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BD vs DVD on PS3

A reader asked about the PS3’s disc capacity and whether or not developers will use BD or DVD. Chris from Australia writes (edited for clarity):

I was listening to another Podcast where there where some Xbox360 fans and they were discussing whether the PS3 really needs Blu-ray discs and whether game companies would take advantage of the 50GB or so of storage space.

That’s a good question Chris. I don’t have any inside info, so all I can do is make some educated guesses.

First of all, BD discs will be expensive to begin with. As economies of scale start taking effect, prices will come down. Also, BD is a new technology, so gaming companies might want to wait and let the movie studios iron out BD production problems before jumping in. So game companies might decide to use DVD to begin with, then move to BD.

But of course they’ll only make the move to BD if they require all that disc space.

So obviously, big multi-disc PS3 games (like previous Final Fantasy games) will likely move to BD. It is cheaper to produce one BD disc than several DVD discs, probably even from the outset.

But what about other games? Champions of Norrath for the PS2 was a dual-layer DVD disc. The developers cited problems using the dual-layer approach as the reason for going to a single-layer DVD in the sequel, Return to Arms. In the process gamers lost random dungeons because that feature took so much disc space. Games like these are excellent candidates to move to BD as well. You can have 25GB of storage on a single layer, versus 4.7GB.

Lastly, we have to wonder about games that previously used 4.7GB or less. Are games like this going to be expanded in scope so that BD becomes a feasible alternative? One Japanese developer has already complained about the Xbox 360’s disc format, especially given how many HD cutscenes they want to include in the game. One HD scene at 1920 x 1080 takes 6.75 times the memory of a 640 x 480 scene (uncompressed). So any cutscenes in HD will take up that much more space. However, this is at least partially offset by greater codec effeciency, so who knows? Gaming companies are always pushing the envelope. I think that the first generation of games will not need more than the DVD format’s capacity. But as the PS3 platform matures, I think that many BD games will be released.

Thoughts anyone?