It’s Monday and time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: Is 512GB enough storage for Microsoft’s just-announced, next-gen console Xbox Series S?
I am very lazy at loading the dishwasher. When I finish, it kind of looks like a Jenga tower right before it’s about to fall. Super inefficient. Lots of leftover dishes in the sink as a result. “When the dishwasher finishes I’ll just take out all the clean stuff and put them inside and run it again,” I think to myself. And then I go to sleep, and eventually it’s morning, and now I have to unload the dishwasher and load it up but I haven’t even had my coffee yet so I don’t and before I know it the kitchen’s a mess and somehow we’re still out of clean forks.
Moral of the story is that if I can’t even expend the extra brain power to figure out how to clean all my dishes at once I’m not going to be figuring out the best way to Jenga the shit out of 512GB so I can actually play all the games I want to play when I want to play them. Games are huge now. They need constant updates. So many of them are live-service now too, built around appointment gaming: 30 minutes on Rocket League, an hour on Final Fantasy XIV, finish some Destiny 2 bounties, clear out an enemy camp in Ghost of Tsushima.
My PS4 is 500GB and I can barely fit eight games on it. I have no idea what next-gen will bring but somehow much smaller games with fewer updates doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards and I am not prepared to spend 15 minutes every night managing uploads and downloads and hunting for the Ethernet cord so it doesn’t all take an eternity. I basically already do this on my PC, which for the last five years has lived solely off of a 256GB SSD. That shit is fast. It also barely fits Phantasy Star Online 2. I’m not going to put myself through that for a whole other console gen.
No, it’s not enough, but yes, it actually is. Hear me out. With the way new games are now 80-90 gigabytes apiece, a 512GB hard drive is simply not enough. But! With cloud storage to preserve my progress and the ability to redownload games I’ve purchased whenever I please, it doesn’t matter. The way I—and I imagine most busy millennials—play games means that even if my hard drive is at capacity (and looking at my PS4, it is) I’m never simultaneously playing all four or five games that it’ll take to fill that thing. So when a new game comes along I’m more than happy to delete to free up space. Speaking of, I need to get rid of Kingdom Hearts III.
I’m reminded of the early days of smartphones, when an entry-level model would come with 8 or 16GB of storage. That would prove sufficient for basic use, but after installing apps and adding some music you’d find yourself wishing you could’ve justified the unreasonable premium for the 32GB version. In 2020, with games routinely consuming tens of gigabytes and sometimes over a hundred, 512GB is the absolute minimum a “next-generation” system could offer with a straight face. And just as with those 8 and 16GB phones, 512GB Xbox Series S owners are going to feel the space squeeze.
The question asked was “is 512GB enough?” It’s enough to function, absolutely. But it’s not enough to spare many users an ongoing struggle to manage storage over the console’s expected lifespan, locking them into a continual cycle of downloading, deleting, and re-downloading games as needs and whim dictate. (Or, shell out for an upgrade.) What a hassle.
While noticeably better, it’s not like the Xbox Series X’s 1TB or the PlayStation 5’s 825GB are massive, either. We’re in a bothersome period in which the space requirements of high-end games have outpaced the affordability of solid-state drive storage. Between these consoles and a long-overdue PC I want to build, I really hope SSD prices fall fast enough to catch up to games somewhat over the next few years.
Look: 512GB in 2020 is a very different proposition than 512GB in 2013. Video games, of course, have ballooned in size over the course of this last console generation. Who’s to say how large they’ll get over the course of the next one? Where it once could hold a robust library of games, my launch-edition Xbox One currently has room for Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Halo 5: Guardians, and a rotating handful of smaller games, depending on what Game Pass offerings are for any given month. Seven years from now, will the Xbox Series S have room for whatever version of Halo Infinite we’re on, and nothing else? It’s anyone’s guess.
Truth told, as long as it has room for Master Chief and friends, that’s good enough for me. I bought the first Xbox for Halo: Combat Evolved. I bought the Xbox 360 for Halo 3. I caved and picked up an Xbox One for The Master Chief Collection (even though that game didn’t start working until four years later). I’ll almost assuredly pick up some manner of next-gen Xbox box for playing Halo Infinite in all its glory. 512GB is, I’d hope, fine enough for that.
512GB isn’t enough. But! I weirdly enjoy managing downloads to my consoles, and I do think that maxing out space on my PS4 or Xbox One harddrive has played a role in motivating me to just finish a game already—or just decide to not finish it and let it go—so I can delete it. In that way, a digital storage constraint can be healthy for those of us who try to play too many games and need to be saved from having an endless backlog.
Second caveat: 512 GB may not be enough, but if the Xbox One vs. PS4 vs Switch digital storage management experience is anything to go by, an Xbox Series S may at least provide users good tools for dealing with the limited space. Downloads on PS4 are a debacle of installations, file-copying and a sluggish interface bereft of useful information. Downloads on Switch are similarly awkward to track. The Xbox One, however, prominently shows the amount of space you have on your harddrive in the same part of the dashboard that shows you which games and apps you have. (Until I checked again this morning, it tended to also show your download speeds and progress during an active download all in that same spot. I hope they didn’t remove that!) Hopefully the Series S/X dashboard will be as user-friendly.
How About You?
Kotaku’s weighed in, but what’s your take? Is 512GB enough for you? Or does the rather small drive put you off a digital-only console like the Series S? Have your say. We’ll be back next Monday to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!