Game On! – Xbox 360 & The Multiple Disc Conundrum

by Pat B on September 7, 2011

Recently there’s been some scruff on the Internet that the Xbox 360 version of Battlefield 3 will have to be stored on two discs. While this can be frustrating for gamers to have to get up in the middle of the game to switch the CD it also asks a bigger question of how much do developers scale back their games in order to fit content on one disc? If you remember back to the original PlayStation days, some of the best titles ever were stored on multiple discs. Games like Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII would never be able to fit on a single CD. Do those games hold negative memories in your brain because of it? It sure doesn’t for this nerd!

Because the Xbox 360 doesn’t share the Blu-Ray drive of it’s competitor, there have been more titles lately using the multiple disc storage method such as Mass Effect 2 and L.A. Noire. Is the Xbox 360 being held-back by it’s technical choices? Well there are tradeoffs to every decision.

Lost Odyssey spanned a whopping 4 discs for the Xbox 360

In a recent keynote by id software’s co-founder, John Carmack, he explains that developing games for the Xbox 360 and the PS3 both have their advantages and disadvantages. The Xbox 360 allows more flexibility with resources, such as available memory caching, than the PS3 does which strictly allows half it’s RAM to allocate for graphics and half for CPU processing.

This means that even though you can fit all the content on one Blu-Ray, the speed at which the data loads and streams could be longer. Ever bought a new PS3 game and had to wait 10 minutes for it to install? So there are struggles on both ends of the spectrum, but at the end of the day do YOU really care?

There is a simple solution to our multiple disc problem and it’s called “stop relying on discs”. We’re approaching 2012; according to most sci-fi/fantasy stories we should be living on other planets and wiping our asses with three seashells by now, so why are we still relying on physical media from decades ago? If it’s anything the iPhone & Android have shown us, it’s that downloadable media is without a doubt the way of the future. I don’t think it’s a far stretch to imagine the next generation of video game consoles having the ability to download new releases. If you’re a game developer you’re probably foaming at the mouth for this wave of distribution. Then we’d never have to get our lazy asses out of the chair to even switch a game! Sorry… I just got chills. Another alternative would be to have the next generation of consoles ship with much larger hard drives and allow the ability to fully install data to them. Then you could have an 8 disc game but only need 1 to play as the rest would be fully installed to the hard drive.

So the real question is would you rather have all your games come on one disc with the potential loss of content, or have a robust game but spread out over many? Let me know your thoughts below.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat B September 7, 2011 at 10:06 pm

First, great article! Second, I like the idea the of digital download for new releases but I still like having the physical disc. As great as storage media is these days I still don’t trust it with my precious game collection. A solid backup solution would help ease my worries but then i would have to manage my backups and keep them current and while that’s not a lot of work it’s one more thing I would have to worry about with my games. I’ve got a worry free backup solution for my physical discs and systems, renters/home owners insurance.


Anthony September 7, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Valid points Mr. B, but 15 years ago if I told you video games wouldn’t come with instruction manuals any longer, you’d probably slap me. I just think that the option should be there for gamers who want to just download a title at midnight on the release date, and the option for buying a physical copy in the store could still exist for those like you.


Pat B September 8, 2011 at 8:49 am

Agreed, a downloadable option should exist for new releases. I might even take advantage of that for new releases I’m skeptical about instead of going out and purchasing a full price physical copy. About the instruction manuals, yes, slaps indeed.


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