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The Bloating of Video Game File Sizes

Jesse Schuerer playing Five Nights at Freddy’s Two
Jesse Schuerer playing Five Nights at Freddy’s Two

In the modern day, digital games are bigger than ever. With the use of the internet and a bank account, you can buy a game directly on your console without having to leave your house or have it on a disc. With this in mind, the file sizes of games matter more than ever. With limited space on each console, and the same being true for sd cards no matter the size, it only makes sense that developers should be given the time to optimize their games in order to make said games more accessible. However, the evidence shows that something else is going on behind the scenes. 

For example, video games developed for and released on the PS5 have an approximate average file size of 40 gigabytes. For reference, the PS5 on average has ~670 gigabytes of storage space for games. Using these averages alone, you can have maybe 17 games installed at most, supposing that each game follows that average of 40GB. This certainly appears to be a decent number of games, especially if you can squeeze out a lot of time from each game. However once you get to the maximum amount you can store, but you still want more, a decision comes into play. What to delete? What to save? Which games would you want to play again, and which would you be fine casting off into the void?

If that question is already hard to answer, it’s no surprise that it becomes worse when you get around to larger, AAA (high budget, high quality visuals, high file size) games, considering how those file sizes jump up. The largest file size on record for the PS5 is up there at 175GB, with second place clocking in at 153GB. With more hardware power on the PS5, it seems to make sense that file sizes would increase to make use of that power to make higher quality games.

If we take a step back and look at some of the PS5’s competition, we can get a reference for other consoles and see where their file sizes lie in comparison. For the Xbox Series S & X, the average file size rests around 35GB to 50GB, with the biggest game being the same as the PS5, however COD:BOCW has a file size of 158 on Xbox rather than 175. For reference, the Xbox can on average hold approximately 365GB of storage. This is approximately seven to ten games at a time on Xbox, and while file sizes are smaller in comparison, the game count is disheartening.

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For a third view, we’ll take a look at the third of the three pillars of console gaming, the Nintendo Switch. The switch holds a total of 32GB in console storage, however unlike the PS5 and Xbox, you can use an sd card to increase that number by as much as you want, though it’s been recorded that using a terabyte sd card has melted one person’s switch, making the maximum 512, or rather 544GB in total. The average size of games is 10GB on Switch, making it possible to hold from three to fifty four games using these averages. The largest game on switch, NBA 2K23, takes up 153GB on PS5, 152GB on Xbox, and clocks in 55GB on Switch, a little more than a third of the size it is on other consoles, whilst being the largest game on Switch.

So, what does all this mean? We can see that the high power consoles, the PS5 and Xbox, have increased power as well as increasing file sizes. The Nintendo Switch is only as powerful as previous generation consoles, but as we can see the file sizes are far smaller on it, and with the right tools it can hold far more games than the competition. The main difference is hardware, and optimization. The PS5 and Xbox are powerful, but we can assume that far less time has been devoted to optimizing games to make use of that power.

The file sizes of several games have been going down as time has gone on, despite the increases in content of these games. Notably, COD:BOCW has had it’s average file size drop from 175 to 85 as time has gone on. While this isn’t true for every game, nature is healing. The Nintendo Switch is only as powerful as last generation consoles, which may seem like a setback, but it continues to have high quality games that draw people in, at significantly smaller sizes. This can be attributed to the fact that far more time has been spent developing games for a console with these capabilities, allowing developers to learn how to optimize their games for it better. Based on these facts, it would be a good idea to take a break from console development, and instead devote time to improve the quality and optimization of software being developed for the consoles of the current generation. While it may seem bleak, with so many large file sizes, if developers were allowed to step back, take a break, and catch up their software with the power of the consoles they work with, file sizes can only improve.

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