Up For Debate - Are you playing fewer games because downloads are so huge?

Written by Neil Soutter on Wed, Jan 1, 2020 10:12 AM

The massively increased size of game downloads these days has also opened up another one of those crackpot theories that’s always done the rounds but is rarely backed up by anything more than circumstantial evidence - that of the Battle for Storage Space.

This is probably an issue which is focused predominantly on console users rather than PC gamers, especially when we consider the number of PS4 or Xbox one owners who upgrade their hard drives is likely minuscule in the extreme. If you buy a console you’ve probably got either 500GB or 1TB of storage. There will also be PC users with limited storage space, particularly on SSDs, and only having total SSD storage of 500GB to 1TB isn’t unusually.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare alone is a 125GB+ download and growing, and each subsequent patch seems to require you have 65GB free, even if the patch itself is tiny. That’s getting on for damn near half the entire storage on a PS4 Slim which is monopolised by a single game. That is a lot and it really doesn’t leave much room for other games, particularly if you’ve got a giant such as Red Dead Redemption 2 on there with it. 

Suddenly, you’re playing (and paying for) the games which are literally on your PS4. And, if you play these games semi-regularly, you aren’t going to want to delete them to make space for another, not knowing a 125GB download awaits should you want to play it again. That’s where we end up in conundrums such as - ‘ should I download Control? But that will mean deleting GTA 5, and there is that new Heist coming out soon, me and the mates are bound to want to play it.’ These are the sort of mental gymnastics which have to come into play when we can only fit a handful of AAA games on our systems at any one time.

Around about here, the theory starts to sound a whole lot less crackpot. It’s still a bit of a leap to go from here to ‘publishers are artificially inflating game sizes to monopolise your HDD space’ but it’s not wildly out of reach. As to whether they’d do it, that’s questionable, but there probably is indeed a net benefit to doing exactly this, aside from scaring away folks worried about that initial download.

I’ve even heard folks suggest that the size of patch downloads are perhaps ‘enhanced’ so it makes it look as if the development has been doing more work. I’m pretty sure the dev teams, with their dried up husks they call eyeballs, and caffeinated beverages slowly pooling out of their overflowing ears, have been doing plenty of crunching without having to justify it with falsified update sizes.

Who knows though, there are people out there who believe this. I’ve talked to them, they’re as real as your or I, and who I am to say what they believe is categorically wrong. It’s just another step onward from making the games have a huge install footprint in the first place, inching deeper down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole. Come down, this way madness lies, along with the throng of alt-right streamers gaming YouTube’s algorithms to hook in young men by massaging their fragile egos with expert precision. We all float down here.

Right, where was I. Yes, install sizes, are they a genuine problem for you and are you having to pick and choose which games you install? Do the bigger games get priority because they're huge downloads? And lastly, do you suspect games are purposefully large to monopolise your storage space? 

Get voting and be sure to let us know why below!

Are game install sizes and issue for you right now?

Do you prioritise the large games as they're huge downloads?

Do you think games are made larger to dominate your storage space?

Our favourite comments:

My biggest issue is having time to play games now :(

SpicyTaco

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13:41 Jan-14-2020

Luckily I have 350Mbps (Virgin UK) - well i say luckily, but I am paying for it!!! I could go up to 500Mbps but thought that was a bit too much to spend per month.

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00:41 Jan-03-2020

A more interesting topic would be what comes after bluray seeing as RDR2 already comes as 2 discs and seemingly no one is talking about it? Publishers would be more than happy for every consumer download their 200gb install file....cheaper for them.

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20:54 Jan-02-2020

I got 100 gb internet a month for 8.5USD

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18:25 Jan-02-2020

My big issues are time and the fact that I find it hard to get excited about games these days. I'm burnt out. Too much repetitive crap.

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18:56 Jan-02-2020

try Frostpunk, it'll definitely cool you down

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00:26 Jan-03-2020

Last year i beat metro exodus, RE2 and the outer worlds So quite a good year.

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11:32 Jan-02-2020

They could reduce the size if they made certain graphical upgrades optional, like HD pack, 4K, or whatever, I don't know how that works, and Rainbow Siege makes you download the DLC even if you don't have it as far as I can remember...There should be a 1080p pack and a 1080p+ pack

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08:56 Jan-02-2020

As most of the people say storage is not really an issue, Internet speeds are so crappy for most people to the extent that we lose interest in the game before it completely gets downloaded and installed.

