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Next-Gen Games: Storage Nightmare or Relief At Last?

With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare now approaching – maybe even surpassing given there’s a patch today that’s just shy of a 32 GB download – the 200 GB install mark, gamers are getting concerned about what next-gen games might have in store for us.

On one hand, maybe install sizes will decline. With the super-fast SSD that’s going to be in both the Xbox Series X and PS5 there’s less need, perhaps even no need at all, for the repetition of assets that we see this gen where commonly-used assets are spread around to lower seek times. If the SSD can seek, find, and stream that asset into RAM fast enough to make data duplication unnecessary, then install sizes may drop – significantly in some cases.

On the other hand, maybe install sizes will grow. Gamers always want better looking games, and that – in most cases – means higher-quality textures and that bloats game size. Plus that bump to CPU and GPU means more detailed worlds, which means more textures will be needed. If 4K becomes more of a standard, and I think it absolutely will, then cutscenes will be in 4K – 8K if someone wants to really push the envelope – and that, again, means bigger installs.

With a 1 TB SSD in the Series X and a 825 GB SSD in the PS5, hardcore gamers are going to be bumping into that storage limit quickly – perhaps even launch day, given that both consoles support backwards compatibility with previous generations (Xbox/Xbox 360/Xbox One support is confirmed for the Series X, while the PS5 BC support is – at present – only confirmed for PS4 games).

One option is to expand your storage in one of two ways. The first, which we’ll call ‘playable storage’ is by expanding your SSD volume. On the Series X, Microsoft will be selling expansion cards that plug into a dedicated port in the back. These cards, weighing in at 1TB of storage each at this point, haven’t been priced yet but go check out SSD pricing and you’ll get the idea that they won’t be cheap. For Sony’s part, they’ve said gamers can expand their storage with SSD that can provide the transfer rate they require, but at this point there are no ‘PS5 approved’ SSD out there so pricing is unknown but unlikely to be cheap.

The other option is to expand ‘non-playable storage’ via external HDD, like on the Xbox One and PS4. While you can’t play Series X or PS5 games from a HDD, you can play BC titles from it or use it as a ‘game vault’ to stash next-gen games in when you’re not playing them. It may take some time to transfer a title from the HDD to the SSD to play, but it’ll be faster than downloading it again – and if you’re not on an unlimited connection it won’t kick the crap out of your monthly bandwidth budget to boot.

So you’ll need big storage size, but you’re going to want something fairly small to hide behind either of these next-gen titans. I’m currently using one of these Western Digital HDD, and I’ve been happy enough with it. 5 TB of storage is monstrous, that’s 250x the size of the HDD in my first PC, but it’s also…gone. I have a pair of 5 TB HDD attached to my Xbox One X and if the end of the gen wasn’t approaching it might be tempting to find something bigger…or start deleting games that I’m sure I’ll play again soon, just not today.

If you’re investing in storage, be sure you get something powered by USB. There’s nothing worse than having to run a new power cable to the nearest outlet or power bar, then finding out there’s no outlet…