We'd figured as early as February that Microsoft would forgo placing a next-gen optical drive in the Xbox 360 for a myriad of acceptable reasons, but we couldn't help but keep the nagging issue of disc space from lingering in the back of our minds. From the high-res textures fit for an HDTV to the higher polygon counts befitting a next-gen console, the space available on standard DVDs is suddenly in increasingly short supply. So far we've yet to see an Xbox 360 game take up more than a single disc, but if the most recent issue of Game Informer is any indication, Microsoft may soon be sweating their decision to pass up on a next-gen storage format.
The issue takes an in-depth look at all the features of the Xbox 360, and while GI is generally quite taken with the 360's performance, functionality, and especially its controller, they unearth some unsettling details regarding the console's diminuitive storage capacity. According to Game Informer, nearly every developer they talked to at X05 expressed difficulties fitting their launch titles onto a single disc. One unnamed yet "highly anticipated" game in particular is said to currently occupy a full four 9Gb DVDs. Elder Scrolls IV immediately jumps to mind [UPDATE: or perhaps not, duuur], but any of those Japanese RPGs that Microsoft is always touting are also likely candidates. Microsoft's J Allard downplayed the storage issues, citing that improved compression rates in the future will allow much more data to be held on an individual disc, and that the pre-launch crunch forced many current 360 titles to use space far more inefficiently than they would have otherwise.
Microsoft has already hinted that a future add-on may be developed to allow the 360 to handle high-def movies, but that the device would be unrelated to gaming. Should the status quo remain unchanged, that means that Xbox 360 owners will be stuck with standard DVD media until at least the next console generation, circa 2010. And, obviously, just because a title is relegated to multiple discs doesn't mean that it can't be a great game—just look at Final Fantasy VII. But in this modern era, will consumers still put up with swapping discs mid-play? Games which are linear, such as Halo, may have little to lose by opting for a multi-disc format, but games which are, er… cubic, such as Grand Theft Auto, may take a significant hit in their ease of playability. All told, did Microsoft make the right decision when choosing the 360's optical drive? If not, would they risk segmenting their fanbase by releasing a newer, HD-DVD enabled box in the future?