Video games have a memory problem. No, I’m not talking about how we forget about new games after they’ve been out for a week. That’s an issue too, but I’m talking about storage. I’m talking about how video games are at the point at which “the Switch already has a game larger than its out of the box internal storage” can be a thing. It’s almost like with the advent of hard drives, we took a step forward from memory cards, took a step back, slipped on a banana peel and tumbled backwards down a flight of stairs. What happened?
I think we hit a point at which our desires as consumers started to comfortably coast alongside reality. After all, it took a while to get used to needing memory cards, and even after they became the standard, nobody wanted to deal with them. I can still remember bizarre flashpoints in awful memory card history as well, such as when cartridge-based Nintendo 64 games would randomly require them. Not to mention the original Animal Crossing literally took up an entire GameCube memory card, and Nintendo was practically forced to include one with new copies.
Of course, this whole time PC gamers enjoyed their hard drives to varying degrees, but were always able to comfortably play games without having to purchase additional hardware just to maintain saves. When consoles hit that point, it almost felt like a miracle. The Xbox 360 came with 20GB of storage out of the box? What?! It didn’t seem real. The PlayStation 3, expensive as it was, ended up with even more space. By the time that generation was over, you could buy a PlayStation 3 with 500GB out of the box. Even without bringing cloud storage into the fray, keeping game saves without having to roll into a store for additional memory was no longer a problem.
Then, the whole digital marketplace thing happened. Whoops! At this point, coasting alongside reality was no longer an option, as our expectations jumped higher than reality could keep up with. Now we don’t just want game saves, we want to download our games and have access to all of them whenever we want. This is also at a time when publishers are creating larger and larger games, trying to push retail stores out of business, and also sell more games in general than ever before. Thus, here we are with the top-selling system, the PlayStation 4, starting out at what suddenly feels like a measly 500GB.
In truth, the Nintendo Switch does not have a significant memory problem. 32GB of internal storage is fine for game saves for cart-based games. Even with digital games, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the only game that currently sits around half that number. The earlier mentioned game, Dragon Quest Heroes, is actually a two-game collection. Also, SD cards with way more storage are much cheaper than equivalent hard drives. Meanwhile, expanding PlayStation 4 storage is much more expensive, when you consider most games for it are around the 30-50GB range and the system only just now supports one additional, external drive.
Is this a problem with us or with console developers? Or is memory both trivial and extremely expensive at the same time, depending on what perspective you’re approaching from? This is not an issue with an easy answer, clearly. Even much larger PC drives are pushing the price of high-end gaming rigs up. As games are pushed harder and harder in terms of specs, size is only going to grow, and hard drive availability will be a struggle to compensate. Much of the digital market issue focuses on Internet accessibility, but storage may well become the next hurdle after that.
What say you, readers? Me, I’m pretty cheesed about DOOM needing even more space after its recent update. 75 gigs? Come on.