On PS3 and Blu-Ray

My good friend Ozymandias has been going off lately about the decision to put a Blu-Ray drive in the PlayStation3. Aside from the fact that he works for Microsoft, I really don’t see how he could argue that the Blu-Ray drive is not exactly the right move for games on PS3, when it comes to capacity. Here are two reasons why.
The Historical Perspective

At the beginning of the lifecycle of PS2, most games shipped on CD-ROM. These discs fit up to about 700MB of data. At the current stage of PS2, there are a few games that have shipped on DVD-9 discs. These dual-layer DVDs can hold up to 8.5GB, but one can assume that they are holding at least 4.7GB of data (the size of a single-layer DVD), or the publisher would have chosen to ship them on DVD-5.
So across the lifespan of PS2 so far, games have spanned a range of nearly 700MB to just over 4.7GB, or somewhere around a 7x size increase.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the *average* game lands around 2GB right now. This would seem to indicate that conservatively we’d want to use a media format for PS3 with a maximum capacity of at least 7 x 2GB, or 14GB. That won’t fit on a dual layer DVD. The only logical choices are HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. A single layer Blu-Ray disc is 25GB. Seems like this a good choice from a historical standpoint.
The Content Perspective

Let’s keep running with our 2GB average game size. Relatively little of that data is game code; most of it is vertex data, texture data, audio, and video.
The number of vertices that Xbox360 and PS3 can crunch compared to the previous generation is at least 4x. 4 x 2GB is 8GB, Which would put us at a DVD-9 size if all the data were vertices. (Of course, it isn’t.)
The texture resolutions have increased closer to 16x, which would push us to 32GB if all that data was texture. Yikes!
Audio on PS2 was mostly stereo, two channels. PS3 is 5.1. That’s a 3x size increase without even considering fidelity.
Default video format has moved from 480i, or roughly 640×480 at 30 frames per second (9.2 million pixels per second), to 720p. 720p is 1280×720 at 60 frames per second (55.3 million pixels per second). That’s about a 6x size increase. 6 x 2GB would again push us over the DVD-9 size.
And remember we’re just doing back-of-the-napkin calculations here of an average 2GB game. We have 4x, 16x, 3x, 6x multiplied by 2GB. Perhaps an average game could squeeze onto a DVD-9. But the fact that this is an average means that many games are much larger. How can they possibly fit onto the Xbox360’s DVD-9 long-term?
Plus ideally, shouldn’t game developers feel they have enough room on disc that it doesn’t constrain them? We want them to create amazing experiences, not mediocre ones. Why wouldn’t you go with a larger capacity format than DVD-9?
The Other Sides of the Coin: Throughput and Market Demand

Admittedly, Blu-Ray looks dicey from several non-capacity angles. Blu-Ray movies require a 1.5x Blu-Ray drive, or 54Mbits/second. Sony announced that PS3 uses a 2x BD drive, which is 72Mbits/second or 9MB/second. The Xbox360 uses a 12x DVD, which should give it about 16MB/second. That is significantly faster for games and will result in shorter load times. And that 12x DVD drive should be a whole lot cheaper. (Note that the PS3 drive will do 8x DVD, and even that is faster than 2x BD.)
Of course the big play from Sony is that Blu-Ray will not only be popular for games, it will also be popular for movies. One of the reasons the PS2 initially sold so well in Japan is that it was very inexpensive for a DVD player. But unfortunately we’re just a bit early on Blu-Ray awareness at this point for something similar to likely happen with PS3.
According to Wikipedia, DVD players launched in Japan in 1996. They came to the US in 1997, and by the spring of 1999, DVD players had reached down to the $300 price point. PS2 launched in the US in 2000.
Contrasting that with Blu-Ray, BD players launched in Japan in 2003. They really didn’t hit the US significantly until this year, 2006. BD players currently are around $1000 in the US. And the PS3 is launching this year, 2006. From one perspective PS3 is launching just one year earlier than the time from DVD launch to PS2 launch in Japan. But Blu-Ray drives and discs have been very sparse so marketplace awareness is slight – it is more accurate to compare against the BD launches of 2006, which would make Blu-Ray for PS3 significantly earlier in the marketplace than was DVD for PS2.
The result is that the Blu-Ray drives for PS3 are expensive, and the demand for Blu-Ray movies in the marketplace has not flowered open yet. PS3 could stoke that fire, but it doesn’t seem likely that Blu-Ray will significantly drive sales of the PS3 beyond a small hardcore market, in the short term.

