VERSION IN THE FIRST PLACE.)

But seriously, who's THAT much of an idiot? (Click the pic to enlarge.)


(And note, those prices are in a SALE. The non-deluxe version of Battleborn was £50, for a game I bought brand-new on disc a month earlier for £3. Goodness knows what the price is when it's NOT on sale. The Borderlands Handsome Collection was available brand-new on disc from eBay for £17.50 the same day it was £45 in the Xbox Store, and I could install the disc version in a twentieth of the time, be able to take it round to a friend's house, and be able to sell it when I was finished with it.)

That's an absolutely MASSIVE degradation in functionality in the space of a single generation. I used to be able to have a cataloge of 200 Xbox 360 games and play whichever one of them I liked at a moment's notice. Because, y'know, it's a console and that's the POINT of consoles. Fire the disc in and go.

But on Xbox One, perhaps a tenth of my collection would be available at any one time (and even that only after about a week of dicking around installing them). Want to play one of the other 90%? Make an appointment the previous day, pal.

You'll find occasional features about this state of affairs in the videogaming media, but they're rare and quickly buried in the endless avalanche of press-release "news". There's almost no upside to this gigantic loss of convenience – it's certainly a hell of a price to pay for marginally sharper graphics – and it's staggering that developers and publishers and manufacturers haven't been tarred and feathered and run out of town by pitchfork-wielding mobs for it.

Then again, gamers put up with a lot of amazing crap these days.


*It's Forza 4.

6 to “The Modern Videogames Console: A Guide”

  1. Craig Sheridan says:

    Yep, buying discs only then to have to download huge volumes of data is a joke. The storage is a joke.  The 550GB version has 362GB of usable space which could be gone with say a dozen installs. Most people I know use an external drive in conjunction with their xbox1 but what a regressive situation that is. Not being able to just insert disc and go, is a con. It's clearly a business model based on inconveniencing the customer and increasing profit by not leaving the customer with a sellable item.  They want to eventually do away with the second hand games market completely.

  2. Steve Smith says:

    I've got a PS4, and I got one of my kids Plants V Zombies Garden Warefare 2 for Xmas.  Obviously 6am Xmas morning they put the disk in and… 6 hours later (after the update) they actually got to play it.  I can only assume the disk contained a download URL and nothing more.  (PS – welcome back!)

  3. Col. Asdasd says:

    Get a Switch instead!

  4. Shapey Fiend says:

    They pushed this through to kill the second hand market but it just killed any enthusiasm for playing these consoles on my part. I've got a family of 5 so you can't even stick everything on to download the day before cos everyone is streaming TV. 

  5. Marc Parker says:

    I dont find the PS4 too bad, the discs install pretty quickly as a rule and you can usually start playing while the update is downloading (not online, but I don't give a hoot about that), but I was horrified when I got to try the XOne. Wouldn't play until it had installed every update etc, which took about three hours for Dead Rising 3. Swapped it for a WiiU the same week. 

  6. Calum Craig says:

    I've only had a PS3 for about a year and I absolutely love it – I missed the generation first time by getting married, having a kid etc…

    Being late to the generation man's I can pick up the games for buttons (except as noted in this article in the online store, Sony as bad as Microsoft here – I really want Yakuza 5 but £32.99??!!)

    I completely agree with a comment you made on Twitter a wee while about the PS3 / 360 generation being good enough. Then when I read about the nonsense involved as detailed above it really fills me with absolutely no urge to join the current generation.

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