Getting an Xbox One X? Don’t have NBN? It’s important to know what you’re signing up for

As of this writing I have had our Xbox One X review unit in my home for eight days. The console, along with a generous care package of games including console exclusives, new releases and a few November headliners, arrived the Thursday afternoon before PAX Aus. I’ve been able to play three of these games so far — Super Lucky’s Tale, Disneyland Adventures and Zoo Tycoon. Why? Because over the course of those eight days, our Xbox One X has been locked in a digital war of attrition against my humble ADSL2 connection.

While the thoughtful care package was carefully chosen to show off the brute strength of the Xbox One X, it highlighted what is for me the console’s biggest (and perhaps most uniquely Australian) problem right away. Gears of War 4 is a game that has been pointed to by Microsoft again and again as a beacon of 4K HDR beauty on their new machine. If you, like me, uninstalled the game after you were done with it a year ago, take note — redownloading the game with all of its “Enhanced for Xbox One X” bells and whistles will necessitate a 100GB download.

It’s safe to assume that many of Microsoft’s existing console exclusives will see similarly large file sizes as they are updated for 4K HDR. This presents a bit of a problem for Australian owners. The vast majority of Aussies are not yet able to connect to the growing higher-speed NBN network for internet and make do with an older, outmoded ADSL2 connection. Those that are on the NBN report decidedly mixed results with speeds ranging from Barely Better than ADSL2 to Much Better Than ADSL2.

I am in the former camp. I live in Melbourne’s inner west and can see the city skyline a mere 14km from the balcony of the townhouse I rent. We have an ADSL2 connection and our area is not due for an upgrade to the NBN until 2019. That’s right. 14km from the centre of the nation’s second-most populous city, a two year wait for an internet upgrade. And when they do finally upgrade it, NBN Co. is planning to install Fibre-to-the-Node so its still not going to be the real deal. My situation is far from isolated. There are a lot of Aussies in the same boat.

On average, most new release AAA titles we would get for review on the Xbox One have weighed in at around 45GB. On my ADSL2 connection at home, this means it will generally take me about a day-and-a-half, possibly two full days to pull the whole thing down. On the same ADSL2 connection, Gears of War 4‘s 100GB file size effectively doubles that timeframe. On the most common household internet connection in Australia, it could take up to four days of constant downloading to pull the whole game down.

This presents something of a stumbling block for the console here in Aus. It clearly wasn’t designed for use with internet this awful. Even its download screen, with its progress bars creeping almost imperceptibly from left to right, can’t quite display the correct rate of download. Our review console likes to sit somewhere around the 5MB/s mark, which, while awfully generous, is a flat out fabrication. The actual download rate is closer to 900kB/s. The Xbox One X seems to have a really hard time believing that an internet connection could be that slow and does its best to illustrate what it thinks “slow” is. To the Xbox One X, 5MB/s is so slow as to be a near impossibility. To Australians, it sounds like heaven.

So here I am, eight days later, still downloading. From a list of about 10 games totalling around 600GB, I have so far managed to pull down four. Sad reacts only.

How do you address a problem like this? The NBN network and its attendant roll-out aren’t going to improve much over the next few years and file sizes are only going to get larger. The one workaround I can think of that makes any sense for the Xbox One X is for Microsoft to figure out some form of file compression. Steam has been doing this on the PC for years. How you would implement a system like that on the Xbox One X, I don’t know. I don’t know if such a thing would be easy or even feasible. But it’s the best suggestion I’ve got right now. I’m open to others.

I’ll be bringing you my more comprehensive review of the Xbox One X console in the coming days (downloads permitting).