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12:20 Jan-02-2020

Storage is a huge issue mate, even with a crappy internet. I have a friend from Egypt that has 2-4 megabit download speed(256kB to 512 kB), and he doesn't mind downloading for a whole week, but storage is his problem too.

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00:25 Jan-04-2020

imagine downloading a game for a whole week. Jesus, now I realise how absurd it's getting. COD MW got 120gb download but looks like crap comparing to BFV

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16:14 Jan-04-2020

CoD MW 2019 is 175GB and keep in mind CoD must run at near constant 60fps 1080p on the Base Consoles, BF5 doesn't have to. They no longer compress stuff.
And that's with the current gen consoles, prepare for Next Gen consoles I can tell you 150-250GB AAA Games will be the norm. With that 100-200GB blu-ray drive.

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05:00 Jan-02-2020

Size isnt really an issue, now that i got rid of my poor old i5 3570k i can play anything without having those horrible stuttering and fps drops when there is a lot of action in the game.Probably time is an issue now for me as im 20 and have to go to university and work.

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02:50 Jan-02-2020

yeah i've gotten older, now i got real life issues

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12:07 Jan-02-2020

Same. I don't have that feeling as much that I just want to play that game. Especially now that I have the hardware to play most games. I'm now looking towards owning a car and upgrade stuff on it, drive and do street drifting, etc. You could say, just download a racing game or sim, but I don't have a good wheel and pedals to play, nor do I want to spend 2k on a decent setup (with VR), so I'm not really enjoying racing games (like I used to on the PS2)

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22:19 Jan-01-2020

Well you gotta remember that PC parts were always like this. Like Baldur's Gate 1 in 1998 (A huge game at it's time.) required a 2GB download space and most HDDs back in the late 90s were about 8-12GB big. And currently there are games that require 100-200GBs and there are HDD out there sold in 1-6TB and the 1TB HDDs nowadays are dirt cheap.

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06:44 Jan-02-2020

I got a 1TB Nvme M.2 ssd for 126$ hdd is bound to be even cheaper

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21:17 Jan-01-2020

Storage is cheap, my only problem right now is my crummy rural American internet.

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10:11 Jan-05-2020

Hope true 5G will help you out.

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16:25 Jan-01-2020

My biggest issue is having time to play games now :(

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01:43 Jan-04-2020

Totally agree. That's the main reason I didn't' buy any games during the last steam sale.

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10:12 Jan-05-2020

You have some games you still haven't finished?

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16:08 Jan-01-2020

No issue here, iv had a 6tb wd black hdd just for all my games for a long time now and last night i bought a 1tb samsung 970 evo m.2 nvme drive as it came down in price alot on Amazon.uk, should be fine for me for my os and other things as im feeling the pinch with my 500gb ssd

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15:32 Jan-01-2020

Fun fact: in past 10 years or so game size expanded 10 times and probably in next 10 years it will expand 10 times more.To put this into perspective, in 2010 it used to be 5-10gb for a game, now it is 50-100gb average, so in 2030 it will take around 500GB-1TB FOR A SINGLE GAME. Idk how about you guys but it blew my mind when i noticed that.

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14:03 Jan-01-2020

Size can be an issue for me. I have a 500GB 860 EVO SSD and I am down to around 250GB. I think I might go get a 1TB SSD and be ok for a while...

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15:26 Jan-01-2020

I actually have a question for ya.
Some claim that if you install your OS on an SSD, and install games on an HDD that its fast enough for a great gaming experience. (decent loadtimes etc cause the drive doesn't have to juggle the OS and the game)
There any truth to that?

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19:17 Jan-01-2020

Yes that's a good compromise. Nothing beats the loads times on a SSD tho...

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22:49 Jan-02-2020

Will test it out myself when I get around to it.

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19:31 Jan-01-2020

Once Windows fires up it's usually rather light to keep running and the benefits of what you're saying are barely noticeable, if at all.

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13:24 Jan-02-2020

Nah it makes no difference the HDD will still take way longer to load games and youll get those asset loading in issues with it depending on the games atleast from what i remember when i tried using that method about a year or so ago maybe somethings changed since then but i doubt it.

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13:36 Jan-02-2020

from my experience, it really depends on game, resp. game engine - it's easy to observe using resmon (windows resource monitor) how much game data at what speed is being read from the drive,
and data are being mostly loaded into RAM, some into VRAM then, so overall the speed may not be limited by drive anyway,
advantage of SSD is much faster seek times (time to find data on drive) rather than pure read/write speeds, but keep in mind well-done games are never reading too much data at once, and if there is enough RAM available, they don't flush the data either, so theoretically "slowest" cheapest SSD is best compromise for a game drive nowadays imo

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22:51 Jan-02-2020

Everyone thank you for your input.

