It's still miles from anything like Blu-ray's wildly generous 50GB, but rumor has it new Xbox 360 DVDs could see a 1GB storage boost in an upcoming dashboard refresh.
Pixel-nitpicker Digital Foundry reports that Microsoft may be beta-testing Xbox 360 DVDs that yield back about 15 percent storage space the company previously marked for exclusion.
Marked for exclusion why? According to DF's source, Microsoft's been using a 1GB DVD-Video partition on 7.95GB dual-layer Xbox 360 discs for "anti-piracy security sectors." The new format in beta either minimizes or scraps that partition entirely, freeing those precious sectors up for developer use.
What that means to you or me is anyone's guess. Final Fantasy XIII on two discs instead of three? Three discs with less crappy video compression? Extra songs in Dance Central 2 by Lady Gaga and Nelly Furtado?
One thing seems certain: The extra storage space probably wouldn't be used for high-speed transfers, says DF, referring to a principle of optical media known as "constant angular velocity," whereby data in the outer portions generally transfers faster than data stored near the center.
DF speculates the Halo: Reach giveaway (for selected participants) may in fact be a move to test the new format's performance in the wild, though that sounds a bit dubious. Microsoft's labs almost certainly retains duplicates of any Xbox 360 DVD drives yet employed in production units, and would have the ability to perform far more reliable, deterministic tests on site.
Why would Microsoft toss its anti-piracy measures away now? Xbox 360 games are routinely broken down and uploaded to torrent sites, sometimes days or even weeks in advance of retail launch. It stands to reason Microsoft's giving up on the old scheme and dropping in something better.
In fact hackers are already rubbing their palms together. One named "Commodore4eva" wrote on IRC that the new anti-piracy scheme is called "xgd3," and goads Microsoft to "bring it on."