On Consoles and Patching: A PS4 Survey
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
With Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 in the news this week for receiving a day-one patch in excess of the game's base-install size, thought I'd share some of the work I've been conducting across this year, involving patch activity for PS4 games. The topic of patches in gaming, as a tension between necessity and opportunity, has already been covered by Keith Burgun in his great, recent Gamasutra piece. So instead I present here a sample of my ongoing attempt to map the patching situation on the PS4, from the standpoint of the end user.
Documentation on console patching seems to be generally lacking, despite the fractious nature of the topic. And so, the majority of the information I've captured comes from my own library of PS4 games, which currently clocks in at around 140 titles. Most of this data has been gathered 'in situ', that is, recorded it directly based on activity monitored during console usage (Hey, I didn't choose the thug life, etc.)
Supplementary input was taken from news on gaming outlets as well as patch notes on developer sites, but even first-party sources are rarely exhaustive in reporting, especially as patching to these kinds of volumes is new territory for game consoles. For some 96 of the titles in my collection, the current patch frequency per title breaks down as follows:
Those five titles with 10+ patches are Destiny, DriveClub, Trials: Fusion, Zen Pinball 2 and Sound Shapes. DriveClub leads the pack, with 22 patches. Day one patches are extremely common, although, as remarked by a console production lead I recently spoke to, console games still have a much lengthier lead time between completion and release than people generally perceive.
Things become more complex when you try to reconcile patch size with impact on HDD storage, i.e. the resultant 'size on disc', which is a complementary issue surrounding console patching given the out-of-the-box limitations of disc-space provision on console. Sometimes, HDD occupation is barely increased at all; at other times, it can increase linearly in relation to the patch itself.
Take Batman: Arkham Knight, for example. While the eight patches released since the game's launch have totalled just over 25GB, the size of the game-on-disc has increased just over 6GB. The most recent slew of patches have barely impacted the game's HDD occupation at all:
There's obviously lots more information to dig into, but I'll stop here for now. I'll be continuing this data collection across the remainder of the year, while also considering turning it into a report for my work; when that happens, I'll write-up a more detailed sample of what's available.