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13:42 Jan-01-2020

For me, install sizes aren't big deal, with 300/15Mbps internet which is uncapped, I don't have issues downloading stuff in reasonable amount of time. Plus between 512GB SSD and 1TB SSD, I have plenty of space even for those 100GB+ games. And I will usually install few games, play them, then uninstall those and install new. So I never have space issues and thank god no need for slow HDD.

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13:44 Jan-01-2020

That being said, I also understand that not everyone is as fortunate as me. Some have slow internet, either due to crappy service because of lack of competition or legislation in some places. Not to mention some regions do have data caps on everything. And in some poor regions storage could be an issue too, despite SSD prices going down a lot and HDDs being very cheap for extra storage.

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13:53 Jan-01-2020

As for games being big to dominate storage. I highly doubt that. Sure there might be games where they didn't properly compress all data and could be further reduced in size with tools like CompactGUI, but results will vary from few percent to huge 80%+ reductions. But I would attribute that to incompetence, rather than malice, as attempt to fill your storage.

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13:55 Jan-01-2020

Plus instead of dominating your storage, they mainly try to dominate your time, creating games in a way that they encourage everyday play and you staying around. So instead they try to use game design to dominate your time, instead of game size to dominate storage. If there is nothing to keep you playing, there is nothing to keep you from simply uninstalling that game.

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12:42 Jan-01-2020

Yes, which is why I'm buying a 3TB HDD.

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15:29 Jan-01-2020

I delete everything I download, and the stuff I find interesting is moved to my external 4.0 TB HDD.

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16:31 Jan-01-2020

Not everything is a download and on top of that not every game is meant to be deleted. MMOs, Multiplayer games, games with replay value. Music, home videos, picutres, the list goes on.

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17:24 Jan-01-2020

Used to store the stuff I downloaded like it was treasure, but I just lost interest in it honestly. If you still have such a deep passion about pictures good for you.

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18:57 Jan-01-2020

well the thing is my PC is, and I myself am, the most reliable person to store those pictures and videos so I'm the one storing them, I haven't looked at them in a very long time.
music I store, because I don't like music streaming.

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19:18 Jan-01-2020

Why not just use the cloud?

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19:33 Jan-01-2020

Because I enjoy and value owning my things, no other reason really.

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15:47 Jan-01-2020

Im in the same boat as you though im not sure if i want 2tb ssd or massive extra hdd. I currently have 500ssd and 1tb western digital blue ( model number - ezex). And i currently dont have enough space. I have few rpcs3 games which takes huge amount of space. I download 4k HDR movies which takes around at least 30gb each, and i use peer to peer program for certain things ;). I currently loaded most games to my hdd and dont have any complains on loading times.

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16:32 Jan-01-2020

I'd say go for HDD and wait a little over a 1 year until 128 layer SSDs come out and then 1TB SSDs will be cheap, potentially almost as cheap as 1TB HDDs.

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12:30 Jan-01-2020

yes it's annoying - not because of the download time, but because of the space it wastes on my SSD drives

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11:53 Jan-01-2020

Nope. Am playing fewer games coz ah got a job and family now.

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11:01 Jan-01-2020

I do think there's some truth to the last part. I feel like there can be some sort of compression that would not impact the quality of textures and audio all that much, as they're the ones that take most space. And if there isn't, ultra high texture files could be a separate download for people who would want to use it as majority of players often do not have enough horsepower to use them anyway. The more disk space a game occupies the less you can install...

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11:01 Jan-01-2020

...and the less you can play without reinstalling some. And if the game is huge and your internet speeds aren't great, reinstalling some games could take considerable time so it's better not to rid of them because you might want to play them again. That doesn't sound like something AAA industry wouldn't try to do as they've done similar and even worse types of subtle manipulation.
Now with that, I don't think they're going all the way down to writing on your disk space...

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11:01 Jan-01-2020

...with literal useless junk as a way to bloat game size. So I don't think there's some sort of conspiracy, yet. But I do think game sizes are definitely larger than they should be while they definitely have the ability to not make it so.

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10:29 Jan-01-2020

No, but I tend to play a game until I'm sick of it, or finish it, and not look back for a really long time

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