Have you heard of Storage Gridlock before and know what it means in the context of video games? You probably haven’t because it’s a term that I made up but it’s something that can become a problem for the Nintendo Switch successor. This won’t be an issue for casual gamers with small collections or only play physical games but will be critical for everyone else. So, what is Storage Gridlock? It’s a theory that the rate in which game file sizes grow will far outpace the capabilities of storage devices. It’s obvious that whatever games come next will be bigger, but Nintendo has hit a wall, one that’s never been there before.
What do I mean by that? Surely something like this must happen whenever a new console comes out, right? Wrong, this hasn’t happened with Nintendo before, not has it been an issue with Sony or Microsoft. Those other console makers have dedicated external storage devices that are developed for their newest consoles, they don’t rely on an independent storage device the way Nintendo uses common MicroSD cards that can go into anything.
As for Nintendo, they haven’t had this issue before because each new console had a significant jump in external storage capabilities to the point where the increase in game sizes didn’t matter at all. Going from the DS to the 3DS went from no external storage to limited 32GB MicroSD cards while going from 3DS to Switch had the jump from 32GB to nearly limitless.
But Nintendo doesn’t have that luxury anymore because they’re now at the mercy of how big and how quickly third parties can design their newest MicroSD cards. This is going to be a problem for people who download a lot of games because the next big MicroSD improvement could be years away whereas the file sizes of Nintendo games could double, triple, or worse long before then. Let’s take a look back at the 3DS for a second. Only the biggest 3DS games had file sizes greater than 3GB but that pales in comparison to games on the Switch.
Your average AAA game on the Switch has a file size of 10GB or more and a few of the heavy hitters push well beyond. Tears of the Kingdom sits at 16GB and Monster Hunter Rise sits at nearly 20GB but Mortal Kombat 11 is one of five games in the 30 to 60GB range. Even games that aren’t too beefy like Pokemon had a 4x jump between Sun and Moon, and Sword and Shield.
Depending on how expansive developers make their games, it’s entirely possible the biggest games for the Switch successor could push anywhere from 40 to 100 GB within a year or two. Now let’s talk about what’s available in terms of storage options. SanDisk recently released a 1.5TB MicroSD card but the main issue is that it took nearly five years after releasing the 1TB to release the newest one.
Let’s say in theory that it takes three or four years for a 2TB card to become widely accessible. That would be twice as much as what was readily available a few months ago but if the file sizes quickly triple or worse, it’s going to be a deficit overall. This would be made even worse with backward compatibility as save data, updates, and game downloads of regular switch games would all add up. It would be like taking the MicroSD card that you already have and then adding “Switch 2” games to it.
Nintendo has become reliant on MicroSD cards and it’s going to hurt people who have a lot of digital games. There have been rumors that the “Switch 2” could have an increased internal storage but there have also been rumors that the increase won’t be significant since the rumors have been hovering between 64 and 512GB for internal storage. So now that we have identified the problem and explained why it’s so bad, what are some of the solutions?
The way I see it, there are three possible paths forward. The first one is the one that we don’t really want and that’s to wait it out. Maybe the tech can reach the point where the next MicroSD card improvement can be much quicker. But that requires putting a lot of faith into a third party. The second option is for Nintendo to develop their own external storage device or have someone else develop one that’s just for their consoles. They would have control over what it looks like which means they can change the size and shape to better fit the console or to change what it can hold.
The third option is the best one and that’s for Nintendo to make significant improvements to their internal storage capabilities. If brands like SanDisk can now fit 1.5TB into such a small device, I don’t see why Nintendo wouldn’t be able to develop a small internal contraption that would be able to store 1TB or more. Something about this really needs to be done or else people with a lot of digital content will be forced to mass delete their games every time a new game comes out.