Like anti-virus/spyware software and virus/spyware definitions, we should allow for datafile-only updates, allowing for more timely updates (not tied to a software release). A software release would bundle the latest datafiles.
One approach would be to move these to a pseudo-plugin that could be updateable via #1116
The data files are loaded by core/Common.php, e.g., getContinent(). Moving to a plugin breaks the design.
It makes more sense for #1116 to offer delta releases, i.e., package only the changed files; the update script would delete any files that have been removed.