Friday, September 19, 2008

Hard Drives and Consoles

So, Kotaku has a little story about why the Xbox 360 has no default hard drive and the PS3 does. They've got a few spin filled quotes with a bunch of fanboy comments, I thought I'd translate, if only to have an excuse to update.

The Xbox 360 doesn't have a default hard drive because hard drives don't get cheaper over time for the most part, they just get bigger. Normally, that's desirable for hard drives, but not if your making a console to minimize cost. Microsoft looked at the Xbox, realized that maybe four or five games actually used the hard drive in an interesting way (Halo and Halo 2 among them) for something other than a giant memory card, and figured that if they make the hard drive optional that eventually they'll probably be able to get the console down to $150 or less. Realize they were looking at the PS2 at the time.

The PS3, on the other hand, was looking from the point of view of having a Blu-ray drive. This drive, although having huge capacity, is sloooooooooooooooow. They had to have built in storage to let developers compensate for that, or risk having their system be plagued by ultra slow loading times that even their best devs wouldn't be able to circumvent. In some respect, this will hurt them, because they won't ever be able to drop their price to PS2 levels... hard drives won't go down that low. Of course, the blu-ray drive probably won't drop very fast either, so the point is moot - they can't reduce the price anyway, so why not throw a hard drive in?

Anyway, the point? Kotaku should realize that almost no devs used the hard drive in the Xbox. That's a big reason why MS saw it as an expendable, unnecessary luxury that was killing their bottom line. I'm hoping that for the consoles after the PS3/Xbox360, that they both have optional hard drives, but have some kind of large built in storage that is only for caching. Then the optional hard drive can store all the DLC, but everyone can still have their caching.

The trick, as always, is finding something both fast and cheap enough. But whatever the case, it should be enough so that loading screens mid-game are a thing of the past.


ISnip3sideI said...

Yah the load time on the PS3 is really REALLY slow. If you play MGS: Guns of the Patriot you sit and watch Snake smoke for 5 minutes. Thats why you play halo :).

Anonymous said...

Haha!Yeah, the Xbox 360 is much better in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I think it's funny, Sony harping on the PS3 as if it's going to overtake the 360. But just like you said, they pit too much into it to drop the price as much as they did with the PS2.

ObiWanStevobi said...

Hmmm, But I have to wonder, why is the 360 HD so expensive if they are worried about minimizing costs? Why not put a plain old SATA HDD in there where you can put a decent size 10,000 RPM disk in for much less (like half the price) than the current 20 gig 360 HDD?

Even if you are going to make it optional, why go with some weird proprietary design? Is that a step to combat modders, or a way of making sure the mark-up is whatever MS wants it to be?

I can't imagine getting much out of my Xbox 360 and XBL experience without a hard drive (I have Several gigs of Halo 2/3 DLC and saved game data alone, not to mention video, arcade games, and other DLC). I'd like to think that they could make it a requirement and put in a lower cost hard drive, as opposed to the one they use now.

I will say without a doubt that the Hard Drive greatly improves the 360 experience. At the time when these choices were being made, they had to have known that they would have the critical advantage of being first to market, they'de have more games, and even with required hard drive, would still be cheaper.

Whether or not games all want to use it, I am still going to say not requiring a hard drive was a bad move. Bungie has even said that choice caused them much grief. Of course, you guys were able to get over it, but it's a problem you didn't need to have.

redacted said...

That is a very good point. No loading screens would be very nice. I think this is an excellent point. But personally, I would defiantly have a hard drive.

This is a little off topic but, I read article in a magazine (may be true or not) that said that there won't be a new gaming console for eight years, at least for Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. By that time, they may be using solid state drives. Solid state drives are currently expensive, but electronics only get cheaper over time. In eight years, a 100GB solid state drive may cost less than $100 and will probably be ideal for consoles in the future for many reasons. They have no moving parts, so it doesn't get very hot and they don't use a lot of electricty. So in a couple of years they may be in great use for consoles.

And yes, I must agree that the loading times for Metal Gear Solid 4 is redicoulusly long. I'm talking about 3 minutes to load up a level. I have no problem waiting that long at all considering that it is a great game. But still is very slow.

The thing I never really understood about the PS3 hard drives is the fact that the PS3 uses 2.5 inch hard drive (or laptop hard drives) for there storage. Why couldn't they just use 3.5 inch drives? They are more common and hold more space (typically). But then again it would cost more and it would take more space. Then again most people wouldn't take up that much space so a 2.5 inch hard drive may be a better idea.

Lastly, I never really got the concept of the XBox 360 hard drive. I don't see the point of adding weird shaped hard drives when they could just use regular 3.5 inch hard drives. That way people wouldn't have to pay $100 XBox hard drive with 60GB when they can pay $100 for a SATA drive with a lot more space. But then again that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Ummm, haven't read the article you are talking about but at least Sony allows you to use laptop hard drives and you aren't forced to buy any "Sony Only" drive. For only $70 I can get a Western Digital 160 GB drive. If it was really optional then some non-Microsoft drives would be allowed.

Anonymous said...

I never knew this, thanks for the info.

Unknown said...

To a point.

Slower RAM could be used for general game caching. This is silicon based and would decrease with time.

A thumb drive for gamesaves would have greatly reduced the overall console cost. We all understand the 100,000 write limitation, but we also know that thumb drives have been decreasing in cost at a very rapid pace. If the thumb drives were limited to gamesaves and DLC, it would not affect the controller latency. Then again, the downside would be an easier platform for modded games.

Instead, they made a 64Mb memory card with a crazy low quantity high cost security chip which only limited the hackers for about 3 months until they started loading modded material.

I'm betting future consoles will take advantage of the solid state disks instead of the expensive mechanical drives.

Decimator Omega said...

I personally think the 360 is a good console. Now it's even better since Microsoft improved the GPU chip to prevent the 3 red lights when they sell the 360's. too bad mine is the 2007 version (the one that has the orignal GPU chip) Now all it does is flash 3 red lights when I turn it on...