Next Gen -- No Thanks

Over the past month or two there have been a lot of rumors and rumblings about the long-delayed “next gen” round of consoles. Lately talk has swirled of a 2012 holiday-season launch for a new Windows-driven Microsoft console. And, to be honest, it kind of makes sense. Now that the Wii has opened up the race, certainly competition cannot be far behind. I assume even gun-shy Sony will eventually get into the act.

As far as I’m concerned, this is all very disappointing news.

I realize now, only too late, that I don’t actually want a new console generation at all. In fact, I can’t think of a single thing that the current console generation should do that it currently can’t. I actually don’t really want any more graphical whizbangery — Battlefield 3 has shown me that the current gen can look too close to real as it is. Online integration is as fully featured as I need it to be. I could probably move to console-only media consumption and be happy enough, particularly once Microsoft's Live update adds even more functionality. My systems already integrate just fine with my computer and other home media. And the games for these systems are getting really, really good. Last thing I want is to go back to 3 years of developers trying to figure out how to make the tech work.

You know what, Microsoft. Keep your Xbox 3 — somehow I keep forgetting that the 360 is actually only the second MS console — I don’t want it.

I imagine being a man dying of starvation and being handed a slightly burned grilled-cheese sandwich. What kind of fiery core of desire would that spark? How the imagination of that taste would stir even as I was lifting the blackened bread and molten cheese to my mouth. I would revel in ecstasy as the charred bread scratched my soft palette, and the bubbling dairy singed my taste buds.

I can even imagine somewhere many years later half-heartedly enjoying a similar sandwich, now a thing of mediocrity, and being offered a tender, perfectly-cooked steak. “Yes, please,” I would say, already reaching hungrily for this clear upgrade. And, sure, obvious metaphor is obvious, but now in this modern age I’m already eating steak. I can no more easily imagine something better than this grade-A cut of Xbox-loin or Sony-rump-roast than I can figure out what my shadow looks like in the fourth dimension.

Hey, I know you’re eating steak, but here’s some steak with cool new salt! No thanks, bud. I’m good.

There is, of course, a hazard in throwing down this kind of gauntlet before the announcement of an announcement has even begun to form. Given that my resolve to pass on Uncharted 3 lasted for a good solid zero days, the likelihood that I will be tempted down the line is probably better than average.

That said, I have to occasionally be reminded that Nintendo has a successor to the Wii in the works. Even though I read a dozen articles on the machine when it was announced, I couldn’t tell you anything about what I read except I vaguely recall that there was a touch pad or a motion sensor or something. Maybe there are a lot of people quietly (very quietly) getting excited for this console, but what I know is that they aren’t writing much about their excitement.

“Well,” you might say, “there’s no new information to talk about, so why would anyone be writing about the …” what the hell was it called again? The Wii U or something. Sure I could have looked that up, but the point is that I would have had to look it up. Also, since when has not having anything new to say ever stopped an overenthusiastic internet from writing about stuff? Maybe there will be buzz down the line, but right now there’s more buzz in the passenger side speaker of my Camry than there is about the Nintendo Whatever That Thing Is Called.

And for that matter, the chatter for a new MS console seems almost perfunctory. I’d guess this may be the first some of you are hearing about it. Like Arbor Day, it was one of those things that we all knew was going to come around again at some point, and presumably someone was going to let us know, but really it’s not something we get particularly worked up about. I don’t remember the same kind of disengagement when whispers of a new Playstation or Xbox began to bubble some eight or so years ago.

A lot can change in a year. Or even two. What I’m hoping is that when the specifics start to come to light, I’ll get it. “Aha,” I hope to say. “It delivers medically prescribed pleasure-photons directly into my retinal-joy-receptors. Yeah, I get it.”

What I’m afraid of, though, is that all the perennial titles really digging into their prime now will be all but discontinued — except for FIFA, because FIFA releases on everything — and we’ll have a year of wondering when something we’ve heard of before will actually be released for this new brick of wires sitting in my living room. The idea of paying $500 for the pleasure of three months with nothing but six or seven launch titles to play makes me curl my lip in disgust.

Console launch mania is so 1995.

Maybe Microsonydo can convince me otherwise with some clever marketing, or even better some actually good ideas. I have my doubts.



