With the release of the Xbox One X along with the PS4 Pro, it seems we’re in an endless march towards 4K gaming.

Are you ready for all the ultra Pixels????

It got me thinking about physical copies of games and whether they have a future and will continue to count for a significant percentage of total sales.

This games writer believes that while sale figures consistently show that digital formats are eating into physical sales, the option to get a pre-printed disc to walk home with will never fade away.

The ESU has said that digital sales now count for 74% of all video game sales. But as games get larger and larger there eventually comes a certain point where the size of the download makes it worthwhile once again to buy a physical copy for a greater number of consumers. The lack of adequate download speeds is one problem that large file-sizes exacerbate.

But we are also seeing 90+ GB downloads interfering with the fair-usage policy hidden in many consumers’ ISP contracts. We’re going to have more and more people break their limit on a regular basis as file-sizes continue to grow. While some companies do offer capless and unlimited broadband in Ireland, such as Virgin Media and Pure Telecom, the majority of customers are living a potentially expensive lie…

Take for example Eir Fibre Broadband. The bundle I’m with says ‘unlimited usage’, which any normal person would think really means ‘using teh_interweb without a limit’. But hidden in the contract is a ‘fair usage policy of 1TB per month’. Break that limit on your woefully-misnomered ‘unlimited’ plan and you’ll be charged for every 10GB you go over with a maximum charge of €100.

If you think games are large now, just wait until they’re native 4K

So when games start regularly breaking the 100GB mark (which will happen more and more often with 4K texture packs), you could end up breaching your allowance by downloading 7 or 8 games a month. Those sort of game sizes is unsustainable to download.

There have been stories in the past of a joint venture between Sony and Panasonic  looking into developing a new disc format that can hold more than the maximum 50GB that a dual layer Blu-ray disc can currently hold.

Unlimited Broadband? I Think Not!!

Let’s not forget at the start of this generation, Killzone: Shadow Fall, which was a Day 1 title came it at just under 50GB. That wasn’t even an open world game. In the following years, games have become much larger in scope.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 was over 100gb in size. There goes 10% of your allowance in one download. Elder Scrolls online was over 80 GB, GTA V was 65GB and that game was built for PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles. I’m guessing Red Dead Redemption 2 will dwarf that. Gears of War 4 on the X comes in at 103.12 GB.

Someone falling foul of these secretive fair usage policies, even though he/she didn’t breach the limit

So what can Sony and Microsoft do besides increasing the amount of storage currently available on Blu ray discs?

For one they can make sure that if you want to play a certain game with 4K textures that the means to do so comes in a separate download file. You shouldn’t be forced to download an extra 20-30GB. That should remain optional. We know that the Xbox One X allows owners to download 4K patches separately even if they don’t have a 4K TV. But what happens post-PS5 launch when games will be inevitably larger in size?

The broadband providers that still adhere to such hard limits may need to look at increasing their fair usage policies or getting rid of them altogether. The growing importance of 4K gaming and media content is forcing more and more people to read the fine print – and worse still, truly unlimited services will soon start screaming this advantage to consumers if they are wise.