Microsoft has announced that the storage of the new consoles is expandable. The officially licensed Storage Expansion Card for the Xbox Series X and Series S costs $219.99, according to a product listing at Best Buy. Microsoft has justified this pricepoint by saying that it needed to be this high for the super special PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD that’s actually inside. Calling this a $220 memory card isn’t that big of a stretch. The design itself is definitely reminiscent of the Xbox 360 memory cards, which shipped with the cheaper Arcade Edition by default.
Backward-compatible Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Xbox games can be played from this drive, and offer decent speed, which is nice. These games can also be installed to any USB 3.X device that’s compatible with the console. However, all Xbox Series X games must be installed to the console’s internal SSD or the $220 memory card made by Seagate. That’s because it uses much faster data access speeds to stream the new game data at acceptable rates. Fair enough.
Series X games can be backed up to a USB external drive, but can only be archived there, they can’t be played. So that makes one potential workaround for Xbox Series X and Series S to build a larger storage array, like a NAS enclosure with multiple HDDs, to store all their games instead of deleting them outright. When you want to play another game, you just make space on the Xbox and port the game over from the array. This used to be much more expensive, though there are now specialized 12 TB options in a single drive for less than $300. Whether something like this comes out for next-gen is only a matter of time.
The company also clarified that this is “the only available expansion card that replicates the Xbox Velocity Architecture,” which is what delivers “faster load times, richer environments, and more immersive gameplay” on Xbox Series S/X. Without the marketing jargon, that means they’re using a custom file structure, and likely encryption, that will be harder to replicate.
For comparison, a Seagate-made 2 TB external hard drive that’s designed for Xbox One is currently priced at $89.99. Sure there’s a price jump when moving to an SSD. But there’s only one way this can end. Someone somewhere is going to do a bit of hardware hacking and find a way to make store-bought SSDs and normal enclosure work with the new Xbox Series X.
All of this because of the oncoming capacity problem faced by gamers, both on consoles and PC. Games regularly reach 100 GB in size these days for AAA releases. Smaller titles can easily hit 10-20 GB in size. Aiming for the middle-ground and assuming an average of 50 GB per game, you could get 20 games per 1 TB of space. All that assumed no overhead either.
The Xbox Series S has only 512 GB of internal storage — just above the amount of storage in launch Xbox One consoles seven years ago. That’s not enough, especially for an all-digital console. The simple fact is, the next-gen console will need more storage as time goes on, and some gamers are not keen to pay such a high price for 1 TB.