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Xbox Series S might have a storage issue

Microsoft cut every corner they could to make the Xbox Series S the most affordable next-gen console possible. The developers neutered the Series S' RAM, CPU, and GPU power, as well as surgically removed the disc drive. The team even halved the console's hard drive, so instead of sporting a 1 TB SSD, it could only stash 512 GB worth of games. At least, that's what Microsoft claimed. According to one lucky gamer, the console's free space is even more restricted than expected.

A reddit user by the moniker of spead20 received an early copy of the Xbox Series S. They aren't a reviewer — they just acquired their pre-order ahead of schedule. Regardless, since spead20 was one of the first to receive a Series S (all the major reviewers were busy with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5), they got a firsthand look at the console and its capabilities. Spead20 didn't actually detail the console's specs until someone asked for clarification on its purported 512 GB of SSD space. Spead20 confirmed the commenter's worst fears: The Series S only has 364 GB free for Xbox games and apps.

You probably wonder what happened to the missing 148 GB. The prevailing theory is that space is reserved for the Series S' operating system and quick resume feature. One commenter pondered if users could disable quick resume to free up some extra GB, but that idea was quickly shot down. Spead20 stated they can't deactivate quick resume.

This storage space struggle might disappoint many gamers who pre-ordered the Series S. The console is already strapped for space since it doesn't have the 1 TB of its bigger Series X twin. While you can increase Series S' storage capacity with a memory card, that will set you back $220 – almost three quarters of the Series S' price.

If you are a longtime Xbox owner, the news of the Series S' true SSD space should ring some surprisingly familiar bells. When the Xbox One (and PS4) launched, it only packed a 500 GB HDD, 138 of which was taken up by the Xbox One's OS. Gamers had to make due with 362 GB worth of free storage. That's a whopping 2 GB less than what Series S owners can work with but is enough to play games such as Torchlight 2 or Bastion. On paper, the Series S' free 364 GB shouldn't be a big deal comparatively, but that kind of thinking only examines the size of console hard drives, not the games they store.

You might wonder why Microsoft and Sony swapped from HDDs to SSDs for the upcoming console generation. The answer is to improve load times, but why do manufacturers need to improve load times in the first place? The answer to that question is that video game sizes are ballooning faster than hard drives can keep up. To load a game, a console has to read a ton of data, and the more data a game has, the longer it takes to load. Since SSDs are faster than HDDs, they can read the excessive amount of data faster and, well, load games faster.

When the Xbox One launched in 2013, it could get away with an HDD because its first games were fairly small. Ryse: Son of Rome was only 34.94 GB, and Assassin's Creed 4 took up 20.25 GB. The console's premier multiplayer launch title, Call of Duty: Ghosts, required 39.5 GB. The Xbox One's 362 GB was more than enough for these games. The Xbox Series S' hard drive, meanwhile, will fill up pretty quickly. Call of Duty: Warzone and Red Dead Redemption 2, for example, will engulf your hard drive and consume around 250 and 107 GB, respectively, and Gears 5 will require a more reasonable (but still enormous) 58 GB.

Regardless of how many games you want on your Xbox Series S, you won't be able to install many due to a combination of lower-than-expected storage space and exponentially increasing game sizes. The console might last you a while if you mostly have an eye for single-player titles, but if you want to dip your toes into the multiplayer pool and try games such as Call of Duty: Warzone, prepare to play that game and that game only — not just because it will consume your attention but also because you won't have room for other games. Unless, of course, you drop $220 on a storage card, at which point you will have spent over $500 on that console instead of just buying the Xbox Series X.