New format increases Xbox 360 game disc capacity by 1GB

Microsoft is currently working on some changes that will expand the capacity of Xbox 360 game discs, but exactly how the extra space will be used has not yet been confirmed.

The changes come in the form of a new disc format which will add about 1GB worth of space to the overall capacity, and will be put through the paces by beta testers who will use an updated version of the Xbox 360 dashboard.

Xbox Live Programming Director Larry Hyrb, better known by gamers as “Major Nelson,” put out a call for beta testers earlier this week. “We are conducting an open call for US based participants for a public preview to help us prepare for an updated Xbox 360 disc format,” Hyrb wrote on the Major Nelson blog.

Eurogamer Network site Digital Foundry then followed up with an article stating that a “highly placed development source” had confirmed that the new format would add 1GB of storage space to Xbox 360 game discs.

“Beta testers of the new dashboard get a free copy of Halo: Reach once they are accepted into the new preview program. 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,” Digital Foundry reports. “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.”

There are likely a number of reasons why Microsoft has used so many different DVD drives, including alleviating supply issues or simply trying to keep costs low. Whatever the reasons were, the lack of consistency now has the company relying on its beta testers to ensure a smooth transition to the new format.

How the company is using the increased amount of space on the game discs is all speculation for now, but word has it that new antipiracy measures are also part of the deal.

“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,” Xbox 360 hacker “Commodore4eva” wrote on IRC.

It would be great to find out that at least some of the extra disc capacity will be used for game quality enhancements rather than just security improvements, but we’ll have to wait and see.