Why Microsoft doesn’t use Blu-ray on Xbox 360

imageI’m getting a little tired of the constant comments I read from people making the false claim that the Xbox 360 “needs Blu-ray to support larger games”.  Some even go so far as to extrapolate & hypothesize that “game developers are limiting their games to fit them into the storage footprint of Xbox 360’s disc format, DVD9.

I’m sorry – I just don’t believe that.

Developers simply have not been running out of disc space to the point of limiting their vision.  Out of the 1000+ titles that have been released for the Xbox 360, here are the only titles that have gone “multi-disk”, using more storage than what was available in DVD9 (7.95GB) in the past 5+ years.

  1. Castlevania (2 discs)
  2. Dead Space 2 (2 discs)
  3. Final Fantasy XIII (3 discs)
  4. Mass Effect 2 (2 discs)
  5. Blue Dragon (3 discs)
  6. Infinite Undiscovery (2 discs)
  7. Last Remnant (2 discs)
  8. Lost Odyssey (4 discs)
  9. Magnacarta 2 (2 discs)
  10. Star Ocean: The Last Hope (3 discs)

Only 10 titles out of 1000+.  And 5 of them were Microsoft co-funded… as in they wouldn’t have existed if Microsoft Game Studios themselves hadn’t explicitly commissioned them.  Each of these sponsored titles are of a specific genre as well:  They all represent Japanese adventure games – somewhat in the mold of Final Fantasy – which surprise, surprise:  Is a 3 disc game itself.

Generally speaking, there is a very specific type of game that goes hog wild in needing disc storage.  And it’s an extreme minority.

Newer games very often require LESS storage on disc than older games.  I know this is a hard concept to understand but as developers get more sophisticated and as gaming libraries become more optimized – such as Unreal Engine – games are often smaller on disc than their predecessors.

Take the following examples: 

  • Crackdown (original) required close to 6.2GB on disc.  Crackdown 2 requires 3.4GB. 
  • MechAssault was 3.42GB.  MechAssault 2 was 2.29GB.

There’s this contention that just because a game takes up space on the drive that it’s actually the size of the game’s codebase.  That’s simply NOT TRUE. 

For example, “You Don’t Know Jack” requires 2.1GB on an Xbox 360 hard drive when installed locally.  Does anyone seriously believe that a game that took less than 100MB on the PC, is driven by Adobe Flash, has NO VIDEO playback, and has had more sophistication on Windows than on Xbox 360… somehow requires 2.1GB on the Xbox 360 disc?

So if Xbox 360 doesn’t need the extra space – why did they ‘allegedly’ release High Capacity Disk Format or HCDF? 

The story goes according to Eurogamer (not me) that HCDF betas make an additional 1GB available for developers to use on standard DVD9 disks, which has historically had 7.95GB of storage total, however 1GB was used for a mandatory VideoTS file/partition which supposedly contained copy protection and some other stuff in there that Microsoft mandated.  This left developers of Xbox 360 with 6.95GB to work with.

The new HCDF disk allegedly eliminates the need for the VideoTS file/partition and instead makes available the entire 7.95GB of accessible storage on a DVD9 disk.

The basic answer one has to believe is that if the storage is there:  Why not make it available to developers?  If innovations in copy protection and how Xbox 360 handles disks make it possible to provide 1GB of breathing room… why not?  It doesn’t cost users anything other than a system update to read the new format.

Bottom line:  It’s not necessary – I believe it’s more of a luxury.  When almost none of Xbox 360’s games require expanding beyond what was available with 6.95GB of storage, you have to believe that this is more of a “because we can” move.

4 Responses to Why Microsoft doesn’t use Blu-ray on Xbox 360

  1. John says:

    Nice information, but why does “don’t know Jack” require 2.1 GB . Was the reason copy protection?

    • kurtsh says:

      No, the copy protection allocation is not replicated to the hard drive when copied, so I don’t know what the reason for the 2.1GB was. I assume that there were lots of audio clips and video clips maybe… but I don’t recall there being THAT much raw content. It’s possible that the game was just simply poorly programmed because if I remember correctly, the game was developed in ADOBE FLASH. I’m not talking about the PC version, mind you. I mean the XBOX 360 version was in Flash I think. As in there was some sort of Flash interpreter running on the Xbox 360 I guess. (This is based on the credits that roll) And again, maybe the content format used by this variant of Flash is not very compression friendly. Like I said, I’m just hypothesizing.

  2. David says:

    You left out the most important piece of information. Blu-Ray belongs to Sony, therefore they will not allow Microsoft to put Blu-Ray on the X Box 360.

    • kurtsh says:

      Actually that’s not true. I can see your logic but it’s actually completely the opposite. Sony doesn’t make money on Blu-ray players. They make money on Blu-ray disc sales and to some degree Blu-ray production. Blu-ray has struggled to gain consumer acceptance and contrary to the hype, has less than something like 15% of all video format sales.

      Sony would love nothing more than to have 70 million Blu-ray players out there – in the form of Xbox 360 consoles. But the fact of the matter is, why would Microsoft support such an effort? How would this benefit Microsoft? Should Microsoft simply spend all the R&D money necessary to engineer, test, and distribute a Blu-ray player that only a fraction of it’s user base would buy, would cost them a ton of cash, deviate from it’s vision of online video delivery… and in the end, only benefit one company – SONY – in the form of greater Blu-ray disc sales?

      That’s not going to happen. The fact is, if people want a Blu-ray player, they can go buy one for as little as $99. Xbox 360 games DO NOT NEED THE 25/50GB OF STORAGE of Blu-ray as I documented factually in another post. There’s simply no reason to make the investment.

      And it’s proven out to be true. For the last 4 months now, IDC’s numbers have shown Xbox 360 outselling both Sony Playstation 3 & Nintendo Wii COMBINED each month.

      Blu-ray doesn’t matter. No matter how much uber-techies or Blu-ray-philes want to believe it does. And Microsoft was smart enough to recognize that a while back, saving Xbox 360 owners the costs of another HD-DVD fiasco.

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