BGE Investigates: Do Cartridges Blow?

I've played Knight Rider. It's not that good.


Sometimes, decisions are made, which change the course of history. But oftentimes this decisions are intrinsically tied to the time they where taken, and must be reevaluated as time moves on.


For example, when the American Constitution wa written, the possibility of a foreign country invading was real, and the possibility of "somebody shooting up a school 6 times a year" was not.  So they put in the constitution that people had a right to bear arms. Even now people wrestle with the idea of how to apply this to a modern world where America is the largest superpower in the world, and outbursts of randomly directed violence need to be treated.


But anyway, videogames made one of those changes years ago. It's kind of legend, now, really. For years, the primary format for home console games where cartridges. You know, these things?


Hardy plastic shells holding within them a microchip within it. During those early days of console gaming, cartridges where really the most practical format for games, but  not without their limitations. Specifically, size. The higher echelons of space an N64 cart could hold was 64 Megabites.  That sucks. That's a couple of MP3s low quality MP3s.


So, as gaming systems wanted even more specs to compete with the PC's fancy CD Roms, they began chasing the compact disc dragon, to mostly their own demise.  Sega's Sega CD, the Turbo Graphx CD, Jaguar CD all went nowhere, but they belonged to consoles and companies destined for nowhere.


Where they failed, Nintendo would succeed. They partnerered with Sony, who knew somethings about the subject. But for whatever reason, Nintendo left  Sony to try and work a CD deal with Phillips.


The rest is history. Sony went on to make the Playstation, which would go unchallenged for over a decade, Phillips would go on to make godawful games based on Nintendo stuff that fuel Youtube Poops to this day, and Nintendo had one more cartridge console before caving in with the Gamecube and finally doing disc type games.
You just missed out on this, Nintendo.

Everywhere else, CDs, and later DVDs and Blu-rays would go on to dominate gaming. It was clear that cartridges where out, and Shiny, spin-ey things where in. It didn't hurt that they where dirt cheap to make.


But whereas in the old days the advantage of Discs over cartidges where more obvious, I think it's worth a second look.


Disc's key advantage in the olden days, that of playing what was known as "Full motin video" and "High Quality pre-recorded audio" is practically all but gone, as AAA titles are rapidly embracing installs and other such things. There is little reason to believe now that only a disc could give you quick and crisp images, as you can put a full movie in a USB drive in any half hearted PC rig and it'll run like gangbusters.


Not that Full motion video carries all that much importance, anymore. The graphics in-engine have outgrown the need for a pre-rendered video that the machine itself would not be able to run. Unless you are using cell animation or live action bits in your game, you mostly aren't gonna be using that.


Space is another area where gaming has outgrown what discs could do.Well, discs have outgrown what gaming needs, anyway. Most games out there do not fill up their Blu Rays and DVDs, so the idea that developers are being constrained by that is hilarious, even more so when while USB drive storage capacity has increased while maintaining compatibility, they aren't making any larger sized BluRays in the middle of the PS4's existance. It's as big as it'll ever be.


One advantage that Carts have over Disc technology is that it's a little harder to pirate. They aren't making  a machine out there that burns cartridges, you know?


And another one would be the ability to update the game. DLC is a big deal, now, so the ability to take your downloaded goods to someone else's machine seems like a pretty advantageous affair. In game saves, and other such neatness.



Durability is another factor. As anyone who's seen their MVC2 GD turn into one of those translucent discs from a recordable CD tower will tell you, discs aren't as hardy as you'd hope


One need only look at the portable console marked, where the complete incapacity to make smaller discs has allowed cartridges to live on, to see the results. Despite these carts being smaller than  any during the cartridge heyday, they still produce images and sound quality that  surpasses the last great cartridge home consoles, and still give the PSX and Saturn a run for their money.

Build-A-Bear Workshop is no Knight Rider.

I am not so naive to think console makers are willing to go back, as they are currently chasing  a new dragon, one of digital streaming. Invariably, there will be positive elements (uh...near impiracibility?) and negative ones (always having to be connected to the Internet). The console makers of today aren't really console makers, but corporate entities who see consoles  as chess pieces to their overall endgame(though it is hilarious to see Microsoft's plans to own the living room be whisked away by cellphones and tablets.). Sony may or may not consider Blu Ray the superior physical media, but it sure would come in handy to them, the MAKERS of Blu Ray, if their new console sold this format to the public.


That's alright. But I think they ought to, if only for a bit. This article was mostly written before the rumor that Nintendo is going back to carts cropped up, but if it's true...it's a good sign.

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