Spencer: SSD Can Be Used as Virtual RAM in XSX; I Like That Sony Is Investing in SSD for PS5 Too


An interesting statement from Phil Spencer on Xbox Series X using the integrated NVMe SSD as 'virtual RAM' was brought to our attention.

Now, admittedly the interview is a bit old as it was conducted at E3 and published in July. However, it seems to have gone largely unnoticed, perhaps due to its publication on a German website. We only just got to read it ourselves after a few tipsters (thanks, Tomasz and Mike!) pointed out its existence.

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It is, after all, still very much news as this is the most extensive explanation to date of alternate uses (beyond speeding up loading times) for SSD in next-generation consoles. Furthermore, Digital Foundry also posted its own speculation video on this very topic a few days ago, postulating that the Xbox Series X could be using some of the tech featured in the Radeon Pro SSG (Solid State Graphics) workstation presented a few years ago by AMD.

Without further ado, here's the translated interview excerpt where Spencer expands on the possibilities granted to game developers by Solid State Drive solutions.

Speaking to PC Games Hardware, Microsoft's Head of Gaming said:

Thanks to their speed, developers can now use the SSD practically as virtual RAM. The SSD access times come close to the memory access times of the current console generation. Of course, the OS must allow developers access that goes beyond that of a pure storage medium. Then we will see how the address space will increase immensely - comparable to the change from Win16 to Win32 or in some cases Win64.

Of course, the SSD will still be slower than the GDDR6 RAM that sits directly on top of the die. But the ability to directly supply data to the CPU and GPU via the SSD will enable game worlds to be created that will not only be richer, but also more seamless. Not only in terms of pure loading times, but also in terrain mapping. A graphic designer no longer has to worry about when GDDR6 ends and when the SSD starts. I like that Mark Cerny and his team at Sony are also investing in an SSD for the PlayStation 5, the engines and tools can implement corresponding functions. Together we will ensure a larger installed base - and developers will do everything possible to master and support the programming of these hardware capabilities. I don't have a PS5 development kit, I don't even think our Minecraft team does. But it will be exciting to see how the industry will benefit from the comprehensive use of such solutions.

The implications are potentially interesting for PC gamers as well. Will SSD drives become part of the system requirements? It's too early to tell for sure, but we'll keep digging into this technology which according to Crytek could be the game-changer for next-generation hardware.