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Microsoft sells "full" (non-Arcade) games on its Xbox Live Marketplace as digital downloads ("Games on Demand"). On average, are GoD loading times significantly faster than that of the disc version "installed" to the hard drive? Or are the access times identical because the data and retrieval techniques are identical?

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It would most likely depend on which game; anything purely on the hard drive would be faster than anything that switches back and forth between the hard drive and disk. If a disk game installs everything it needs onto the hard drive and never accesses the disk, then it would be just as fast. –  Frank Mar 4 '13 at 3:16
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@fbueckert As far as I know, installing installs the whole game to the HDD and only checks for the physical disc on startup. I don't know if the digital downloads are optimized any differently. –  Sean Mar 4 '13 at 5:56
    
I seriously doubt that they are optimized any differently. The main benefits for GoD are no need to spin up the disc and, more importantly, no need to get up to change disks. Of course the drawback is that you can't sell the game. –  Claus Mar 4 '13 at 22:18
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5 Answers 5

Depends on the game.

If the game has an installer (ala Halo Reach), it will load significantly faster via disc than via the GoD version.

But for the most part, the Games on Demand version will run a lot faster during loads (but some of the loads are specifically hard coded times, such as Mass Effect elevators, so that won't ever get faster).

If you're trying to decide between as disc and GoD, you'll get a better price on a disc, but GoD will probably load faster due to the constant read speeds off a single drive instead of transferring data to RAM, reading from the disc and the HD.

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Short answer is yes.

At a maximum 24x drive speed, you can read 265.92Mbits/s off of a DVD. This assumes that the Xbox has a 24x drive, which I have not been able to validate. On the other hand, Xbox hard drives are SATA drives, which, at their slowest, have a data rate of 1.5Gbits/s

This means that, worst case, the Xbox can read from HD minimum 5.64 times faster than it can from the DVD drive.

While you may be able to get to the data 5 times faster, that doesn't mean it can't be processed faster. Math aside, I have noticed much quicker load times when playing GoD or games which I have installed.

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Why is this downvoted? So far it's the only solution actually using some math instead of personal based experiences... –  Joetjah May 7 '13 at 12:40
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@Joetjah — Probably because it doesn't answer the question. The math here compares DVD to HDD, but the question is referring to two different types of HDD game. –  Ben Blank May 7 '13 at 14:50
    
@BenBlank Apologies, you are right. Would still be usefull to know since the installed game would still be needing the DVD, but you are right. –  Joetjah May 7 '13 at 14:52
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Just because the interface is capable of transferring data at 1.5Gbps doesn't mean the device is. Also, this has absolutely nothing to do with the question, as @BenBlank pointed out. –  kotekzot May 7 '13 at 19:58
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(based on what I have read before and my own experience) The load time are pretty much the same, as the content of the games including updates are taking up equal space, having the HDD loading the same files. I am not sure how the loading time from a none updated game loads when comparing disc installation and GoD installation. But I doubt there will be any difference at all. If you look at various fora, you will see that its an issue discussed numerous times. All with the same conclusions, that the difference isnt noticable.

Bonus info: A comparison between loading from a disc and loading from the HDD, shows an improvement on about 15% faster load time from the HDD.

(the last link is in Danish, but change the languege to your prefered)

*NOTE I have not bought the same game twice to do the experiment myself.

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I know someone who has an Xbox 360 Slim and using a lot GoD. I personally use more HDD and DVDs on a fat Xbox 360 and I can assess that the difference between him launching GoD and me launching from HDD is not significantly faster. We are in a university residence and the internet connection is somewhat playing yo-yo, sometimes I can be faster than him, sometimes not. And I'm using an old version of the Xbox.

To answer directly the question, the answer should be no, it's not loading times faster. But it might be a little faster .

I think the two main criterion are:

  • Version of the Xbox
  • Speed of internet connection
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I really can't tell if on average GoD downloads load faster as it seems to vary in a case by case basis. Take Halo 3 for example: back in 2010 it was acknowledged by Bungie that the GoD version of the game would have longer load times.

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Nice find. Although rumor has that Halo was designed such that it would store a lot in the Xbox's cache. By installing the game on the hard drive, the game would have to load from 2 different places. But that's a rumor... –  Joetjah May 8 '13 at 6:58
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