A highly placed development source has confirmed to Digital Foundry that the new disc format being beta tested in a new dashboard upgrade adds 1GB to the storage of Xbox 360 game discs.
The maximum space allocated to game data on the current disc format is just 6.8GB out of a maximum of 7.95GB on a standard dual layer DVD, with over 1GB dedicated to a DVD-Video partition that also contained anti-piracy security sectors. Astonishingly, this meant that the last generation PlayStation 2 had a higher level of raw storage available to games developers than the newer Xbox 360. It seems that this video partition has either been drastically reduced or omitted completely in the new format Microsoft is looking to roll-out.
Beta testers of the new dashboard get a free copy of Halo: Reach once they are accepted into the new preview programme. We can assume that this isn't just a generous gift on Microsoft's part - more likely it is a disc pressed using the new format, and Microsoft is looking for data on performance on as many different systems as it can. There is no one standard Xbox 360 DVD drive: the platform holder has used drives from Samsung, Hitachi, Benq and Liteon across the console's five year history.
Halo: Reach occupied 6.6GB of space on the old format disc. Either padding or additional content will have been added to this new edition, or it may well simply be the case that the data is allocated into certain physical areas of the disc the video partition would have previously occupied.
It would make sense that the video partition would have been pressed into the inner-most area of the disc - the part that would be the slowest to read in data. So while developers will be able to make the most of the raw storage potential of the dual layer disc, they may well have to factor in slower read speeds in the freed-up space.
Regardless, a 14-15 per cent boost in the space available to Xbox 360 developers is a very welcome advance, and some might argue it is somewhat overdue bearing in mind that the security scheme currently in place has proven to be inadequate for several years now. Tossing away the current system may also give Microsoft the opportunity to deploy a brand new anti-piracy strategy bearing in mind that its latest AP 2.5 system was defeated within a couple of weeks.
Xbox 360 DVD firmware hacker "Commodore4eva" adding weight to the story by suggesting that the latest developer XDK confirms the changes:
"MS will introduce XBG3 - this will add more AP checks, CVI (content integerity) checks, increase the disc size and adds a new layer for protection issues - all in the 20500 sdk! bring it on," he posted on IRC.