Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5 and memory problems

In the beginning there were the floppy disk. Later appeared i CD-ROM and ammunition games that contained the bailouts of our beloved titles. Then, with the generation that saw the debut of SEGA Dreamcast e PlayStation, emerged the memory card, small peripherals that had the sole purpose of preserving our progress. With the arrival of Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and the subsequent consoles we use (and will use), the memory cards ended up in the memory drawer in favor of the much more capacious and performing hard drive. Xbox series X, Series S e PlayStation 5 are the next generation gaming platforms that will arrive on the market next November and both will benefit from the latest generation hard drives solid state, very fast, with high performances and capacious… maybe. This study aims to shed light on the solutions adopted by Microsoft products e Sony and think about the actual convenience in having 512 gigabytes (on Xbox Series S), of 1 terabyte (on Series X) e 825 GB (on PlayStation 5).

The evolution of games and progressive gigantism

Since the days of PS3 and Xbox 360, games have begun to change. If with PS2 it was enough to buy the disc to have the complete and definitive game (with all the problems of the case such as, for example, the unsolvable bugs), the next generation introduced the updates and Downloadable DLCs which, by increasing the storage space occupied on the hard drive, have begun to make players think about which games to keep installed and, above all, which version of the console to buy. In fact, especially as regards PS3, there were different memory cuts available for purchase. The Sony console was in fact available in various denominations, the most famous of which were those of 256 and 500 gigabytes and which, considering the average size of a PS3 game equal to 15 gigabytes, were certainly the most functional.

With the increasing complexity of titles and the amount of updates and downloadable content made available by software houses, these memory formats have begun to show the first, big problems with the advent of Xbox One e PlayStation 4. The two consoles, in the versions with 500 gigabyte hard drives, have often and willingly forced the players to choose which title to keep and which to eliminate, due to the progressive "gigantism" that has characterized the video games of the current generation. In fact, the medium size of a PS4 or Xbox One game varies from 35 to 55 gigabytes which, combined with updates and additional content, manages to easily exceed 60 GB. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare it is the negative example par excellence in this sense.

The famous war title of Activision, released in 2019 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, is able to occupy over 160 GB of memory on the two consoles and only 12 of these are attributable to the presence of the free to play battle royale Warzone. An impressive amount of space occupied that has led many to hope that next-gen titles will also be developed with a view to avoiding similar situations. Hopes that, at least in the case of the Xbox Series X and S, would seem to have been partly fulfilled. In fact, the titles for the Redmond platform will allow you to selectively uninstall some portions of the game in order to free up memory space.

The Xbox Series X | S and PlayStation 5 SSDs

Microsoft and Sony for their new gaming platforms have both opted for the solution of solid state hard drives (SSD), which allow you to make the most of the features of the games created for the new generation. Unlike normal hard disk with magnetic disk, SSDs do not have moving parts that can break or cause noise. Furthermore, this type of device is characterized by a very low probability of fragment files and a read / write speed definitely superior to other technology. As mentioned, the SSDs will already be present on the basis of the new gaming platforms and, as was to be expected, these are decidedly performing units.

Let's start with the one present on PlayStation 5, which is characterized by a series of changes made ad-hoc by Sony engineers aimed above all at increasing performance as much as possible. In fact, the bandwidth of the PS5 SSD peaks 8 gigabytes per second, unlike the PS4 mechanical hard drive which maxed out at 100 megabytes per second. A big difference between the two technologies also relates to the speed with which the hard drive finds the data it needs. There was one on the PS4 hard drive duplication data, as the speed of the mechanical head in recovering files from the Blu-Ray disc was rather slow and therefore, to speed up the search, it was convenient to make sure that such data were present in hundreds of copies to be more easily identifiable. This trick obviously translates into a redundancy of files that increase the space occupied by a software. On the PS5 SSD, on the other hand, the contents will be searched only when they are actually needed and, thanks to the high transfer speed and very low latency, the data can be requested almost instantly, effectively making duplication unnecessary, with potential savings in terms of disk space.

Equally performing is the SSD that is found inside the Xbox Series X and its younger sister Series S. Microsoft has developed a series of proprietary technologies which, grouped under the heading Xbox Velocity Architecture, allow for very short loading times. The model mounted on the new consoles of the Redmond company has a maximum transfer speed of 6 gigabytes per second which, despite being slightly lower than that guaranteed by the PS5 SSD, makes it about 40 times faster compared to that of Xbox One. As pursued by Sony, Microsoft's goal in designing the operation of the Xbox Series X | S SSD was to reduce latency and have data only when it is actually needed. Thanks also to a dedicated algorithm, called BCPack texture compression allows you to optimize the size of the games and reduce the space they occupy. In short, while following different paths, Sony and Microsoft have aimed at achieving the same goals.

How much space will the buyers of the two consoles actually have? 

To this question both Microsoft and Sony have not provided an official answer but only a few days ago some rumors have disclosed the amount of available storage space offered by their consoles. Based on what emerged from the network, the most critical situation would seem to present the PlayStation 5, which would only offer 664 GB of storage available on the 825 total. A very limited amount of memory, especially for the version Digital Edition. Xbox Series X instead will offer its users 802 GB, with Series S which, in light of what has just been said for the older sister, should guarantee a little more than 300 GB of storage. Considering the size of the games, it therefore seems inevitable that users of the two platforms must in the future have a support capable of expanding their memory and, obviously, the two giants have thought of a solution.

As happened with SSDs, the two manufacturers have aimed to achieve the same goal but following different solutions. Microsoft, in partnership with Seagate, has realized a External SSD developed ad-hoc to work on both Series X and Series S. Sony instead has equipped its console with a standard NVMe port to which to connect other external SSDs. Both solutions will still require a certain amount of money from users, especially in the case of Microsoft, as the specific SSD for the console costs 249,99 € or 50 euros less than Series S.

At the end of this discussion it is right to draw some important conclusions. While there was an important one step forward on a technical level as regards the technology used for hard disks, which will result in a significant increase in performance, on the other hand there has not been a marked improvement - at least at present - as regards the space available to users who, on the contrary, it would appear to have decreased compared to the previous generation. All-Digital consoles, where the full weight of the game rests on the hard drive, without memory expansion could force users to continually install and uninstall titles. With consoles probably sold at a loss, it is inevitable that the cost of accessories will soar and the fact that, in light of the above, it will be easy to saturate the internal archive of the consoles, it is certainly not pleasant to have to consider the purchase of a memory expansion before to buy the console.

So how can this problem be mitigated? Waiting to know any solutions developed by the two companies, the advice we can give to those who will focus strongly on the backward compatibility of the consoles is to buy a mechanical hard disk on which to install the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One games, as the titles next-gen require superior technology. At this point, all that remains is to wait for official information to find out if (and how) Microsoft and Sony will solve what, at the dawn of the next-gen, could prove to be a critical problem for their new flagships in the future.

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