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THE POWER BUTTON: PlayStation 4’s Memory Mix Up

Why was everyone so up in arms last week about a little memory loss?

Last week Eurogamer.net reported the rumor of the PlayStation 4’s game RAM allocation would be less than 70%. What that means is it’s possible that out of 8GB of the system’s application processing memory, only about 4.5 to 5GB would actually be used by the games themselves. The other 3.5GB would be dedicated to the operating systems. For those that don’t know exactly what that is, think of it as the Windows or OSX of the PlayStation system. We’re still a few months away from the launch of both the PS4 and the Xbox One but we’ve already seen how some of the games will look and, with a few exceptions like Second Son, it’s safe to say most aren’t running a full 4GB of ram.


Think about what studios such as Naughty Dog and Irrational Games accomplished this year with blockbuster games like The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite. Those were some of the most gorgeous and immersive titles in gaming ever, both of which used little more than a measly 512mb of RAM available on the PlayStation 3. In reality, only half the battle of making a game is the hardware it’s built around; the other half is what a developer can do to break those limitations. Such needs in this generation gave birth to tools such as the Unreal 3 Engine and Havok which were instrumental in hundreds of developers games over this console cycle. We’ll see even more advances in the next generation with the unveil of Unreal Engine 4. When we saw it at GDC it really pushed lighting and A.I almost blurring the line between cutscene and in game without requiring much more on the hardware side.


What gamers sometimes fail to remember is you can’t get something for nothing. Even the Xbox One is a slave to this limitation, when it was also rumored to be using a dedicated 3GB for their operating system. Remember, the big exciting advances of both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 involve features utilized through the operating system. Let’s not forget that video we saw during E3 where a couple of young people found love through instant system chat while playing different PS4 games. Those parts where he jumped in and out of games instantly don’t come without taxing some system memory. That use of RAM also solves an issue that came from the birth of online gaming. One of the biggest pet peeves in the PlayStation 3 generation was buying a AAA game on the PlayStation Store then having to leave the system alone for a few hours while it downloaded and installed. Sony and Microsoft have promised those days are behind us, but features like running multiple apps and instant downloading can’t happen without the investment of a little RAM.

Of course more RAM can never be a bad thing, but video game systems were built on the premise of universal hardware specs developers could build games around. They never had to worry about getting a game out before a new CPU, or type of RAM hit the market. While on the opposite end, PCs’ and PC gaming will always be paramount in terms of hardware advancement. PC gamers are a tech savvy bunch who are constantly upgrading their hardware because of hobby and it’s easy for them to do so. Not so with dedicated gaming machines, which were designed for those of us that just wanted to play games and not worry about the technical intricacies of opening things and voiding our warranties.


Ultimately the outrage is unfounded because until we get the games in our hands everything on the Internet is all speculation. But when you look at things rationally; how much did you complain when you bought a 500GB portable hard drive and connected it to your computer only to find you have 499.95GB to store things? Gamers should realize the best experiences are shaped by talented game developers who build amazing experiences with the most minuscule of resources.

Nuke The Fridge wants to know what your thoughts are on the reported memory allocation of next-gen systems? Do you believe the power ultimately rest with the developers? Or do you think the investment of extra RAM is worth a higher price point?



Follow David on twitter as he chooses a cat and drinks a few sodas.