Mandatory installs are the bane of my current generation gaming existence. They are the reason I turn off my PlayStation 3 in disgust and play antiquated systems.
I was under the impression that console gaming was the essence of true plug-n-play. My Dreamcast does it, my PlayStation does it, even my Wii does it. I put a game into my system, I turn it on, and it loads up. Why is it that my PlayStation 3 doesn’t do this? Why is it when I buy a game, I have to sit through an installation period as if I’m loading up a PC game for the first time? This is not plug-n-play and it’s not console gaming. It’s a monster that doesn’t belong in my living room.
Excessive installation time, as well as what I’ve lovingly dubbed “gigabytitis”, or sucking up great amounts of hard drive space, are two of the biggest problems with mandatory installations. Devil May Cry 4 sports a grand 20-minute install, which is over the top and leans on the high side of the scale, but the average still takes 5 minutes, time I could be going through the mandated tutorial most games force upon the user these days.
But space is the greatest concern, given the fact that the 40 GB PlayStation 3 is the only SKU on the market. Between the demos on PlayStation Network, the purchases I’ve made from the PlayStation Store, and random media bits, my 40 GB of space is nearly gone. There soon won’t be enough space to play games that require a certain amount of free space just for caching, such as Heavenly Sword and Oblivion. The benefits of Blu-ray’s extra space is moot when I have to install more than 10% of the game’s assets from the 25 GB disc to my system.
But I don’t have issues with just the mandatory installations themselves; I also have problems with the fact that I can’t browse the rest of my PlayStation 3 while it’s happening. I’m completely at the mercy of the great PlayStation Installation God, and I don’t like it. Mandatory installations not only waste precious time I could be using to press Start through all the menus and logos at the beginning of every game, but I’m forced to sit by the wayside as my $400 contraption entertains itself with the 1s and 0s spilling off the deliciously blue tinted disc in its drive. If this device is truly the media hub of my living room, and Sony wants it to act as such, then it needs to function like the laptop sitting three feet away from me on my coffee table that let’s me surf the internet, chat with friends, read email, and play other games while still installing programs of my choosing.
There is one saving grace to all of this: the PlayStation 3’s hard drive is easily upgradeable. The fact that at least 20% of my total hard drive space will be spent on mandatory installations (and more if I choose the right selection of games) isn’t enough, but all the other media will strip the drive of space in no time. However, it’s a breeze to put a 500 GB SATA hard drive into the PS3, and one of the booklets included with the system even walks you through the process (you’re still be under warranty, afterwards). But that doesn’t excuse mandatory installations, since no cosole gamer should ever be forced to upgrade a piece of hardware just because they want to play a few games and make a few purchases from the wonderfully provided PlayStation Store.
What should be done about mandatory installs? Don’t make them mandatory. If I choose not to have the speediest load times in my games, that’s my choice. And if I want to install it, tell me what’s being installed, be it textures, levels, music, or whatever else the developer deems important to enhance my gaming experience. But under no circumstances should the developer force the installation on me (like they do now) or keep the installation information a secret (again, as they do now).
Changing mandatory installations would go a long way to ridding the headache of purchasing a new game and not getting the chance to play it until an hour or more after you pop it into the machine. But since its easy to force the installation on the end user, it’ll become a crutch that many developers use to smooth out the game experience without knowing how it ultimately affects the consumer.
Wishing for it to change is a pipe dream, I know, as mandatory installations are here for the foreseeable future. Obviously, in the case of games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Devil May Cry 4, it’s not hurting game sales, since gamers will put up with anything to get their hands on the latest and greatest titles, but it is hurting goodwill and becoming a constant complaint among the very audience likely to buy these products. One thing Sony can’t afford to sour is good will and, maybe, if enough voices rise up in unison over this issue, they’ll see how big of a problem mandatory installations are for any of the current (or future) SKUs on the market. With how responsive Sony has been with issues concerning their customers, perhaps that will get things changed. And any change can only be good change.