The digital download dream: Physical media is here to stay, thanks to slow internet connections

Physical Media

Now that Steam, PSN, and Xbox Live are widespread and feature-rich, it’s easy for some of us to assume that we’re already living in the all-digital future. With super-fast fiber-optic internet connections and huge hard drives, many gamers haven’t touched physical media in years. Sadly, not everyone is so lucky. Within the United States, many of us are stuck with shockingly slow internet connections. Some of us are even burdened with oppressive bandwidth caps, so the idea of downloading tens of gigs of video games is unthinkable. With the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, games are growing to an enormous size, and it’s clear that the average download speed simply can’t keep up.

The all-digital future

When I ordered my PS4, I knew I wanted to go all-digital. It’s been about a month since launch, and so far I’ve successfully dodged physical media completely. It’s been a very pleasant experience for me, but I can’t recommend it to everyone. I have a super-fast Verizon FiOS connection, so downloading massive files is no sweat. Steam regularly hits 80Mbps down, and PSN has been pushing a solid 28Mbps here on the East Coast of the United States. My connection is well above average, so it’s important to remember how outlandish PS4 downloads are to most gamers.

NBA 2K14 File Size

NBA 2K14 on the PS4 is a whopping 41.8GB — that’s huge! It can’t even fit on a single-layer Blu-ray disc. Based on data accumulated by Akamai, the average downlink bandwidth in the first half of 2013, in the US, is 8.33Mbps. At that rate, it would take the average internet denizen nearly 11 and a half hours to download the entire game. While NBA 2K14 is the largest game currently available, it’s not the only massive download on PSN. The Sony-developed Killzone: Shadow Fall weighs in at 38.5GB, and Mark Cerny’s Knack is a shocking 35.6GB. On the average internet connection, Killzone would take over 10 and a half hours, and Knack would take almost 10.

PS4 download sizes

Let’s take a broader look at the size of PS4 game downloads.

Games PS4 Download Size
NBA 2K14 41.80GB
Killzone: Shadow Fall 38.50GB
Knack 35.60GB
Battlefield 4 33.90GB
Call of Duty: Ghosts 31.30GB
DC Universe Online 22.70GB
Injustice: Gods Among Us 22.00GB
Just Dance 2014 22.00GB
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag 21.20GB
Need for Speed: Rivals 15.90GB
Madden NFL 25 13.10GB
NBA Live 9.30GB
FIFA 14 9.00GB
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 6.40GB
Blacklight: Retribution 4.90GB
Escape Plan 4.30GB
Warframe 4.20GB
Sound Shapes 3.40GB
Tiny Brains 2.90GB
Trine 2 2.60GB
Contrast 2.30GB
Flower 1.80GB
Angry Birds: Star Wars 1.50GB
Super Motherload 0.73GB
Resogun 0.45GB
Average 14.07GB

With an average size of 14.07GB, it would take over 15 hours to download four games at 8.33Mbps. That’s definitely unwieldy — and on the next page, we’ll compare the PS4 to the PS3, and begin to analyze whether download speeds can keep up with the size of games.

Next page: PS4 vs. PS3 digital game download size


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