The gaming experience has changed dramatically over the decades, from the retro arcade experience of the 1970s and 1980s to the PC and the home gaming console in the 1990s. The evolution of gaming has continued to improve in quality, creating an increasingly real-seeming experience.

Today, enthusiasts can immerse themselves in epic gaming worlds, download games off the Internet and even play massive multi-player games online with participants from all over the world. This is made possible by progress in the technology space, as processors and graphics cards have evolved to provide ever more power.

However, as graphics and sound gain in quality, file sizes have increased exponentially, making the hard drive of a PC or gaming console one of the most important tools in any gamer’s arsenal.

South African gaming industry expert Geoff Burrows, known in the gaming world as GeometriX, spoke to WD and took us back through the evolution of gaming, the importance of hard drives, and how gamers can easily upgrade their storage capacity to accommodate more games than ever before.

WD: Can you give us a brief rundown of gaming over the last 10 or 20 years?
GB: Twenty years ago we saw the emergence of the PlayStation 1. Games were played in low resolution on chunky Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) screens and televisions. Even PCs, which offered better graphics and hardware options, were still quite low on resolution. In addition, 3D technology was just beginning to enter mainstream across gaming technologies. Over the years we saw a number of significant leaps forward in gaming technology, particularly in the gaming console space. The PlayStation delivered several more generations, the PS2 and PS3, and Microsoft entered the market with the Xbox.

WD: What would you say are some of the major technology advancements in the gaming industry?
GB: The advancement of internal hardware that improves processing power is definitely one of the major contributors to gaming. In addition, Blu-ray was a significant enhancement to console gaming as it aided in bringing high-resolution textures to a large market. The rise of broadband Internet has also hugely affected gaming, both console and PC, in terms of playing online and buying games online. This also caused a huge surge in online gaming piracy, and the gaming industry reacted to this by implementing strict Digital Rights Management (DRM). The industry has changed hugely over the past decade or so.

WD: So what is the gaming landscape like today?
GB: The gap between PC and console gaming is far narrower than it used to be in terms of graphics, performance and availability of games. If a user is looking for a quick, easy gaming solution, the console market is generally a lower barrier to entry. Gaming PCs on the other hand are more expensive, but are also more versatile, and offer a fully customizable experience. While processing power and visual capability of console versus PC are on par with each other, consoles also date faster as these components cannot be upgraded.

WD: What role does the hard drive play?
GB: Generally speaking, games are taking up increasing amounts of hard drive storage. Games installed off a Blu-ray disk may take up as much as 50Gb, and after adding downloadable content and updates over the years, this can increase to 70Gb to 80Gb. As the majority of games need to install at least a portion of the disc for performance reasons, the hard drive is a very important component, affecting the number of games users can store and play at any given time.

WD: What is driving this increasing file size?
GB: This mostly comes down to the resolution and fidelity of the artwork assets of the game. In today’s games we have textures and images wrapped around 3D objects, and the higher the resolution of this, the more realistic it is, and also the greater the size of the file. HD audio and multi-track surround sound within games also requires more storage space.

WD: Digital distribution becoming more common, why is this so?
GB: Quite simply, this is as a result of increased broadband availability. Digital distribution is very convenient, as gamers do not have to wait for games to be delivered. In addition, many games need the Internet for updates, online gaming and so on. There are also purely online games like World of Warcraft, which are becoming increasingly popular in the South African market. In the past, consoles were not powerful enough to render these worlds, which typically have hundreds of players around the globe, however this is changing. These games are huge, with sprawling worlds that need frequent updates as new content is added, so hard drive space is becoming increasingly important in gaming consoles.

WD: How much capacity does one typically get with a gaming console?
GB: The PS4 and the Xbox One both have a 500Gb hard drive.

WD: Typically, why and how would a console gamer run out of hard disk space?
GB: A 500GB hard drive can store 10-20 games. If you want to add more games, you will either need to upgrade the hard drive, or remove existing content. This is becoming more of an issue as games get bigger. If a gamer plays many games at a time, or has bought numerous online games and does not want to lose the ‘investment’ of downloading them, a hard drive upgrade is essential.

WD: How do you overcome this challenge?
GB: This depends on the console. If you are using a PS3 or PS4, the internal hard drive is easy to swop out, and detailed instructions are available online. PlayStation consoles use 2.5-inch drives, so the WD Black drive is the ideal upgrade, offering maximum performance and up to 2TB of compatible storage. An Xbox One is more difficult to upgrade internally, however this issue is easily solved as it supports the use of an external USB 3.0 hard drive to expand capacity, again up to 2TB. An external hard drive can also be added to PlayStation devices, however this can only be used for media streaming and storage of music, movies and other media files.

WD: What features of an external hard drive would make it good for gaming?
GB: The drive must be USB 3.0, as the game will constantly pull data, and a slower drive will increase loading time and affect game performance. Capacity is also important, as consoles will only support a maximum of 2TB. The WD My Passport Ultra drives are ideal, offering capacity of up to 2Tb with USB 3.0. They are also portable and durable with an aluminium casing, perfect for users who take their consoles to their friends for group gaming.

WD: Is upgrading a console’s hard drive easier than users might imagine?
GB: It’s not difficult. There are step-by-step guides online for PlayStation devices, and for the Xbox One, all you have to do is plug in a USB drive.