I couldn't agree more. Large publishers are already losing money hand over fist trying to make titles for this generation. The only thing the next Xbox and PlayStation are going to mean are even bigger budgets, less risks being taken and thus, less innovation. And it will mostly be in the name of achieving higher fidelity graphics which I doubt most people will care that much about anyway. All of the other things that have been thrown around such as free-to-play support and whatnot could all be integrated into the current line of systems and don't require new ones.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

I couldn't agree more. Large publishers are already losing money hand over fist trying to make titles for this generation. The only thing the next Xbox and PlayStation are going to mean are even bigger budgets, less risks being taken and thus, less innovation. And it will mostly be in the name of achieving higher fidelity graphics which I doubt most people will care that much about anyway. All of the other things that have been thrown around such as free-to-play support and whatnot could all be integrated into the current line of systems and don't require new ones.


I say bring on the next generation. I've read enough post mortems to know that there is still plenty of technological leaps that can be made. I'd definitely like to see an end to DVD/Bluray as a means of getting games.

I'd love a simple direct to console system, not that play the game on someones server BS, but just a system that quickly gets you games. Excellent pre loading capability with buffering so that if you want a game , you don't even have to wait an hour on a fast connection to play it, its most likely pre loaded for you and what's left will just buffer in after a few minutes of play. Kind of like TIVO for gamers. You like RPGS? well the console pre loads 50% of the top played RPG games so that if you decide to buy it you only need to wait like 10 minutes to play.

hardware is tricky, i think every 3 years is a good time to force an upgrade. Even if we think games haven't even capped the potential of whats there, let's just move on for the sake of moving on. Let's not get complacent. Let's keep pushing those talented developers to learn new tricks.

I suspect Microsoft will hold off on the next Xbox until Windows 8 has been seasoned a bit and they've tried to get into the tablet market, so they can position the Xbox as a device you can use more as an entertainment/home media platform, rather than just a gaming device. Don't think next year is soon enough to do that, really. It's got to be more than just a gaming box at this point, though; the future is going to be linking systems with online delivery of content to multiple platforms, and they need to get Win8 established before doing that.

Hear hear, Sands! /pounding of fist on table

All I could really want right now is a redesigned 360/PS3 that would allow user-upgradeable RAM (and third-party HDD upgrades for the 360 would be nice). Graphical whizbangery and developer know-how is at a peak we can ride for a long long time. Some more RAM to take full advantage of this peak, and cheap easy HDDs for the download future (or texture packs), are all the average consumer needs right now and for the next n years.

In fact, that sounds suspiciously like Apple. And when I upgraded my wife's three-year-old MacBook with 4 GB of RAM (up from 1) and a 320 GB HDD (up from 160), all for $120, it was like a brand new machine. Simple upgrade, no fuss, and back in business.

That's all I want from my consoles.

And frankly, I'm afraid of the next console generation because I'm afraid for all my digital purchases—backwards compatibility, account/console licenses. Am I going to lose access to all my XBLA games? Some of them? If games transfer will their DLC? What about my 10 GB of Rock Band tracks? For that reason alone, I'm happy to put off the next console generation for as long as possible.

I couldn't disagree more. Bring it. I have been ready for two years.

I bought the Xbox 360 about a year after launch. The time since then has been a major gaming renaissance in my life, because it has been a succession of games that have, each in their turn, become the best games I have ever played.

The Xbox 360 gave me a hardcore gaming experience in a very simple package, that, at one time, packed quite a punch in terms of hardware horsepower (thanks to Epic). Hell...the reason I am on this very site is because of the Xbox 360. I am ready for the next iteration.

Hardware is important in gaming. Who knows more about computer components, besides the people who build them, then gamers? There is a reason for that.

A new console? I still have games i my backlog for the current systems I own. The only benefit I see to a new console generation, is the discounted prices I would get on games for the previous generation.

Yoreel wrote:

A new console? I still have games i my backlog for the current systems I own. The only benefit I see to a new console generation, is the discounted prices I would get on games for the previous generation.

No, they would still cost $60. But the next-next-gen ones will cost $70.

While I think improvements in graphics hardware are finding diminishing returns with current visual media there is a lot of room to radically change gameplay and game distribution. I suspect game companies know this after the success of the Wii and XBLA and the push for Kinect / Move / PSN. I expect to see new consoles in the next couple years heavily focused on those areas.


It's time. There's no need for the console makers to get crazy creative, just update all the hardware to the latest and greatest. The graphics are really showing their age. While some games look great, it's mostly Tom foolery to make it happen (like blurring most of the scene but making the gun and character crisp). I could easily spend 199-299 next year to have a console with updated features, built in wifi and HD, and backwards compatability.

