Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War takes up a ton of space on the newly released consoles. Here’s why storage will be such a concern this gen.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War has finally released, and the community seems to be pleased with the latest installment in the long-running franchise. Raven Software’s campaign is reinvigorating players even though it’s on the short side, and Treyarch’s multiplayer is the same tried-and-true action. While the game itself checks all the right boxes, it isn’t without growing pains.

The most prominent occurs before the player even boots Cold War up: the file size. Clocking in at over 180 gigabytes, the Achilles’ Heel of next-gen has shown itself. While the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X enable games to look better and load faster than ever before, that comes at the cost of storage space.

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The Cost of 4K Gaming

From 4K texturing to ray-tracing, these technical leaps add unprecedented immersion. In a game like Cold War that pushes for the highest fidelity possible, the experience is undeniably bolstered by these advancements. But those take up a lot of space; 4K-ready textures and ray-tracing take up about 50 GB on their own. Removing those, would shrink the file size by almost a third. This is going to be a large point of contention as the industry moves forward, emphasizing higher technical fidelity.

The trouble is, as that technical fidelity ratchets up, storage space — at least right now — can’t keep pace. One of the greatest innovations in the next-gen machines are the solid state drives (SSDs). In contrast to the previously standard hard disk drives (HDDs), SSDs allow for near-instant load times, as well as innovations like Xbox Series X’s Quick Resume. But they also cost far more than HDDs, forcing Sony and Microsoft to include relatively small SSDs in the new systems.

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The SSD Problem

While the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 have one terabyte and 825 gigabyte SSDs respectively, those fill up very quickly. First, the console operating systems burn through a portion of that. Then, the remaining space is quickly divided up across titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. With proprietary memory expansions for the Series units being astronomically expensive and the PlayStation 5 being unable to expand its SSD storage currently, hands are largely tied.

As such, Cold War is the canary in the coal mine for a much larger issue. Next-gen’s SSD and emphasis on techniques like ray tracing are both its greatest asset and limiting factor. For as absurd as the file sizes of games like Cold War are, they’re unavoidable. The larger issue is the relationship between the size of the SSD and games taking advantage of next-gen enhancements.

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Sony and Microsoft had to find a balance between technical specs, utility and price. The ultimate cost of that is storage space, resulting in the fact that these machines will only be able to hold a few games at a time. The situation is even more dire for the Xbox Series S, which only has a hair more than 350 GB of usable space after the operating system is installed.

It’s a cost versus benefit scenario. Playing games in 4K with ray-tracing is a sight to behold and, when combined with features like the DualSense‘s adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, it truly brings the player closer to the game world. Cutting edge technical performance isn’t directly compatible with a convenient user experience, at least not in 2020.

There are routes forward. Cold War allows the player to retroactively uninstall parts of the game to make that file smaller, a smart option that Microsoft has helped enable. In the short-term, clever developer workarounds like this are the only solution to the issue. Still, those types of workarounds are situational at best. Until the price of expandable SSD storage is more reasonable, players will simply need to adapt to constantly cycling games in and out.

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