It seems the decision to include Blu-Ray on PS3 must have been a difficult one. Long term it seems like a smart move, at least from the perspective of capacity. But short term that decision has definitely had some striking ramifications for PS3.
It’s an interesting play, and not one that can be quickly categorized as the “right” or “wrong” thing. ๐Ÿ™‚
Now don’t get me started about the idea of shipping an HD-DVD drive for Xbox360!






13 responses to “On PS3 and Blu-Ray”

  1. johnwbyrd Avatar

    You should stick this on Bosslevel — a sane argument for why the file system must reasonably get bigger on next-gen.

  2. David Tractenberg Avatar

    It seemsa great argument for a larger capacity drive. however hasn’t there always been a trend to make games for the Lowest common console? Xbox games were made with poor textures so they could be placed on both Xbox and PS2. You and I talked a lot about the importance of launching in multiple skus to make any money. So aren’t the majority just going to make games that fit on an Xbox 360 anyway making the Blu-Ray player a useless accesory? I know there will be a few AAA titles that user it, but I wonder about the masses…..

  3. Booneabal Avatar

    I remember when pcs had 64k of memory and we all said. WHAT THE HECK AM I GONNA DO THAT WILL FILL 64k!?!?!
    Same for the never-ending 20 meg harddrive…..
    No-one who has perspective seriously believes that it was the right thing to do to start the Next Generation with storage technology that is over 10 years old.
    The emergence of procedural texturing will reduce the pain a bit but the Xbox will look pretty poor in 5 years time.
    Microsoft clearly plans to release another console however…

  4. chris1515 Avatar

    Sorry for my poor english, it’s a foreign language for me.
    You don’t comment the problem of “streaming data”. I know that it is crucial for sandbox game. I read the opinon of Saint Row developper and they are not very happy with the DVD format.
    They speak of the problem last year:
    They continue this year:
    The streaming flow capacity of the 2x BD drive seems slower than 12 x DVD of the 360. But I think that the 360 DVD use CAV and the speed is not linear on all the surface of the disc. The speed is slower in the center of the disc. If the disc is full, the data would not load at the same speed across the disc. And the core pack of the 360 has no HDD. The developper must do their streaming with the core pack in mind.
    The two PS3 packs can use the HDD for caching data, it is the first advantage of PS3. Secondly, I don’t know if the 2x BD can use CLV or CAV but with greater capacity you can store more data on the edge of the disc for CAV mode. I know that CLV gives linear spped at all the surface of the disc but seek time is higher than CAV. Maybe in conjuction with the HDD for caching data, the 2xBD can be used in CLV mode.
    The other problem is the seek time. On consoles, I know that the developer use the data redudancy for reduce seek time . The capacity of the BR give more space for the redundancy of the data.

  5. Major Healey Avatar
    Major Healey

    I have heard the Sony mandated that all games MUST be on BD no matter what the size. I do not see the wisdom in that other than Sony gets a cut of all BD sold. Wouldn’t it be more effective to allow games that don’t require the space to be on DVD-5 or DVD-9 to speed up load times and cut down on disc costs? I’m just glad the PS3 doesn’t come with a Sony battery! (the fireworks might be pretty, though)

  6. Numero Uno Avatar
    Numero Uno

    Thanks for posting information but when it all comes down to all this technical BS means nothing to consumers. The thing thats going to sell the PS3 over the 360 are the following FREE ONLINE service thats of quality, Better Graphics, and Better Online Service. If none of thats true then the PS3 will fail without a price drop.