I mean, nvidias mobile chip Tegra 3 smokes the consoles... And it's 1 little chip that does double duty.

I'm the person in the corner wildly excited about the WiiU. Why aren't you hearing more? Frankly, the gaming press is a bit sour on Nintendo after it printed money but failed to give them a hardcore console they could give a sh*t about.

But I'm enthusiastic about it. My guess, thanks to mrtomaytohead pointing out an incredibly obvious pattern, is that it'll launch around this time next year (Sunday before Thanksgiving, 2012, mark your calendars), and I'm already planning my gaming year around it. But the WiiU makes more sense to me as something to get excited about than an Xbox 3 or PlayStation 4. I don't get excited about graphical upgrades and all that jazz. It'll be nice that the WiiU will output in 1080p and all that, but what has me excited? The games.

Nintendo always makes good games for its systems, and I'm excited to see what they do with their latest weird little console. A touch screen controller with a camera in it? Sure, why the hell not. I'm sure they'll make some kick-ass games for that controller and that console.

I can't see what Microsoft and Sony have to offer me except for graphically rich versions of what they're already making. And while that's something to get excited about, I'm hardly slavering for it.

On a serious note - I will find a donkey and punch that son of a bitch in the nose if my achievements and gamerscore don't transfer to the nextbox.

Seriously, I will punch a f*cking donkey.

SallyNasty wrote:

On a serious note - I will find a donkey and punch that son of a bitch in the nose if my achievements and gamerscore don't transfer to the nextbox.

Seriously, I will punch a f*cking donkey.

Not only will the achievements not transfer, but all the games you've played will stay in your history, so your completion percentage will be completely shot UNLESS YOU REPLAY THEM AAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!

Oooooh, and I though Halloween was a couple weeks ago.

Nay and nay on a new console generation. I hope this one sticks around for at least 3 more years. At least!

I see no point in newer consoles with slightly perceptible upgrades in graphical output.

Hell, the only real reason why Nintendo is bringing out the Wii U is because the Wii, quite honestly, has been steadily losing steam on account of their mostly lackluster game library and the fact that the console itself is little more than an upgrade over the Gamecube.

No, no, no, no, no.

No new consoles for a while, please.

Console launch mania is so 1995.

Couldn't agree more.

The launch of a new generation was kind of a big deal to me. Consoles had a certain exoticism to them, they were strange devices far from the land of the PC. Or maybe I was too young and buying into the SNES/N64/PS1/PS2 hype. In any case, I think the cell processor is the last of a dying breed. Looking back at the fanfare the last console generation has been announced with, it's easy to get cynical. At this point, what is there to look forward to, besides a snapshot of PC hardware evolution thrown into a box that fits under a TV, with perhaps a few gimmicky accessories on the side for good measure (innovation! 3D?).
I don't expect anything ground-breaking for the new generation. Hence the lack of curiosity. Maybe we are indeed content. But I hear a lot of people are tired of upscaled games.

For the new generation I'd love a console not necessarily powerful but instead that runs quietly.

On the other hand, the current consoles are holding us back a little. I'm always OK for more trees in my Elder Scrolls or more shadows in my Deus ex or Thief.

I seem to recall hearing some very similar things the last time a big new console cycle rolled around (with the slight exception that a lot of people still held out hope that Nintendo's newest gimmick would herald great things for the industry).

Better graphics? Whatever, God of War 2 looks amazing on the hardware we have now. High-def? Who cares, my TV doesn't even support that. Hard drives? Yeah, that'll be nice I guess, but how many people actually use their Xbox 1 hard drive? Online? It's good that Sony's finally catching up to Microsoft on that, but get real, anyone who wants to play online is already doing it on their PC anyway. I hear neat things about this Nintendo Revolution gyroscope controller thing, but other than that, the seventh generation of consoles sounds like a whole lot of ho-hum, more of the same, and at three times the price at that.

It's not that I'm getting bonerrifically excited about the new console launches, because launches have always and will always suck. I'm excited because a new console launch period is a necessary first step toward the point where actually good, actually new stuff starts coming out, and I'm pretty ready for that. Ready enough, even, to spend a year or two catching up on back catalog stuff and maybe even picking up that one current-gen console I don't already have on the cheap and playing through its exclusives I missed out on while I wait for the Gen 8 consoles to get their sh*t together post-launch.

