Does File Size Limit Creativity?

Xbox Live Arcade in 2004

The current file size limit for XBLA is 2GB. Since the service started on December 3, 2004 the file size has been slowly creeping up. Previously the Xbox Live Arcade file size capped titles at 50 MB to accommodate consumers who purchased the hard drive-less Xbox 360 Core SKU (those consumers had to use one of Microsoft’s memory cards). As consumers migrate to larger and larger hard drives (a 250GB Xbox 360 slim retails for £159.99 in the UK), the file size restriction of 2004 are starting to become increasingly irrelevant. But its clear these users are the whales as the Kinect bundle for 360 only comes equipped with 4GB of storage. Having said, this represents a huge leap forward from the fact that 360s we retailed as an arcade bundle with no hard drive at launch.

Storage is ubiquitous, accepted and dropping in price each year. Yet again, Moore’s Law flexes its influence.

So if, conceptually storage represents no issue for the consumer and home users are frequently leaping to 2 terabytes and beyond (2TB now retails for as little as £60), there is no real issue about keeping XBLA title throttled at 2GB. The issue is that Xbox currently only supports a maximum hard drive of 250GB, whilst PS3 has supported 500GB hard drives since 2010. The 360 Elite launched with 120 GB.

These artificial restrictions to supported storage capability are becoming increasingly redundant as the migration to the cloud becomes inevitable. Cloud storage is not the silver bullet for games consoles, as the ability to stream the game world from a server-based source could dictate the experience. The solution would be to ensure that local storage and broadband speed compensated for any degradation in game experience. Onlive and Gaikai overcome this issue by pushing back video feeds delivered from remote servers. Onlive is dependent on local area connections. The issue with Onlive is can it deliver an experience comparable to disc or local storage? .

All of these points are symptomatic of growing pains in an industry destined for the cloud. Physical manufacture is irrelevant, storage is disposable, and the primary issues surround the continuing acceptance of the consumer to accept ownership that they cannot touch, or in the case of the cloud, cannot even see as a retained file size.

In the case of XBLA and PSN file size has been of little consequence to the innovation and development on the platform delivering some of the most compelling game experiences of the last decade. The questions now remain about the role of pricing, physical retail, customers perception and delivery speed.

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