Microsoft has faced something of a disadvantage when it comes to the storage capacity of its chosen disc medium for the Xbox 360. Dual-layered DVDs top out at 7.95 GB of space which once upon a time was more than enough for anyone, but times are changing and those DVDs look a little paltry next to Sony's Blu-ray format in use with the PlayStation 3. While Microsoft can't match the 25 GB capacity of a single-layer Blu-ray disc with existing Xbox 360 hardware, it can give its DVDs a little boost. As it turns out, existing Xbox 360 games are limited to occupying only 6.8 GB of each 7.95 GB DVD. That last bit of restricted space is home to video codecs and anti-piracy material. In an appreciated effort to wring every last bit of capability out of the DVD format, Microsoft is about to lift that restriction and allow developers more access to each disc. Eurogamer has the report.
The maximum space allocated to game data on the current disc format is just 6.8GB out of a maximum of 7.95GB on a standard dual layer DVD, with over 1GB dedicated to a DVD-Video partition that also contained anti-piracy security sectors. Astonishingly, this meant that the last generation PlayStation 2 had a higher level of raw storage available to games developers than the newer Xbox 360. It seems that this video partition has either been drastically reduced or omitted completely in the new format Microsoft is looking to roll-out.
Beta testers of the new dashboard get a free copy of Halo: Reach once they are accepted into the new preview programme. We can assume that this isn't just a generous gift on Microsoft's part - more likely it is a disc pressed using the new format, and Microsoft is looking for data on performance on as many different systems as it can. There is no one standard Xbox 360 DVD drive: the platform holder has used drives from Samsung, Hitachi, Benq and Liteon across the console's five year history.
Halo: Reach occupied 6.6GB of space on the old format disc. Either padding or additional content will have been added to this new edition, or it may well simply be the case that the data is allocated into certain physical areas of the disc the video partition would have previously occupied.
Microsoft needs to do whatever it can to keep its console feeling advanced as time goes by. All three of the big producers do, really, but it's even more important for Microsoft. More storage capacity (even just an extra 1 GB) leads to more advanced games and more interesting products. Everybody wins in the end. The last thing that the company needs is for its flagship gaming product to start to look tired and worn out before it's time. Just ask Nintendo how bright its Wii future is looking these days compared to several years ago, for instance. If you'd like to join the dashboard beta and score that free technologically interesting Halo: Reach, then just do what Major Nelson tells you to do and sign up via Microsoft Connect.