  7. Dummy Avatar

    Xbox (1) aleady had 5.1 sound and I fail to see what FPS has to do with the storage capacity.

  8. 1031982 Avatar

    Ok, I am going to keep this simple, COMPRESSION. The hardware put into these systems will allow extremely quick de-compression, and would allow the same an insane amount of information to be stored on a DVD disk. Seems to be completely ignored here, so I ask where is the logic behind the Blu-Ray drive when compression is added, most new games out now take up less then half the DVD-9 space?

  9. hasanahmad Avatar

    It is interesting to see your thinking concerning blu-ray being more beneficial to gameplay. It should be noted that in terms of load times, even though the reading times of the Xbox 360 fluctuates depending on the data, it is overall in a consistent state.
    In a Blu-ray disc, the game will either have no advantage other than more content, and more content means higher development costs. A general 360 and PS3 game on a dvd sized disc which is considered to be a blockbuster would cost anywhere between 15 million to 30 million to develop and that comes from the cost of content, man hours and other assetts in the game itself. If you look at it in a 3rd persons perspective the dvd is a more viable option as it is cheaper, number 1, and secondly it can transfer compressed textures to be decompressed after transfer whereas if you use the Blu-ray disc and say we dont even need to compress data there is so much space, the transfer will be a pain the ass. Overall its faster to transfer a compressed data to be decompressed by the system compared to tranferring a semi compressed or uncompressed data to be used by the system. Its simple. DVD and Blu-ray both optical media are the bottle neck. where in the System we have a tranfer bandwidth going over 10 Gb/s, in DVDs and Blu-ray, that is not even 10 Mb/s in most cases.
    Another thing is that if you are into the Square Enix thinking of more CG than gameplay then sure, Bluray is the way to go but if you are are looking at an industry which is struggling to bring down development costs and resulting in making cutscenes not made of CG but off ingame assets to reduce costs, DVD is a viable alternative to Bluray in terms of games. Blu-ray may be great for Movies and Video content like CG but in the videogaming industry, CG is being frowned upon more and more especially after the Sony debacle of showing CG at E3 2005 and then getting thier ass handed to them at E3 2006 for not matching that CG content. Sure it looks pretty, but Splinter Cell was prettier than Halo, but Halo sold more because of how it played and not because whats in it. In the end Bluray does not one up DVD and DVD does not on up Bluray in terms of gameplay.

  10. Trimbo Avatar

    Default video format has moved from 480i, or roughly 640×480 at 30 frames per second (9.2 million pixels per second), to 720p. 720p is 1280×720 at 60 frames per second (55.3 million pixels per second). That’s about a 6x size increase. 6 x 2GB would again push us over the DVD-9 size.
    In the pre-rendered world, I think most 720p video sources are actually going to be at 24fps or 30fps. At least if Blu-Ray is going to be anything like DVD, where the player itself does the 3:2 pulldown on 24-fps signals when viewing on a 60i display. I think the only material that’s actually filmed at 60fps non-interlaced is IMAX/Showscan/etc..
    For pre-rendered game cinematics, I would probably not render at 60fps. It wouldn’t be worth the added rendering time and disk (HDD)/disc (DVD/BDD) space. I’d render at 30fps, or, even better, 24fps for more of a film look and to save 20% on rendering time over 30fps.
    Given those stats, I’d guess the amount of pixels being pushed for pre-rendered cinematics is more like 2.5x. Of course, advances in compression technology hopefully will help in this department. Aren’t the DeCSS crowd able to recompress DVD-quality video onto a single CD-R by using some of these spiffy MPEG-4 codecs that are out there?

