The Xbox One X promises to usher in a new age of native 4K Ultra-HD gaming. This is, obviously, an exciting prospect as it means our games are going to look better than ever.
“But,” you give voice your concerns, “aren’t games chock-full of 4K assets going to take longer to download?” As it turns out, not necessarily.
To lessen the time it takes to download digital game titles and reduce the amount of space they take up on your valuable hard drive real estate, Microsoft has designed a system called Intelligent Delivery that delivers only the parts of the game you actually need.
Say, for example, you’re a proud, new Xbox One X owner with a 4K TV. As long as you’re home, you’ll never look at an HD screen again – so why download 1080p assets? With Intelligent Delivery, you won’t.
You could run the same scenario for 1080p TV owners with an original Xbox One and the console will only download 1080p assets but none of the 4K ones.
Essentially, Intelligent Delivery talks to your hardware before starting a download to see what settings you’re running and then optimizes delivery for those settings.
But, what happens if those settings change? Microsoft is prepared for that.
Save your game to an external hard drive and head over to a friend’s house with an Xbox One S or Xbox One X, and you’ll immediately be prompted to download the 4K assets you’re missing.
Tag it and bag it
So how does your Xbox know which part of the game to download?
Developers will soon be able to tag certain “chunks” of a game. Those tags could include 4K and 1080p assets, audio files or anything else.
Audio tracks, believe it or not, take up a surprising amount of space, especially in sports games like FIFA where the developers record the same audio in over a dozen languages. According to DigitalFoundry, developers will be able to tag audio tracks based on language, which means that if you're primarily an English speaker, you’ll only download the English voice-over tracks when playing sports games like FIFA instead of downloading those tracks in every language.
Tagged chunks are the backbone of the new Intelligent Delivery system and allow developers to send out parts of a game piecemeal – a very good way to cut down on the initial download time and should save significant hard drive space when utilized for your entire game collection.
- Want to know what the future of Xbox is like? Check out our hands on Xbox One X review
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Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.