Microsoft’s Xbox One is an ambitious video game system and it gets a lot of things right. More than anything, it delivers an outstanding online play experience, especially for shooters. However, there is one flaw in the Xbox One that isn’t much fun at all - the game installs.

The history of Xbox game installation

Installing software on a game console is not exactly a new concept. Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 had some games that required updates to download as well as downloadable content to be installed on the hard drive storage. Also, downloadable games became more popular on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

The biggest difference between the current generation of game consoles and the previous generation is that the games all install themselves on the system. Once they are installed, they run faster, but some games can take a long time to install.

Case in point, Titanfall took about five hours to install on a brand new Xbox One. Some other games install in a much shorter period of time, or are ready to play before all the files are on the machine.

It just is a bit of a downer that game installs are now mandatory and the time to load up a game and start playing is even longer than before. It doesn’t feel like progress, it feels like a step back.

The shortest installs seemed to take fifteen to thirty minutes before you could start playing the game. The longest installs took about five hours. That ridiculously slow install was for Titanfall. It’s a fun game, and arguably it’s worth the wait, but it would have been nice for the install to go much quicker.

What game installs could be

If the game software is well designed, I would expect it to be ready to play in much less than an hour, say twenty minutes or so would be a somewhat reasonable benchmark in my mind. When you start pushing up on an hour, I think peoples’ attitude changes and they start planning around game installs. They do things like installing games overnight. That behavior is common on PC gaming, but now it’s pretty common for normal console games as well.

I don’t think anyone is excited to have to preload 10 or more gigabytes of download. Even worse, what if you download an install a game on day one and the download servers crash? That is terrible.

To me this feels like losing one of the real big competitive advantages that game consoles had over traditional PC platforms like Windows or Mac. On a computer, you expect a large and possibly semi-complicated install and setup. On a console, you should be able to put a disc in and the game will just run. That is how its worked up until this point and I don’t see why we would take a step back to take a step forward.

There was an opportunity this generation to allow disc-free gaming to be a possibility while still allowing for trade in game reselling. Instead, we have this bizarre world where we are forced to install games, but we can’t play them unless the disc is in the machine. What is the point in that?

They just take too long

What we have now is a world where you still buy games for $60, but when you put them in your Xbox One, they can take hours to install, and once you copy all the data off the disc, you still have to keep it in the machine to play the game. This doesn’t seem like an improvement to me.

Here are the game install times so far for game installs from disc:

If you buy directly from the Xbox One online store and download the games digitally, you can expect probably longer install times based on how fast your internet connection is. The more that the install requires a big download, the slower the install will be.

As we test more games we will update this page. In general, Xbox One game installs take too long and don’t add much value. Microsoft needs to fix this soon.

-Brian

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