Call of Duty: Modern Warfare proves that game download sizes are getting ridiculous

It was recently revealed that the PC version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will wind up clocking in at a hefty 175 GB, which is over 100 GB larger than most major releases. That size is even making the PC port of Red Dead Redemption 2 blush as it will “only” take up 150 GB of space. The trend is quite obvious to anyone that keeps a close eye on gaming: video games are getting increasingly larger as games begin to support 4K and deliver game worlds that are absolutely massive. However, how big is too big when it comes to game download sizes? That’s a question that is beginning to be asked, especially in areas with slow internet.

The size of video games increase due to the technical capabilities. Games were originally designed around the limitations of their method of delivery. Floppy disks and early 8 and 16-bit cartridges meant that game developers had to keep their file sizes small, and it wasn’t until the introduction of CDs that we started seeing games significantly grow in size while also adding pre-rendered cutscenes and enhanced audio quality. It wasn’t uncommon to see titles span multiple CDs, and this trend continued into the era of DVDs.

ALSO: The new PS5 controller won’t just be a gimmick

A real shift towards larger games began once the PlayStation 3 released as Blu-ray discs allowed for creators to have much more space than ever before. It’s the reason why Hideo Kojima said an Xbox 360 version of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots wasn’t possible and why the 360 version of Final Fantasy 13 came on multiple DVDs rather than just one Blu-ray like the PlayStation 3 release. Despite these increases, there was still a hard cap at 25 GB initially, and developers eventually started using dual-layered Blu-rays that went up to 50 GB. This generation we’ve once again seen games increase in size as they begin to offer up 4K support and increase in terms of size and content. Now we’re seeing developers blast through the old 50 GB limit, as commercial Blu-rays now support up to four layers, and that is largely due to the advent of digital distribution.

Even buying physical won’t avoid the increased game download sizes

game download sizes

With games getting so large, they are introducing new issues for consumers. The most obvious one is that large games can take literal days to download in areas with slower download speeds. A natural reaction would be to tell those consumers to simply buy physical versions of larger games, but that still isn’t a true solution. Many games have begun to require downloads as not the entire game is included on the disc (such as the Spyro remasters). The reasons for this are varied. Sometimes it is a publisher looking to lower costs, which is why a lot of physical Switch games require downloads as they ship on smaller cartridges rather than opting for costlier ones that hold more data. And sometimes it is due to games being worked on up to and after launch. Either way, players have to spend more time than ever before waiting on games to download rather than just popping a disc in and then enjoying what they’ve purchased.

As games climb into the sizes of 150 GB and above, there has to be a serious conversation had about games alienating parts of their audience. Many parts of the world have much slower internet speeds than in Europe or North America. For example in Chile, it will take nearly three hours just to download a 5 GB file. Thus downloading the new Call of Duty on PC might take up to 100 hours depending on their connection. That is ridiculous, but gaming is a global pastime rather than a regional one, so it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s also a problem that is impacting players in the United States as gamers in more rural areas have much slower internet than those in cities. Their speeds are much lower than the average United States internet speed of 32.89 Mbps.

Even if you have great internet, the increased size of games can still be an issue due to how tiny the hard drives are on current systems. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched with 500 GB hard drives, and that is now barely enough to hold a handful of retail releases with games like NBA 2K20 clocking in at over 70 GB. We’ve seen newer systems such as the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro release with a terabyte worth of memory, but that still isn’t much when you consider that games are cracking 10% of that size by themselves. The next generation of systems will have to launch with at least two terabytes of memory unless they expect players to constantly delete and re-download the games they want to play. And given how they will have fast SSDs instead of regular hard drives, they’ll be even harder and more expensive to replace.

Big game download sizes problem that isn’t going away any time soon

game download sizes

Sadly, this problem is going to get worse before it gets better. As developer Rami Ismail explained on Twitter, doubling a game’s resolution “roughly quadruples the file size of the textures.” Adding to that, developers also put “multiple copies of files in data so hard drives can load a copy of the file faster.” As such, games are going to continue getting bigger as players continue to expect more out of them. It’s an unfortunate trade-off and one that Sony is attempting to address on PlayStation 5 by allowing players to install only the single-player or multiplayer portions of some titles. Also the faster solid state drives apparently won’t require that files be copied so many times to combat longer loading times. These are decent attempts to address the problem but won’t equally counterbalance the ballooning file sizes.

There aren’t many ways around this since asking for better internet connection around the world be a slow fix, as even advanced countries have areas without much in terms of options for internet service providers. Until then many players will have to watch as games get much bigger in size and they wait days until they can actually play the game they purchased. And those with fast connection speeds will still have to keep multiple spare drives of games. It’s a frustrating part of gaming that is becoming more and more tedious every year. Let’s hope next generation doesn’t push this tedium to its breaking point.