Pre-loading is a step forward
If Microsoft and Sony are keen on not fixing their badly-designed download UI’s, then there’s a silver lining: pre-loading.
Pre-loading could remedy this situation by simply letting players download the entire game before it launches, alleviating a huge portion of that bandwidth at launch. Launches of big-name online-only games are expected to break servers–we’ve seen it with Diablo III on PC, and even the abysmal launch of Driveclub on PS4–but there are steps that companies can do in order to prevent further stress after launch.
The concept of pre-loading is catching on, and we’ve seen it recently with the new Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare game, which offered a special “day zero” edition that let players jump in a day before their physical counterparts.
The Halo: Master Chief Collection also had pre-loading and even went so far as to let gamers pre-download the day-one patch to ensure they could start playing right away.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Xbox One supports remote downloading, which can alleviate a lot of stress when going digital. As long as the auto-update feature is turned on and your console is connected to your network, any purchases you make via the SmartGlass app or Xbox.com will automatically start downloading to your Xbox One while you’re away.
This is a stride forward in the right direction, and as long as gamers and consumers know about the feature, it can save them a lot of time and frustration.
Given the hectic nature of launches, pre-loading might be able to actually mitigate some of the congestion, but essentially it only moves the server strain to a different day. Even still this seems like the way forward, provided everyone doesn’t go for the pre-loading option.
Conclusion: Stick with discs
At the time of writing both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One still have their terribly unfriendly UI for digital content–and the former is still underhanded with its masking of full game downloads.
Digital isn’t there yet. The PlayStation Network isn’t really optimized for swift game downloads, and even the Xbox LIVE’s 300,000+ bank of servers can’t handle the load of launch-day patch downloads.
It’s worth considering that maybe Microsoft and Sony don’t know about these problems. They’re bombarded with a smattering of bug reports, glitches and console crashes on a daily basis, and they’re both trying to sort out their respective launch failures–Sony with Driveclub, Microsoft with Master Chief Collection.
But it’s almost as if no actual executives have even tried to use their own system, or better yet, download a digital game on their own systems. If they were inconvenienced as much as gamers, they maybe they’d rectify the situation.
Sony’s too busy right now readying new gambles like PlayStation Vue, which brings cable TV to PS devices, to fix their own systems it seems. Look at how they abandoned PlayStation Now, and how that turned out.
Neither Microsoft or Sony warn consumers about these problems. They don’t want you to know, apparently, and its this kind of subterfuge that makes gamers distrust their corporate entities.
As it stands, digital downloads on next-gen consoles is a bad idea that’ll quickly give you a headache. The interfaces aren’t yet optimized, and neither are their hosted servers, making it a rather big inconvenience for gamers.
Stick with physical on both systems, and then you can even trade in your copy at Best Buy (don’t ever use GameStop, they’ll rip you off right and proper) for some in-store credit.