  11. aiken Avatar

    Definitely an interesting article, and the logic behind it makes a lot of sense — at least as an explanation of Sony’s rationale.
    However, I take issue with both of the main points: that we should expect this generation’s game size to increase sevenfold because the previous generation’s did, and that there’s a linear relationship between the number of vertexes, amount of video, etc, and game size.
    The first point clearly can’t be a rule because, if it were true, in just seven more generations of consoles, games would be 4 million petabytes. I’m pretty sure that information theory and physics can show that that’s not physically possible (there can’t be more bits in the game than there are electrons in the machine, I’d speculate). So somewhere, that relationship isn’t going to hold.
    On a more practical note, there’s are fallacies in the second assumption (that more vertexes and video mean more storage space). The easiest one is the improving art of compression, as Trimbo notes.
    However, my guess is that procedural content generation is the key to MS’s decision not to include a HD optical media in the 360. If cut scenes can be procedurally genreated, how much storage does that save? And how about vertexes, textures, etc — people are working hard on procedural approaches to all of those.
    It may very well be that xbox 360 games get smaller as time goes on, not bigger. Or, at least, that the portion of the DVD needed for static content shrinks.

  12. HunterXI Avatar

    True, in some aspects, but I think that your logic is a bit specious.
    The largest chunk of data in map files for most games are textures and sound clips (and cinematics, when present). Geometry tends to make up a small portion of map data. I recall once, back when I modded Halo, extracting the geometry from a multiplayer map. Halo’s multiplayer maps are all around 80MB (when decompressed). When I extracted the geometry, it was about 8MB in size โ€“ 1/10 of the map data. Furthermore, with things like Procedural Generation, that could be reduced significantly. Now take Oblivion. Most Oblivion profiles probably have somewhere in the vicinity of 100,000 trees, and yet Oblivion has not a single tree model. Not one. That’s Speed Tree at work. Less than a Megabyte of code is responsible for what would otherwise be hundreds or thousands of Megabytes of model data. Oblivion doesn’t use Procedural Generation for anything else, but it can easily be extended to graphics, as seen in the work of .theprodukkt. Their tech demoes, which are all 64KB, claim to exhibit “30,000x Compression” (comparing the initial data passed through their engine to the final file). Or what about kkrieger, the fully-fledged 96KB FPS? And audio/video? When it comes to audio, we’re already fine. First generation Xbox games predominantly used Xbox PCM Audio, a take on Wav Audio with PCM compression. Wav Audio generates audio files that can be as much as 30x larger than mp3-esque counterpart files. So, shortly thereafter, people began using the OGG/Vorbis format (an OSS alternative to mp3). Problem solved โ€” you could now fit 8000+ hours of high-quality audio on a DVD-9. Video? Same story. Older formats like Bink Video provided cinematics whose filesizes compare to similar-length High Definition videos on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
    Compression does marvels, and will continue to do so. Never will I forget the first time I saw a 10+ GB file GZipped thrice into a 20KB file. You could argue that without compression, we’d need BR/HD-DVD-length discs for current-generation games. When it comes to games, BR/HD-DVD simply aren’t needed.
    However, there is no doubting that a BD-movie player is a fun bonus. That said, however, I don’t feel like it’s nice to force people into buying it. The whole argument that the PS3 is cheap because it’s a game console in addition to a cheap Blu-Ray player is (forgive me) bullshit. Statistics have shown that, among Xbox 360 owners, for example, only a small portion of its owners actually have an HDTY (about 10-15%), and therefore, any real use for Blu-Ray or HD-DVD. The PS3 caters to the same audience as the Xbox 360, so we can assume that, for the time being, those statistics will remain similar. That would mean that Sony is forcing the large majority of its customers to buy something they have no use for.
    Well, that’s my take on how Ozymandias could argue that a Blu-Ray drive is not exactly the right move for gamers on PS3.

  13. markdeloura Avatar

    Thanks to all of you who posted such well thought out comments on this. I really enjoy reading what everyone thinks, whether I agree with it or not! The fact that you took the time to reply is something I really appreciate.
    In my original post I skipped some areas deliberately because I thought they were minor points, while others you’ve brought up are strong points that perhaps I just didn’t get into. Having seen so many games in my 10 combined years at Nintendo and Sony, I still feel strongly that the BD is the right answer for the PS3 – from the perspective of storage. But there are a number of other angles on the decision, and that’s what makes it so controversial. I look forward to seeing the marketplace’s ultimate decision on this issue! ๐Ÿ™‚