Console games have been installing large amounts of data on hard drives since Halo was released, but it recently hit the headlines with Capcom forcing PS3 gamers to sit through a 20-minute install process before they can even start playing the game. Is this an early sign that console gaming is evolving into something closer to the PC?
A number of recently-released PS3 titles (DMC4 to name one) have caused a stir with a mandatory installation process that forces you to install up to 5GBs of data. People cried 'Why does PS3 need to install files when 360 doesn't?' The easy answer to that is the fact that 360 installations aren't a viable option for those who bought Microsoft's Core and Arcade bundles - the ones without a hard drive.
For PS3 owners, the main reason you have to install certain titles is down to the disc reading speed of the console's Blu-ray drive. It's simply not that fast at reading the info contained on the disc, probably because it's a first-generation drive and the tech is far younger than that of DVD.
Regardless, DVD drives load quicker, and so in loading the same game from a disc on both a 360 and PS3, you'd find the PS3 to be noticeably slower. Throw some data on the hard drive however - which transfers around 150MBs per second (much faster than disc drives) - and the tables begin to turn.
Capcom seems to have been the most notable offender to date. Devil May Cry 4, Hot Shots Golf, and as emerged today, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition all require a mandatory installation processes.
Community man Chris Kramer, said: "Installing on a console may seem like a weird idea, but there's a real benefit. Once installed the PS3 version of the game has near-Super Nintendo speed load times. You'll be amazed how fast levels load, the virtually instantaneous transition from cut scenes to action and that you're continuously playing the game."
There are definitely benefits - we put the game side-by-side with the 360 version and the PS3 loads levels a second or two quicker, although we think Kramer's "near-Super Nintendo load times" claim is over-exaggeration, SNES carts load in an instant. DMC4 on PS3 doesn't.
Capcom isn't the only offender though. Both Heavenly Sword and Ninja Gaiden Sigma come to mind (although neither take quite as long as 20 minutes).
So is it worth sitting through a 20-minute installation to shave a few seconds off load times? Depends on yours truly, really. CVG reader Mark240473 says "At least PS3 owners can improve the load times on DMC4. What is so negative about that? By the time I have made a brew and spoke to the missus, the game will have finished downloading."
On the other hand, fellow reader Daedalus79 said: "What a joke. Thank god I'm getting the 360 version," backed up by vulcanraven01, who said: "Imagine if you ran out to get something like GTA4 or MGS4 ... buzzing with excitement, only for an install screen to pop up leaving you waiting for 20-30 mins before you can even experience the game. I, for one, would be pissed."
So how fair are mandatory installations on consoles? It's okay to have installations on PC because that's the way it's always been. But consoles are, by their very nature, the fast food of gaming. We buy consoles to enjoy gaming without the rigmarole of installing, worrying about hard drive space, minimum specs etc. Will installations on PS3 blur the line between console and PC gaming?