Insert Disc Two? Are You Mad?

There are times in my life where I read a news story and wonder “is this classed as real news now, or is it just a really slow day today?” For instance, I recently saw that NASA had come out and said that the sci-fi horror flick ‘Apollo 18′ is, and I quote, “not a documentary”. The Daily Mail had an inside scoop in the past month that the creators of Sesame Street had released a statement confirming, once and for all, that Bert and Ernie were not gay lovers. And then it transpired that, in a move that has done nothing to affect the inevitable success of the game, Battlefield 3 will be coming to the Xbox 360 on two discs.

That’s right; not one, but two whole discs. This means that, at some point during your gaming experience, you will have to physically get up off your arse, open the disc tray, take a disc out, put another disc in, close the disc tray, and return to your seat. And this isn’t just happening in Battlefield 3, oh no sir, it’s a trend that we’re seeing across a lot of today’s games.

I understand completely about the advancements in technology and how that’s making us less willing to accept anything but the highest of quality. Recently my high definition TV decided to kick the bucket, and I had to replace it with a standard definition TV we picked up on eBay. The jump from HDMI to SCART outputs was horrendous; my newly acquired copy of Driver: San Francisco looked muddy and horrible and caused me to mark it down in my books on graphics alone.

So I get that we’re living in this age where people don’t understand why developers can’t fit a whole game on one disc. Some people have used this to point out a flaw in the 360, and are using it as a reason for folks to move to the PS3 and its far superior Blu-Ray technology, which has never had a problem with disc swapping. Others simply say that while they don’t mind the disc swapping itself, it’s the fact that it interrupts the flow of gameplay that annoys them.

But honestly, who cares? Rewind less than twenty years ago and we had PC games that came on around eight discs, and this was classed as the norm. Everyone’s favourite game, Final Fantasy VII, had three discs to swap between. Which disc you’d reached was a sign of how much progress you were making. Yet, now that we’re in an age where the entire back catalogue of the NES could fit on a memory stick, suddenly it’s a bad thing that we have to swap a disc around to carry on the gaming experience.  The reasons are sound, and the concerns for the 360 are valid. But why does it then become such a big issue? An IGN review for Mass Effect 2 warned that players “shouldn’t get comfortable” because of the fact the game came on two different discs. The internet was in some kind of uproar over the fact that L.A. Noire came on not two, but THREE discs. And again, we come back to Battlefield 3 having two discs.

How many discs in Elder Scrolls VII?!

The thing that bugs me most is that there are games still coming out that come on multiple discs. Star Ocean: The Last Hope was released on three discs. Final Fantasy XIII also had three. Hell, even Dead Space 2 couldn’t resist stretching itself across two DVDs. Did anyone so much as raise an eyebrow? Nope. Granted, two of those examples are JRPGs, which often come along on multiple discs, but Dead Space 2 is a big name action game from EA. Why did no one throw out a news story to warn people that they might have to move from their seat at some point in the game?  The reason why there are multiple discs is obvious. Graphics are constantly improving, and with great graphics comes great storage requirements. And, I agree, this does mean that the 360 suffers in comparison to the PC (which can be upgraded to suit storage needs), or the PS3 and its 50GB Blu-Ray. But would you really prefer worse graphics just so you could have the luxury of not having to change discs? No, of course not.

And it’s not like Microsoft aren’t aware that it’s an issue. The last title update included a patch that allowed the console to read DVDs with a higher storage capacity (how this works, I’m not sure), which could go some way to helping remove the need to split the game up. And after six years of gracing our shelves, the 360 is looking likely to be replaced by a newer, better console at some point in the future.  But until this amazing revolution comes, I guess we’ll all just have to accept that some games are just too big to be contained on one measly little DVD. Or, perhaps, we should all just convert to the PS3 and laugh at all those fools having to swap their discs midway through a game.

Last five articles by Ric



  1. Rook says:

    I recently bought RAGE and was surprised when I opened the box to see the game on three discs, although disc 3 is only needed for multiplayer stuff. Then there’s the fourth disc I got when I bought the Collectors Edition in GAME which had interviews etc.

    Microsoft may like having the multiple discs option as a way to combat game size but they need to figure somethng out for their next console as games are always getting bigger and better. Disc swapping may not be as big a deal today as it was years ago as the gameplay from one disc will last seveal gaming sessions but surely multiple discs should be a thing of the past; one of those things we look back on of how gaming and technology have developed.

  2. Stu Stu says:

    This is just a sign of the times and it part of the tech advancements vs aging hardware. Any gamer long in the tooth will remember the good old days. Catridges aside, in the beginning there were tapes – insert and load. Then, god forbid, you had to turn the tape over! So hardware evolved and along came the five and a quarter inch floppy disk. No-one would ever fill one of those! Oh wait, look…multiple disks. Hardware once more answered the challenge, “we’ll provide you 1.44mb of space on a smaller disk!”, that also didn’t last long before Windows 3.1 was out on 7 diskettes (12 if you had the 720k versions) and games also spread themselves out over multiples.

    Finally the CD game along, 700MB, quite the upgrade from 1.44mb and once more it was announced that games would never fill the entire thing. Oh hello mandatory mid-late 90′s FMV sections…whoops, multiple CD’s again. DVD took up the mantle, and now Bluray. It’s a cycle, it’ll happen again. Whether it be HDD swapping out based on an entirely digital download market in a few years remains to be seen, but I’d be very surprised if DVD was the standard drive in the next console generation unless its being used as a way to encourage purely digital downloads with no disk needed at all (and I suspect that is where Microsoft in particular is heading, especially with the Xbox Marketplace/Zune investments and their recent announcement on an OnLive type rival).

    Considering Final Fantasy XIII filled 40GB of the Bluray on PS3 with HD cutscenes, it won’t be long (especially with next gen full 1080p graphics rather than the 720p we are currently given in a lot of games on consoles) before Bluray games cover multiple disks. This issue isn’t one that ever gets fixed, it just gets temporarily stalled when a new storage enhancement arrives.

    Good article, will be interesting to see how each console producer deals with next-gen games storage.

  3. Mikey says:

    I don’t think it’s an issue at all. Of course, I grew up playing JRPGs that generally came on multiple discs, but no wanting to change is just lazy. Getting up will probaby burn you 3 calories you didn’t need anyway.

    Aside from that, I always had a thing where I felt the more discs it had, then more game I’m getting.

    Now, the REAL questions is would you rather have multiple discs or lengthy manual installs due to the slow read speed of the Bluray drive?

  4. Edward Edward says:

    Good article, Ric!
    I agree when you say it’s not really an issue at all, and it’s just another contentious issue bought up by fanboys in their imaginary dick wiggling competitions.
    I remember when those same Sony fanboys would claim the PS1 had better games because they came on multiple discs, and now they’re waving the single disc with the same fake superiority.

    But yeah, back on track, I liked :D

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