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What the hell is going on with Xbox One updates?

Microsoft's updates for the Xbox One continue to be a source of great confusion (and some concern) for Nic Healey.

Nic Healey Senior Editor / Australia
Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.
Nic Healey
4 min read

Microsoft's updates for the Xbox One continue to be a source of great confusion (and some concern) for Nic Healey.

(Credit: Microsoft)

Back towards the end of January, Microsoft announced an update for the Xbox One exclusive Dead Rising 3.

At 13GB, this was a massive update by anyone's standards. Whole games can be downloaded with less damage done to bandwidth and storage space than that.

The patch, as we reported at the time, not only included a bunch of important fixes (such as achievements not unlocking) and new features (such as impulse trigger support) it also, according to the press release, contained "content for DLC chapters three and four".

"Hang on," I thought to myself. "That's not free DLC is it?"

And no, of course it's not. It's the last two parts of a projected four chapters of DLC that'll cost you US$30 for a 'season pass' or US$10 individually.

Maybe it says more about the quality of my net connection at home than anything else, but I'm not exactly excited about downloading data for game content I'm not actually intending to buy.

So I got curious – if the 13GB update is only data for chapters three and four, then how big is the download for the first chapter DLC, Operation Broken Eagle?

I asked Microsoft via its local PR team. The response took a while — eight days after my initial request — and it wasn't quite what I was looking for.

The PR rep responded that they had been "instructed by Microsoft that we can't share the information you're after". They went on to say "we can't really discuss or advise on DLC sizing in general".

That's a weird response from Microsoft given that, as soon as Operation Broken Eagle was available for download, I got my colleague Seamus (the current keeper of the CNET Xbox One) to check how big the download was.

It was 20.86MB. That's megabytes, not gigabytes. In fact, the season pass download — which only confirms you've paid to be able to play all the DLC — is over three times as big at 73.62MB.

So now I'm even more confused — was the content for Operation Broken Eagle included in the 13GB update after all? If so, why wouldn't Microsoft just say that, when it was already being open about having content from Chapters three and four in there? Or was the content for the DLC in the original game files all along (which is really quite impressive in terms of game production)? Or has Capcom got so damn good at programming, it really was just a 20MB add-on?

Now I get that Dead Rising 3 is a third party game, but it's an exclusive title and given the game's commitment to using as many of the new Xbox One features as possible, it's not unlikely that Microsoft had a bit of say in the development cycle.

Today, Microsoft announced the first Xbox One system update. This is going to add some truly useful features, including a battery indicator for the controller (finally), support for USB keyboards and some storage management features (presumably so you can see how little hard drive you have left after downloading 13GB updates).

Titanfall(Credit: EA)

That's going to drop on 11 February. However, on 4 March, we're getting a second system update colloquially being called "countdown to Titanfall".

In case you've been living under a gaming rock, Titanfall is being touted as the must-have game for the Xbox One (even though it's also available for 360 and PC). It's a giant-armoured-mech shooter that's entirely online multiplayer.

According to Marc Whitten, chief product officer for Xbox One, the March update "will contain many new features and improvements, most significantly to our party and multiplayer systems". He adds:

Available on March 13, Titanfall is a team-based online multiplayer game that showcases the power of Xbox Live, and we will be shipping a new party and multiplayer system that will help make Titanfall the must-have game for this generation.

My concern here is that there will be more than a few people who have no interest in playing Titanfall. There will even be a few who have no interest in playing multiplayer at all, as blasphemous as that might sound.

So Microsoft has stated that this is the "system update to prepare your Xbox One for Titanfall". I'm now forced to ask if this update has features that don't relate to Titanfall and if it will be of any benefit to those who aren't going to play the game. Oh — and, by the way, how big is it? (I have indeed asked Microsoft for some clarification and will update if and when any info comes to hand.)

When Microsoft envisaged an Xbox One that was 'always on' the Internet, consumers everywhere (including the US Navy) went feral, with many people citing poor connectivity and data usage caps as (very good) reasons why this could be a problem. Microsoft responded by changing its policy.

Personally, I'm not convinced that epic-sized updates of potentially irrelevant content is exactly the policy shift we were looking for.