* This Article was originally featured on Pause Your Game, and while it was still written by me, it is an article from a different era, and thus, some things may be broken within the article but are kept that way for posterity.
Back when the Wii U first was released, there existed two models: the 8GB white model and the 32GB black deluxe model. The 8GB model was largely criticized for its 8GBness which resulted in only allowing one to two full retail games to be stored on the hard drive. The 32GB model received much of the same criticism but to a lesser extent as Nintendo is quite good at keeping their game size to a minimum. Nintendo stated that the reason for the small hard drive was to keep the cost down. Considering the pricing of hard drives today, with anything of decent size usually running at least $50, it is easy to see how this would impact the overall price of the console. A lot of people (including news organizations) saw this as a bad thing (and I agreed with them), but that was then and this is now. With Sony and Microsoft soon to be/already offering larger hard drive models, it has become apparent that Nintendo’s choice to make the Wii U’s storage small is actually a good thing. Allow me to explain.
Bigger isn’t always Better
Hard drives provide storage space for games, apps, and other odds and ends (such as large porn collections). They also run and store things like the operating systems (OS) that your console uses to work. The problem is that having larger hard drives (in consoles) slows things down. This is because (in an effort to cut costs) console companies opt for slower hard drives, even if they have more space. This means the performance of the console suffers by the inclusion of a hard drive because its operating system is also stored on this slow drive.
The Wii U opts to not provide this drive in favor of having a small flash drive (which its operating system resides on). This allows the OS to run faster for two reasons: 1) it is less encumbered by other applications that it must share its performance with because there is less space to store them on, and 2) a flash drive (because it has no moving parts) is faster than a traditional (spinning) hard drive. If you have any experience when it comes to building computers, you would already know that the OS should be installed on the fastest drive available and under the best case scenario, partitioned off in its own little section to gain the best performance. That same logic applies here.
Having a system set up in this fashion allows for both speed and choice, since the small faster storage is running just the essentials, leaving the task of storing your other applications (like games) to the larger drive of your choosing. Unlike the Wii U, both Sony and Microsoft have opted for the more traditional model of having one large traditional (spinning) hard drive that performs at slower speeds to store everything.
The Sony and Microsoft Model is Costing You
Thanks to the push towards digital content, bigger and better hard drives have become increasingly important in the console market (because digital content all resides on your hard drive). This is reflected by the 1TB models now/soon to be offered with the PS4 and Xbox One. While this sounds like great news on the surface, it’s actually terrible news when you think it through.
The reason for this is that, typically, hard drives start out at around $50 (as of the writing of this article). Hard drives around this range yield the worst $/GB (dollar to GB) rate. As the size of the hard drive increases the cost of each GB decreases (economies of scale in action). For example, a 500 GB hard drive may cost $50 where a 1TB drive may cost $75. The 500 GB hard drive has a $0.10/1GB rate, while the 1TB(1000GB) has a $0.075/1GB rate. So why not go for the biggest drive and the most storage space for your money? Because as we already know, the biggest drives are also among the slowest.
But, as anyone who has been into gaming and computers knows, applications, games, and software in general are forever increasing in size (generally speaking), requiring a proportionally greater amount of hard drive space to store them in your system. This is where a second issue crops up — after you’ve purchased your system. You see, the initial model available for both systems is currently 500GB and part of the hard drive’s price is baked into the console. The 1TB models are planned to be priced at $50 more when they are released.
This means you are going to get screwed one of two possible ways:
A) You don’t own a console, and you want to buy one. Being a smart customer, you go for the biggest hard drive space, and pay $25 more for the “baked in” 1TB drive than if you had gotten it separately.
B) You do own a console and you’ll be paying $75 more to replace the 500GB hard drive that came with your console originally!
And lest we forget, those hard drives will be the slower spinning ones for your hard-earned money. Are you beginning to see why this is a fairly rotten deal for you?
A blank model would solve all of these problems in one fell swoop. Companies would have the ability to offer their consoles even cheaper as all that would be needed is a small Flash or SSD drive to store the OS and future updates. Consumers would win as they would be able to get the console at a cheaper price and/or be able to customize their consoles storage without being forced to pay the inflated rate of a “baked in” drive or double dip to replace their original one. It’s a win-win for everyone. After all, who wouldn’t want to see an advert like this,
with “Now $50 cheaper, and you choose your own Hard Drive!” in big bold letters plastered across its surface?
I know I would.