Why do computer games require installation while console and handheld games typically did not until the 8th generation didn’t?



Been wondering about this for years.

In: Technology

Answer: Reading from a hard disk is quicker. Consoles typically were supposed to “ready to go” and require few to no upgrades, like a hard drive, which made it easier to market to technologically inept consumers. Computers were made to be modular, so it makes sense for games to be installed on hard drives for efficiency. As the internet and social media have made it “cool” to be more technologically knowledgeable, consoles have been able to adapt modular hard drives, which allow for more efficiencies.

Those game cartridges were essentially portable disk drives, with the game already pre-installed on it. Unfortunately, it did have space limitations which could be an issue at time.

PC games had no reason to do this once hard drives became mainstream. Installing to the hard drive allowed for much larger, more elaborate games than were possibly on console.

But earlier PC programs actually DID work this way. Programs(including games) were on a cassette tape and loaded each time you played them and later games were played directly off of a floppy disk with no installation involved because there weren’t hard drive to install them to. Hard drives changed everything.

Console games eventually did the same thing, but it just took longer.

They all need installation, what changes is how it is made. For example, you had to “install” in a snes before you start it. It was fiscally made, then the computer of the snes starts reading the instructions of the game.. When you put a DVD of Playstation, you also are installing it in its DVD driver, which then the play station would read to. Game boy, same thing..

These days you may get it all through internet and install the games on your hard drive, since it can be downloaded fast (which couldn’t be done before easily) and you have enough space on it, and it can be written fast…

Essentially, it’s all the same. what changes is that today it is real fast and the computer does the carts switching.

It’s always been a matter of speed and pricing. Early disc drives were slow and real time games need a bunch of data fast. So as soon as hard drives were a thing it made sense to install games to them so that games could load faster and do things like stream data in mid gameplay. Consoles lagged behind as they always do because they had to much cheaper than a full blown computer. Consoles were still able to rely on disc drives for awhile as the read speeds had become faster somewhat or consoles like the n64 used cartridges which while expensive where much faster than discs. Hard drives were always the better option but still too expensive for consoles so they just kept increasing disc drive speeds.

The 360 / ps3 generation finally saw hard drives hit consoles but the sizes were too small to make installs mandatory. Some games forced it on the ps4 (the blu ray drive was slow) but none did on the 360. They hit a wall with the 8th generation though because games started requiring absolutely massive amounts of data on the fly and the disc drives speeds couldn’t really keep up. Installing to the hard drive became necessary to ensure games ran properly plus hard drives had finally become cheap enough to include in consoles at a reasonable price.