Xbox One Takes Steps To Reduce Download Times And Save Hard Drive Space – Forbes
It’s a problem that every console game player has experienced. You buy a digital copy of a game and then have to wait, and wait, and wait some more while the game downloads. And that’s just the beginning. No matter how large your hard drive, sooner or later it’s going to fill, and then comes the constant hassle of having to cull the old to make room for the new.
Eurogamer reports that Microsoft has introduced a procedure to help solve this problem. They call it Intelligent Delivery and, in principle, it’s simple. You only download the assets you need to play the game.
Triple-A games are big and getting bigger. A game with relatively simple graphics like Persona 5 takes up 20.27 GBs of hard drive space. The “short” Uncharted: The Lost Legacy with its richer graphics eats up 46.98 GB. Battlefield 1 (65.9 GB), The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (68.4 GB) and Titanfall 2 (68.5 GB) fall in the mid-60 GB range. Gears of War 4 is a whopping 94 GB and upcoming versions of 4K games for the Xbox One X like Forza Motorsport 7 are expected to take up this much space or more.
The 500 GB and 1 TB internal drives that come with the Xbox and PS4 consoles are too small to handle libraries of games this large. Multi-TB external storage can be added at additional cost, but these drives eventually fill as well.
Intelligent Delivery (ID) delays the problem of filled drives without eliminating it entirely. ID allows developers to divide game assets into packages that Microsoft calls chunks. When a game is purchased, only the chunks that will be used are downloaded. The rest are left waiting for when you need or want them.
The immediate benefit will be felt by people playing 4K enhanced games who are not playing on a 4K screen. The 4K assets take up an immense amount of space and are not used for the version of the game played on TVs that don’t support 4K. With ID, the 4K assets aren’t downloaded saving storage space and shortening download times. The benefits work in reverse as well. People playing in 4K don’t download the lower resolution assets.
What happens if you make the move from 1080p to 4K and upgrade to an Xbox One X? No problem. The chunks are labeled with various tags. Developers use the resolution tag to divide 1080p and 4K assets into different chunks. When you connect an external drive loaded with 1080p games to an Xbox One X, the hardware automatically checks the tags and asks if you want to download the 4K chunks. The 1080p chunks remain and can be deleted from the dashboard if you don’t plan on going back to playing on a lower resolution screen.
Segregating 1080p and 4K assets with resolution tags is just the beginning. Audio content can be tagged for language so that the player only needs to download and store the language she speaks. This can make a dramatic difference for sports games where over half the game’s storage space is devoted to language files.
First-person shooters like Battlefield could separate and tag assets that are used for the multiplayer game or the single-player campaign. If players are interested in only one type of game, they don’t have to download and store the assets for the other. Alternatively, players could play through the single player campaign and then delete it from their drive while continuing to play multiplayer.
ID is a very good idea but how beneficial it will be depends on what developers do with it. Shooters may have so many assets that are shared between single and multiplayer that separating the unshared assets isn’t worth the effort. Also, third-party developers may not be willing to devote the time and resources needed to implement ID for Xbox players when the PS4 version of their game doesn’t make use of it.
At the very least, the future with ID looks bright for players who play 4K enhanced games on an Xbox One console. Whether you play in 4K or 1080p, you won’t have to download and devote storage space to the assets for the other resolution. Whether developers make good use of ID to provide Xbox One players with additional benefits remains to be seen.