More and more game developers are starting to design games that are optimized for solid-state drives (SSDs), which enable faster load times, improved graphics and a better overall gaming experience. They’re doing so because game console makers recently standardized on SSDs, joining an increasing number of PC gamers.
SSDs for gaming PCs have been the norm for many years. Over the past decade, as prices for SSDs have dropped, many gamers have recognized the superior technology and upgraded their existing PCs, or purchased new gaming PCs or laptops with SSDs built in. Now, game console makers are also utilizing them to support faster storage. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and S, and the Sony PlayStation 5 come standard with NVMe-based SSDs.
Here’s why SSDs are better than hard disk drives (HDDs) for gaming, how game developers are taking advantage of SSDs to transform game design, and how gamers can get in on the action.
SSDs vs. HDDs: why solid state improves gaming
SSDs, unlike HDDs, have no mechanical moving parts and use flash memory for storage. This means they have much faster read/write speeds and are more reliable, quieter and more energy-efficient.
On the gaming front, SSDs boot up systems and load games much faster than HDDs, which translates to less time waiting to get into a game, less time spent in agonizing loading screens, and, best of all, less lag. These advantages become increasingly important as games get larger in size. In fact, SSDs speed load times of games by up to 60% compared to high-performance HDDs, according to a Eurogamer story.
For example, the PlayStation 5 starts up the 2020 action-adventure game “The Last of Us Part II” in 15 seconds, more than twice as fast as a PlayStation 4 with an HDD. The load time from menu to gameplay is also faster: one minute on the PlayStation 5 versus one minute and 28 seconds on the PlayStation 4, according to TomsGuide.
While SSDs don’t increase frame rates, they do speed up load time when players enter new areas in games, even when there aren’t loading screens. SSDs eliminate “hitches” — stutters that can occur when players enter new locations, so the technology also prevents short interruptions during game play.
Not all SSDs are created equal
Lower-cost SATA SSDs will boot up and load games faster than HDDs, but new NVMe SSDs (also known as SSDs with the M.2 form factor) will provide even faster performance.
NVMe is a new high-speed transport protocol that transfers data between SSDs and other system components. It is significantly faster than the SATA and SAS protocols, which were created when HDDs and tape dominated storage.
For example, the Samsung 980 PRO NVMe SSD, which supports the latest PCIe 4.0 interface, offers read speeds of up to 7,000 MB/s and write speeds of up to 5,100 MB/s — 2 times faster than PCIe 3.0 SSDs, and 12 times faster than Samsung SATA SSDs.
In contrast, HDDs typically offer meager 100 MB/s to 200 MB/s read/write speeds, according to Tech Radar.
SSD benefits for game designers
Given all of the advantages of SSDs, it’s no surprise that game developers are starting to take advantage of them in their game design, supporting faster boot and load times, better graphics and more immersive gaming environments.
“The SSD is going to be massive — allowing us to create larger worlds that load faster; to move quicker within them,” Firesprite Games Game Director, Stuart Tilley, told WCCFTECH in an interview in 2020.
Nick Penwarden, vice president of engineering at Epic Games, expressed similar sentiments before the PlayStation 5 was released: “The ability to stream in content at extreme speeds enables developers to create denser and more detailed environments, changing how we think about streaming content,” he told VG247.
In fact, Luminous Productions’ forthcoming game “Forspoken” will have a load time of barely one second on a PlayStation 5, thanks to the console’s SSD, according to IGN.
Game developers are starting to release games with the recommendation that gamers use SSDs to maximize performance. Last November, for example, game developer Playground Games said SSDs on the new Xbox Series X and S transformed game design and allowed them to improve graphics quality in their new Forza Horizon 5 game, as the developers no longer needed to worry about load times.
“[SSDs] improve load times, but they also allow texture resolution to go higher than we ever thought possible, because we don’t have to factor in the limitations of a spinning disk,” said Playground Games Technical Art Director, Gareth Harwood, in a PCGamesN article. Players using PCs or an Xbox One with HDDs can still play the game and will still have a “great experience,” but they’ll have to contend with longer load times, the story said.
Samsung SSDs are best in class for gamers and game designers
Samsung’s 980 PRO NVMe is the perfect SSD for gaming on PCs and consoles alike. Not only does it have blazing fast speeds, but it also offers the high capacity gamers need (from 512 GB to 2 TB), and it’s durable enough for long, intense play sessions.
The SSD is built with specially written software, Dynamic Thermal Guard (DTG), which monitors the operating temperature and adjusts performance on the fly to ensure the device doesn’t overheat. In addition, its M.2 compact form factor is optimized for power efficiency.
The Samsung 980 PRO NVMe is built for gaming PCs and laptops, and it’s also compatible with the PlayStation 5. In fact, PlayStation 5 games load faster on the Samsung 980 Pro SSD than they do using the PS5’s internal storage, according to Android Central.
In numerous contexts, the Samsung 980 PRO NVMe delivers the fast speeds, large storage capacity and reliability that gamers need, all in a small package.