Genshin Impact’s sheer size is leaving mobile players behind

Genshin Impact’s sheer size is leaving mobile players behind

If you check the replies to any of the Genshin Impact Twitter account’s new patch pre-download announcements, you’ll see dozens of players anxiously awaiting information on the file size of the update. If it’s relatively small, people will reply with comments saying that they survived another. Other fans will post screenshots of their phone showing how little, or how much, storage they have left.

File size is a hot-button issue for fans of the large adventure game. When Genshin Impact came out, fans and critics alike marveled at its scope. At the time, it seemed unbelievable that a game critics likened to The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild, could run on a phone. Fast forward two years and it still runs on mobile, even as the open world has only gotten bigger. When its next big 3.0 Sumeru update launches, the game will consist of four massive and unique regions, along with special regional zones and unique story content for its ever-growing cast of characters. And while it might seem like a small issue, the size of each next update could make or break if certain mobile players will be able to play the game.

Genshin Impact is a massively popular game worldwide. A report from the analytics firm Sensor Tower showed the game made roughly one billion dollars every six months, the most revenue generated by gacha mobile title globally. This popularity is reflected in its vocal fan base too, as it was the most mentioned video game on Twitter in 2021. Because Genshin Impact is playable on mobile and free to download, it’s a pretty accessible way to play a large adventure at a reasonable cost. There’s no need to buy a console or gaming PC. Though the game can certainly become more expensive if players spend their money to buy in-game currency, and to try their odds at getting a specific character, and the game has been criticized by fans for its monetization model.

Developers must increasingly walk a tightrope between providing a steady stream of new content while staying playable on the relatively limited capacity of mobile devices. This has led to some growing pains for mobile players, who want to keep enjoying the game’s plentiful updates but run into storage space issues.

xiao standing thinking in genshin impact. the landscape of liyue is sprawling behind him Image: Polygon via Hoyoverse

Frida is a mobile player who’s been an active user since around the time of launch, in 2020. They told Polygon via Twitter that the main challenge isn’t how well Genshin Impact runs on their phone — the game runs great and they’re happy with it so far — but the fact that their phone only has 64 GB of memory. “I would go through apps I didn’t use anymore and delete hundreds of photos just so I was sure I would have enough storage for the updates,” they said.

The size of each update depends on the platform. Generally speaking, each update is several gigabytes, though the size varies. Calculating the file size for the update is complicated since downloaded files can replace old ones. So even if a download is reported as being around 6 GB, it could optimize or replace certain old files, meaning the final download actually takes up less than 6 GB of new space. Still, the general trend remains that the game has steadily grown in size. When Genshin Impact launched, Hoyoverse recommended that players reserve 8 GB for the game, whereas now it takes around 16.89 GB on my phone at time of publication.

The space issue is so common that it’s become an ongoing joke within the fandom. Every time there’s a larger update, the Genshin Impact community posts TikTok videos lamenting the update size or just bracing themselves for the size of the incoming file. Genshin Impact players who need to delete images or apps on their phone have become a kind of archetype within the fan community. (In addition to deleting apps, fans have also advised fellow players to clear their cache and completely reinstall it to lower the total amount of space it takes up, but this doesn’t make for funny video content.)

Just Lunning, who has been playing since launch, plays on both console and mobile. For him, mobile doesn’t match the feeling of playing on console, but he appreciates the platform for its convenience. “Mobile allows me to log in for a fairly low commitment session, supplementing my main play. I’ve never played on mobile for more than an hour,” he said over Discord. He doesn’t plan to stop playing on mobile, but maintaining the game has come with its own pains.

“Mobile phones are not built to contain anime boy adventures,” he said. Over time, he’s deleted other games, like Pokémon Go, Teamfight Tactics, and Mario Kart Tour to make space for Genshin. He said, “When I buy a new phone, one of the things I’m most excited for is getting some space back. My phone will be a phone again! Not some Genshin Impact device.”

Genshin Impact has even influenced the kind of phones players purchase. Sophie is a “proud” Ayaka main who has been playing the game for about a year. While she enjoys the game and hasn’t had any significant issues, she told Polygon via Twitter that “as more updates come out it does get significantly harder to play LOL.” She told Polygon that while she didn’t buy a new one specifically to play Genshin, she “did opt for the 256gb bc i knew genshin would take up a lot of space HAHA.”

That said, not all of the game’s updates are a potential drain on storage space. The latest 2.8 update, for example, features a temporary region that won’t be permanently added to the game. But this has also elicited a mixed response from fans, some of whom have voiced the opinion that the game would be better off fully expanding its size and leaving mobile users behind.

Polygon reached out to Genshin Impact’s developer, Hoyoverse, for comment. A representative of the company declined to send Polygon a comment on the matter, but said the team could share more in the future, during the 3.0 or 3.1 updates.

The mobile players I spoke to were clear: The game runs well on their phones. They like the experience and don’t have any major problems, whether it’s graphical performance or input lag. Given the game’s size, it’s still a marvel to me that Genshin Impact runs as well as it does on mobile devices. Whether it is the oozing dark depths of The Chasm or the glistening pools of Liyue, the game has always punched well above its weight for a free-to-download game. Now, it’s just a matter of how the game can keep it going.