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Why didn't the sixth gen consoles use DVD-RAM discs for games?

If the games for the GameCube, PS2, and Xbox came on a DVD-RAM disc, instead of DVD-ROM, you could've saved game data directly to the game disk (like with a cartridge) instead of bothering with memory cards, or a hard drive, in the case of the Xbox. Mini DVD-RAM discs actually existed, too, so the GameCube wouldn't have even needed to change to using a full-sized disc.

 

I can see the appeal of the Xbox's hard drive, as 8GB was a lot of space in 2001, but even the Xbox did have a memory card to allow for moving around files, as Microsoft recognized that only having a fixed hard drive would be too limiting.

 

Another potential benefit would've been that developers could've pushed game updates online and written them to the disc itself.

 

Does anyone know why none of these consoles took this route?

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Optical media is dying if not dead. There is no reason to put extra effort into it. Its really that simple.

5800x/3090

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1 minute ago, rickeo said:

Optical media is dying if not dead. There is no reason to put extra effort into it. Its really that simple.

It wasn't dead in 2001...

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3 minutes ago, YoungBlade said:

It wasn't dead in 2001...

Ok so "6th gen" is those old consoles? The last console I owned was a PS2 so I don't keep current on generation nomenclature. 

 

Either way, here are the disadvantages from the wiki page. Sounds like a classic case of cost.

 

Disadvantages

  • High-speed media unavailability: Only 3x and 5x discs were readily available, with 12x RAM2 discs being among the rarest of optical media and never sold outside Japan.
  • Higher media cost.[21]
  • Less compatibility than DVD+RW and DVD-RW[22] on most DVD devices, despite predating both formats (as noted above).
  • If random writes are performed with a constant linear velocity (CLV), which may be the only available speed mode on specific drives and/or media, the speed of the rotary engine needs to be re-adjusted each time the pickup system jumps to another position on the disc, significantly impeding transfer speeds.[23]

5800x/3090

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Drives with writing capabilities are also more expensive because they need two lasers. So both media and the drives in the consoles would be more expensive. This second part is likely the reason.

 

Linus

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Pre-recorded CD/DVD-ROM discs can be quickly and cheaply mass produced. The discs are stamped from a masterdisc, the data isn't burnt on to individual discs by laser. 

If the discs were DVD-RAM and were individually written to it would be more costly to produce and they probably wouldn't be able to keep up with the millions of game discs they produced.

 

This is a video for PS1 CD-ROM discs but it's the same for later consoles and basically any mass produced pre-recorded media.

 

3 hours ago, YoungBlade said:

Another potential benefit would've been that developers could've pushed game updates online and written them to the disc itself.

Back in the era of PS2/Xbox a lot of people were still on dial up internet or didn't have internet at all. If they did have broadband internet it would probably be 256kbps. I still only had access to dial up internet when the PS4 was released, but I am in Australia and our internet has always sucked. My lack of reliable and fast internet is exactly why the PS2, which didn't require an internet connection, was the last console I bought.

 

Back in those days you bought a complete game and didn't need to download updates to fix the bugs. It was better that way. You never got home from school turned the console on to play your favourite game then had to wait hours for it to download an update before you could play. I wouldn't really see downloading updates and writing to a rewritable disc as a benefit.

 

Wouldn't you also need to rewrite the entire drive if you were updating a game on a DVD-RAM disc? I don't think updating a bunch of individual game files would be possible. You'd need internal storage to store the game and the downloaded update files to then write it to the disc, which along with the more expensive DVD writer drive (they weren't cheap in the early 2000s) would also mean more expensive consoles.

 

Tldr: it would have made the consoles and the discs more expensive for what would have been in my opinion a significantly worse experience at the time.

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13 hours ago, Spotty said:

Wouldn't you also need to rewrite the entire drive if you were updating a game on a DVD-RAM disc? I don't think updating a bunch of individual game files would be possible.

 

I think you're mixing up DVD-RAM and DVD-RW, which are two totally different technologies. Which is fair, because DVD-RW was ubiquitous while DVD-RAM was insanely niche.

 

DVD-RAM is more like a hard drive than it is like traditional optical media. It uses a file system and individual files can be modified, and it can even get fragmented by having a file be written in multiple areas. So updating the data on the disc would be functionally no different from updating games stored on drives today, except that the data would be on the game disc itself.

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16 hours ago, rickeo said:

Sounds like a classic case of cost.

 

14 hours ago, LinusTech said:

Drives with writing capabilities are also more expensive because they need two lasers. So both media and the drives in the consoles would be more expensive. This second part is likely the reason.

 

Linus

Yeah, that sounds very likely. I know part of the reason Sony used optical media for the original PlayStation was that it was way cheaper than cartridges, which gave them better margins on games compared to Nintendo, so using more expensive media would've undermined that effort.

 

Although I wonder, in an alternate universe where the Apple Bandai Pippin wasn't a complete failure, if Apple would've been willing to spare no expense with the Pippin 2, and use DVD-RAM technology to provide a superior end-user experience vs the competition...

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15 hours ago, YoungBlade said:

I think you're mixing up DVD-RAM and DVD-RW, which are two totally different technologies. Which is fair, because DVD-RW was ubiquitous while DVD-RAM was insanely niche.

 

DVD-RAM is more like a hard drive than it is like traditional optical media. It uses a file system and individual files can be modified, and it can even get fragmented by having a file be written in multiple areas. So updating the data on the disc would be functionally no different from updating games stored on drives today, except that the data would be on the game disc itself.

Ah, yeah you're right I was thinking of DVD-RW. I didn't know that was possible with DVD-RAM.

Having the files fragmented across a CD/DVD could potentially still pose problems for games though if it needs to seek to find things like textures for that level that have been moved to a different section of the disc in the update. I wonder if the extra seek time would cause problems like longer loading times, texture pop ins, stutters, etc. Not a problem if you're installing the game from the disc to an internal drive but it may cause problems when playing directly off the disc, depending how fragmented the data is and how much it has to seek.

 

You can't stamp DVD-RAM discs though, or any rewrittable media AFAIK, so producing pre-recorded DVD-RAM discs at a mass scale cheaply wouldn't really be feasible. According to wikipedia over 1.5 billion PS2 game copies were sold.

 

Also something worth considering; did developers of that era want to continue supporting games through updates? For console game developers back then once the game was published that was the end of the development cycle and they moved on to other projects. Support for games after release is ubiquitous and expected these days but back then it wasn't.

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12 hours ago, Spotty said:

Also something worth considering; did developers of that era want to continue supporting games through updates? For console game developers back then once the game was published that was the end of the development cycle and they moved on to other projects. Support for games after release is ubiquitous and expected these days but back then it wasn't.

In some cases, yes actually. At least in consoles that had online connectivity. First thing that comes to mind is some Dreamcast games that would have downloadable menu themes, character costumes, or other game tweaks. For Sonic Adventure 2, they were even planning on having revamped levels with different object placement that could be downloaded down the line. Unfortunately, due to SEGA pulling the plug on the Dreamcast not too long after SA2 was released, that plan was never fully completed to my knowledge.

 

In summary, it wasn't an overly common thing, but for consoles that had online capabilities, developers did actually start experimenting with update-esque game additions and downloadable content back in the 6th generation of consoles. But it didn't really take off the way it is today until the next generation when the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii rolled around.

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