Have gaming consoles ever had enough RAM? When the 360 and playstation 3 were launched, 512MB of memory sounded like a whole lot and memory was expensive. Over time, memory has become one of the cheapest components in a PC and I cannot understand why Sony and Microsoft appear to be going cheap on RAM again.
I'm sure we've all read the rumors that the next-gen consoles will have between 4 and 8 GB of memory. While 8GB is certainly better than 4, we should have at least 16GB of memory. This is bananas! Why?
- The more memory you have at your disposal, the shorter your load times will be as you can cache rather than streaming it from the disk.
- Having more memory available would reduce the cost of a game's development as it could allow game developers to experiment more with garbage-collected programming languages rather than having to painstakingly develop with an RAII idiom in C++ (or have memory leaks). I think the game loop and graphics engine will still be in C++; however, things like AI, events, sound, and the parts of the game which are not rendering the graphics can begin moving from C++ to Python.
- Having more memory available means you can dedicate more memory to the operating system so consoles can do more things. Microsoft keeps touting how they want to be a media hub in your living room. It's going to be especially difficult to multitask between a game and something else unless there is a lot of RAM available.
- And yes, of course I think games could be larger and better if developers had more memory to work with.
Is there ever an instance where more memory (assuming the memory is of the same speed and quality) is not better? Perhaps I'm living in a bubble because I am a software developer who writes code for servers with 256GB of memory, and while I don't think the Xbox 720 and PS4 should have 256GB of memory, I do think it should have a sizable enough amount so developers do not have to worry about it as much. This may not be obvious now, but 1-2 years after the consoles have been released, we will be wishing we had more memory. Historically, consoles have never had enough RAM.