One of the things that amazes me about the computer/video games available right now is the fact that they are available digitally (and pretty much instantly). I remember that when a game was released in the 1990s, you had to go to a store and wait your turn in a queue. If you were all the way at the back of said queue then there is a good chance that you to wait until your local video game shop had stock of that game.
Now, you still get people waiting in line on launch days for the bigger titles, but that has become a rare event. You can go online to a store like Steam, buy your game and download it on the day it launches. Because these games are availble digitally, you can buy a game whenever you want to buy it. Better still, you don’t need to worry about a game running out of stock.
This is all well and good but there has been a problem that has resulted from this: download times. Let me jump straight into this.
Some of us cannot wait to play our games. The day we get them, we don’t want to have to wait to download and install them we want to be able to hit the “buy” button and then be able to play it there and then.
Some of today’s game releases require a hefty amount of space on the hard drive of your PC. For example, if you were to download Battlefield Hardline onto your PC then you would need at least 60 Gigabytes (GB) of available hard drive space. Grand Theft Auto V on PC would require at least 65GB of hard drive space. Even games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt would require 35GB of hard drive space.
What about PlayStation 4 or the XBox One? Well, if you were to download Batman Arkham Knight on PlayStation 4 then you would need at least 46.1GB of free hard drive space. If you were to download Mortal Kombat X on XBox One then you would need at least 36.39 GB of space.
Ookla (the company behind SpeedTest.Net) has their NetIndex website. The average connection speed for the world according to NetIndex (at the time of publishing this article) is 24.3 megabits per second. As such, to download Grand Theft Auto 5 you would need to wait at least 6 hours. In some cases that would be at least 12 hours (or more).
So why are these games this large? Well, imagine having to take the entirety of the city of London here in the UK. Then converting it into a computer game world. Now add in some missions, the characters, the voices and so on. Simply put you are already up to quite a hefty download for a computer game.
Yes, I do realise that you physically go to your local video/computer game store or order those games online. However, you would have to rely on them having copies of the game in stock and you are at the mercy of their opening hours as well. If you were to order your game of choice online you might have to wait three days. That being said if you are the patient type who can wait then that’s not a problem.
Of course, Sony has already come up with a good solution to this. If you have a PlayStation 4, when you buy a game from the PlayStation store, rather than waiting for a really long time (in some cases half a day) you can play the game you just bought whilst it is downloading. So let’s say you want to buy Battlefield Hardline. You then hop onto the PlayStation store to buy it and then you can download it. Whilst you wait for the game to download you will be able to start playing it.
Now this is a solution that Sony has done well. They snapped up a company called Gaikai which had this technology.
But they were not the first to use game streaming. Before them, there was a short-lived gaming service called OnLive. The idea of it was that you could play games like Dirt 3 on a netbook without having to worry about spending £1000 on a gaming PC. It was an amazing platform that was really ambitious. With that being said OnLive has been discontinued as of April 2015 due to parts of ther company being snapped up by Sony.
Valve has their Steam store which allows for games stored on your PC to be streamed to your laptop, netbook or home cinema PC.
To add fuel to the fire, some of you might have an internet connection where you can only download a certain amount of data a month before you are throttled or just cut off altogether. Some internet service providers (like BT) here in the UK will automatically upgrade you to the next tier of service and you will have to pay for that. Either that or you might have to pay a fee. In fact, on their lowest Infinity tier, BT’s monthly usage limit is 20GB a month. If you are going to download a PlayStation 4 or XBox One game then you are pretty much out of luck and upgraded to the next tier at a cost.
However, for the most part the likes of Plusnet and Sky (here in the UK) give you truly unlimited broadband. Even so, on the lowest tiers of their broadband internet connections you will be lucky if you get close to the advertised speed. Basically, this still means you will be waiting to download the latest games to your game console of choice or PC.
I also know that some internet service providers in the USA give you a monthly usage limit in the hundreds of gigabytes.
If you have an XBox One or a PlayStation 4 and you don’t have an internet connection where you can download these titles in one go then there is a short-term workaround for this. The best thing you can really do, is to just go to your local game shop or order these games online.
I call upon the games industry as a whole to learn from what Sony has done and come up with a solution to this problem. If Sony can do this, then there is no reason that the rest of the games industry can do something similar.
Do you think that this problem of large game downloads is quite a big one that the industry needs to solve or a problem that does not matter? Let me know in the comments.