Every week I play a very specific game. No, it’s not Halo (though I do occasionally play that), but the game where I desperately try to manage the storage space on my PC because of video games. Oh and if I go to my PS5, trying to curate a decent list of installed games also runs into problems. Same on Steam Deck. Same on Switch. And it’s getting worse as Modern Warfare III shows that in 2023, all bets are off when trying to predict how much space you’ll need for an upcoming game.
As Kotaku has covered, much of CoD’s current install size mess centers around the Call of Duty HQ app, which serves as a launcher for all things CoD, be that single-player, traditional team-based multiplayer, and the free-to-play battle royale and extraction shooter, Warzone and DMZ. Just downloading that combo right now on PS5 will cost around 100GB of space. That makes isolating MW3’s campaign size difficult. It alone might not be very large, but you don’t have much choice here. On PC, at least via Battle.net, you can easily prioritize what of this game you want to install, but even just grabbing the single-player is an enormous download since you have this launcher tax to carry around.
Whether we’re talking about CoD, or other games, there’s two sides to this problem: You either need a massive amount of storage space if you want to have more than a handful of games ready to go, or a very fast internet to download games in a reasonable amount of time after making space on your drive. And getting a disc won’t help you, either.
Does physical media offer a solution?
Whether we like it or not, physical media feels destined to be phased out given the industry’s trend toward deprioritizing offline access to games via some kind of physical storage device. We’ve seen examples of both with Sony’s strange, almost heretical, decision to require an internet connection to activate the disc-reader on its upcoming slim PS5 model and in Alan Wake 2 forgoing a physical release entirely. Future Xbox consoles may likely skip a disc reader altogether.
More often than not, physical discs seem to be nothing more than physical license keys to download software—and at that point, it’s hard to blame anyone for skipping the laminated plastic option. Last year’s Modern Warfare II was one such game, “shipping” on a disc that basically had nothing on it. There are others like it.
This install size issue also presents an obvious problem for game preservation. How will one go back and play Alan Wake 2 10 years from now? Dusting off a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S from the closet and inserting a disc won’t be an option. Preservation is a larger more nuanced topic (one in which physical media is not some magic bullet given the reality of disc rot and just plain old entropy), but the complications of managing a nearly all-digital realm of video games aren’t likely to ease up any time soon.
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