If you’ve got a PlayStation 5, you’ve probably been mostly happy with it so far. You’re also in the minority compared to all the would-be PlayStation 5 owners out there. Incredibly, six months on from when Sony first published its next-gen console, there are still issues with stock and supply. It’s still such big news when PlayStation consoles become available that mainstream media outlets report on it when it happens. Everything from the 2020 pandemic to the Suez Canal crisis has been blamed for the lengthy delays, but it now seems likely that there will still be people waiting for the opportunity to buy a console a full year from its release.
Those of you who do have a PlayStation 5 will have been enjoying the drastically improved load times, the enhanced graphics, the haptic feedback of the new controller, and (of course) the brilliance of the handful of exclusive next-gen games that have been released so far. One thing you’re less likely to have been enjoying, though, is the lack of storage space. PS5 games are extremely demanding when it comes to storage, even with the SSD and all the brand-new technology inside its casing. If you have the full-sized version of the console, which boots games from disc and stores as little content on the drive as possible, you can probably only fit eight or nine games on it simultaneously. If you have the digital-only version of the console, the problem is even worse.
For reasons that will probably never be made clear, the PS5 launched without the option to store games on an external USB drive. That was an option for the PS4 – and indeed, the console allowed PS4 games to be stored on and loaded from a USB drive – but not for PS5 games. If you wanted to play a new game – the latest “Call of Duty” or the updated “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” for example, the only option was to store all the necessary data on the console and accept the fact that you were probably going to have to delete something the next time you decided to buy a new game.
Sony would be keen for us to point out that you could circumvent some of these problems by using PS Now, which allowed players to stream games rather than playing them from central storage. This is a platform inspired by Google Stadia, which is, in turn, a platform inspired by online slots websites. It’s from that unlikely source that the inspiration came from. When you log in to play online slots somewhere like Irish Rose Slots, the games you play aren’t saved to your device. They exist in cyberspace, and you interact with them from a distance. Using that method, it’s become possible for the biggest and best online slots websites of today to offer a thousand or more slots from a single point of access. This is the service level that Stadia, Sony, and every other significant gaming company aims to replicate. It’s only been partially successful thus far, and in the case of Sony and the PlayStation, there’s a very specific reason for that. It only offers a small selection of games, time limits their availability and doesn’t include any PS5 titles. If you specifically want to play next-gen games, PS Now isn’t going to help you.
The longer the PS5 is available, and the more games are released for it, the more acute and irritating the storage issue was likely to become. That’s why we’re very pleased to see that Sony has finally done something about an issue and given us a feature that should have been there since day one. A few days ago, PS5 users will have noticed that their consoles downloaded their first major updates since the machines were brand new. Most of the changes and improvements introduced by that update are either insignificant or invisible from the user’s perspective, but one of them isn’t. Sony hasn’t done much to publicise the fact, but you can now store your PS5 games on an external USB drive. So long as you don’t mind paying for a little extra storage, you no longer have to play “Sophie’s Choice” with your video game collection.
Even with this good news, though, there’s a catch. You can store your games on a USB stick, but you can’t play them from one. The way that PS5 games are designed means they have to be configured specifically to the console’s in-built SSD. USB storage doesn’t have this capacity or capability, so the console can’t read them from there. Instead, this fix is merely intended to save users a little time when they’re re-installing games that they’ve had to remove to make room for others. Sony assures us that this method is significantly faster than manually downloading the games and also faster than re-installing them from their original discs. The solution would, therefore, be to leave your saved game data on your console and then move games on and off USB sticks as and when you want to play them. It’s far from ideal, but it’s the best the situation is likely to get for now, and perhaps forever.
This situation puts Sony at odds with Microsoft. Although the new Xbox suffers from the same storage issues that the PlayStation does, Microsoft has included an additional slot at the back of the console so users can add more storage space. That might have to be an option for Sony to consider if the issue becomes a significant one for users – which, two or three years from now, seems to be inevitable. Users often struggled to find space for all the games they wanted on their PS4. With the new generation of games being so much more demanding, the problem is likely to be much worse.
The takeaway from this article is that Sony has taken some action to alleviate concerns about PlayStation storage, but their solution still leaves a lot to be desired. You’re still going to run out of space eventually, and you’re still going to have to move games on and off the console when you want to play them. Get used to keeping USB drives close to your console – you’re almost certainly going to need them.