A number of online reports have emerged suggesting that the Xbox 360 version of Square Enix' massively multiplayer title Final Fantasy XI will only play on versions of the console which are equipped with the hard drive.

While no confirmation or denial has been forthcoming from Square Enix itself, the reports are logical enough - in its PC and PS2 incarnations, FFXI uses the hard drive incredibly heavily to store character information and content updates.

Installation sizes on those systems are multiple gigabytes, and over the months and years of the game's operation, hundreds of megabytes of additional content, patches and expansions have been added to the game.

Therefore, it's logical that FFXI should require a hard drive to play - but it's potentially embarrassing for Microsoft, which faces the prospect of the first title it has ever secured for its platform from Square Enix not working on many Xbox 360 consoles.

The decision to make the hard drive optional has a number of consequences for the Xbox 360; many developers who have spoken to us expressed doubt that the drive would be used in many third party games, since it will be seen as an optional peripheral.

However, the possibility that a "two tier" Xbox 360 has been created, where only those with hard drives will be able to play certain - primarily online - games, is arguably a more major concern. It remains to be seen how Microsoft plans to communicate the differences between the two versions of the system to consumers, and avoid confusion and disappointment among those expecting to be able to play MMOG titles on the Core System bundle.

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