We love hard drives. When your home console is strapping a big arsed HDD you don't have to leave Alex Kidd on overnight, you don't have to remember sixty-two digit save passwords, and you no longer have to mourn the death of an 8 MB memory card as if it was a family member.
Make no mistake fellow gamers, hard drives rock. Even still, if you had have told us in 2005 that three years later we'd be complaining about 'only having' 20 gigs of space for our Xbox 360, we would have built a time machine to travel forwards in time to knee ourselves in the groin.
But times they do a-change, especially when you're talking storage. HDD sizes always increase at a frantic rate, and their prices can change just as quick. Just ask one of your PC gaming buddies - you know, the bloke you stay friends with because he has sixteen terabytes of porn - he'll set you straight on the virtues of having HDD space to spare.
Now that the DLC era is fully upon us, it's becoming increasingly obvious that console gamers need not only 'the Gs' to buy content, we also need to have 'the GBs' to store all of it. This is especially true with the New Xbox Experience; you know, that fancy pants dashboard update that had some mixed surprises for all of us.
On the plus side it can now reduce load times by letting us install games onto the hard drive. On the bad side, it introduced avatars and forced every single one of us to take one unwilling step closer towards metrosexuality. Yep, even the guy with the gamertag 'Sgt_Butch_McSlaughter'.
But that's a rant for another time. Today we're more interested with the ridiculously small sizes of the 360 hard drives, and the ludicrous cost of them.
From day one, early Xbox 360 adopters only got themselves a pissy little 20 gig HDD which, quite frankly, is bugger all room. Incidentally, if you are among the chosen few who still has one of these machines - and it hasn't blown its own brains out yet - Achievement Unlocked! Take these 10 gamer points and go buy yourself a lottery ticket, you're on the biggest roll of your life...
Next in line, you've got the folks who bought themselves the sex on a stick Halo special edition console (which has a 20 gig too). After that there are the people who scored a Pro Console with HDMI and a 60 gigger ($349). Also you've also got the forward thinkers who scored themselves an Elite with a 120 GB Hard disk ($549) - for the record, this rant doesn't concern you rich people as much. You're swimming in free space, Scrooge McDuck.
Finally, let's all spare a thought for the recent adopters who have jumped on board by buying the insanely low priced Xbox Arcade Pack. These ill-informed punters have squat, no HDD at all. Sure they got a killer deal and a copy of Kung Fu Panda, but John Q Salesperson neglected to tell them this handy formula: Xbox 360 - a hard drive = no backwards compatibility= no Xbox LIVE = no love.
So where does that leave them (and the majority of 360 owners with a 20 gig) when they want to upgrade to a quasi-respectable 120 gig? It means selling off one of Nana's kidneys to come up with an extra 200 pesos. That's right trendsetters, for the cost of a hard drive you can almost buy another Xbox Arcade CONSOLE with the money. This, quite obviously, is ridiculous.
Walking into our local EB (or was it JB? - We can't recall which. It definitely had a 'B' in it) we discovered that there are two 360 hard disk upgrade options available: the 120 gig ($199.95) and the slightly wimpier 60 GB LIVE Starter Pack' ($149.95). Whichever option you choose, you're essentially getting not much space for a crap load of dollars.
Why are Xbox HDDs so goddamned expensive, anyway? Looking online you can get a 750 gig Seagate IDE hard disk for $242. Why then are we buying Bill Gates another ivory back scratcher every time we want to gig-up? We're glad you asked. According to some research the hard drives for Xbox 360 are stupidly pricey because of:
1. The needlessly flashy packaging (why try to sex up a chunk of plastic anyway? It's a fricken hard disk)
2. All hard drives ship with pre-installed demos and/ or XBLA games on it. Someone, or something, has to put them there.
3. All hard drives must be coloured and shaped to fit inside the specially-designed housing that ensures that only a 360 can access the delicious gigabytes within. I.e. MS doesn't like to share.
The end result; it costs MS an estimated $100 to make a 120 GB hard drive, and the leftover $80 profit getting split between them, retailers, and distributors. This being the case, we're largely screwed when it comes to expecting a markdown anytime soon. At this point you've got to respect Sony for going with an easily replaceable, non-proprietary hard disk design for the PS3.
Filthy greenbacks aside, let's get back to the topic of available space. The Xbox 360's attach rate last Christmas was 7 games (up from the previous year's 5.3). Therefore, if a 20 GB owning punter is planning on installing seven of the latest Christmas releases they're in trouble (for example: Gears 2 (6.7 GB), Fable II (6.8 GB), Dead Space (6.6 GB), Fallout 3 (5.9 GB), Call of Duty: World at War (6.5 GB), Midnight Club: LA (6.0 GB), and Fifa 09 (6.0 GB). That list comes to an utterly McStupid 44.5 GB - and it'll essential overload most people's HDDs. Especially when you factor in that the average Xbox 360 is already crammed with music, videos, demos, and every XBLA trial game know to man, from 'Arkadian Warriors' to 'Zuma'.
God forbid you want to download some movies, or any DLC.
Now some people may argue, "why would you have seven games installed at one time anyway? Who plays seven games all at once?". Plenty of people, smartarse, plenty of people. Jumping between different parties/multiplayer games is the culture that MS is desperately trying to sponsor - especially in the face of Sony's impending Home.
As you can no doubt see, this 'overly expensive, under regulation size' HDD problem will quickly become a significant problem for the big M in the battle ahead. What can they do to fix the problem? We'll be watching with keen interest... More PlayStation 3 News...