I'm right there with you, Elysium. When I look back at my favorite games from this past generation, I don't see too many of the pixel-pushing AAA titles. Halo: Reach and Mass Effect 2 are the only big ones, off the top of my head. Instead, my best gaming experiences have come from games like Portal, Braid, and Bastion - notably, games that weren't considered graphics powerhouses but which instead brought a new maturity in storytelling and execution of novel game mechanics. Or games like Rock Band, which at the very least delivered the latter.

Will I buy a new console if and when the next generation arrives? Sure... eventually. Once the prices drop. If there are games I want that are only available for the new consoles. But I haven't seen real innovation from the Big Developers in the areas of game design that I care about for years now, and I have little faith that they'll suddenly start writing great stories or designing revolutionary mechanics just because Microsoft or Sony delivers a shiny new machine with HELLA PROCESSING POWAH.

As a developer, not having to work with six years old technology would sometimes be a boon. Lack of memory is a constant problem.

But really, I'm much more interested in a change in the gaming landscape that comes from content and consumer behavior. We're seeing smaller games gain a lot of traction, and I want to see more of that. I want to see the PC come back as a mainstream platform. I want to see Macs and Linuxes get their game on.

I don't want to see the death of the blockbuster game, but I do want to see people willing to part with their money on the strength of an interesting, well-made game, not necessarily one with a spot-on, multi-million marketing campaign.

Games marketing is still horrible. People not in the hardcore are generally unaware of all the cool games they could play.

Games media is still horrible. As an adult who's all about games, finding high quality discussion on games is frustrating.

But I feel most of that is changing. That change is what excites me, not the up-speccing of consoles. That will happen, too, and hey, whatever.

I saw that picture and started pulling out my bat'leth for a discussion of the new Star Trek movie that's in production. I'll go put that away now.

As far as the real point of this, yeah, I'm less than enchanted with the concept. The equation for what drives me to purchase the new hardware has had some serious shifts in parameters this time around.

Heck, I just got a 360 slim (and Metal Gear Solid HD collection to play on it). My pile is deep and lustrous, even without what tonight and next Tuesday are going to do to it's height and my budget. It's going to be a while before I'm ready to move forward.

And I'm worried about backward compatibility both locally and on Live. I do use both quite a bit. The story on that is going to weigh heavily on my decisions.

momgamer wrote:

And I'm worried about backward compatibility both locally and on Live. I do use both quite a bit. The story on that is going to weigh heavily on my decisions.

We were talking a bit about this in IRC. The only company I trust right now to get backward compatibility completely right is Nintendo. I have no doubt that the WiiU will play all Wii games and support all Wii peripherals as advertised. I have no such faith in Microsoft after the horrible backward compatibility they were selling with the 360. I'm sort of gearing up to find out that my arcade collection is pretty much gone or functionally unplayable.

A new console generation allows publishers to take chances again as it is a prime time to introduce new IP's. Sure, there will be developers that play it safe but consumers are more welcome to change at the start of a new console launch.

Developers want better machines because it allows them to expand their medium. Skyrim is releasing this week and it's an incredibly ambitious open world RPG. But how much did Bethesda have to scale back their ambition because of the hardware? How much did they have to scrap because there wasn't enough RAM or CPU power? Heck, just adding more RAM to the current machines would be a big help.

These machines are 5+ years old. When they were introduced multi-core processing was just on the rise. Now I have a multi core GPU in my cell phone. I'm all about new systems and progress can't be stopped anyways.

SallyNasty wrote:

On a serious note - I will find a donkey and punch that son of a bitch in the nose if my achievements and gamerscore don't transfer to the nextbox.

Seriously, I will punch a f*cking donkey.

if gwj starts getting new traffic from people searching for "donkey punch", we know who to blame.

I think there is still room for growth in consoles. Developers have mentioned PCs are some 10x faster than the current console generation, but still have to code with consoles in mind because they are the dominant platform these days. Once we get consoles that can do any game in 1080p at 60fps, then I'll feel like we can take a rest.

Visual fidelity may be topping out (it isn't really: we don't know how good things can get until we actually see it) but I believe there is vast uncharted territory in terms of next-gen design. Artificial intelligence has a ways to go and we're still only scratching the surface on the overall scale (both in SP and online) and complexity of our games

I'm OK with the idea of next-gen hardware within the next 2 years with the idealistic caveat of wanting to see a sort of "design renaissance" take place before then. What does this mean? It means that I'd like to see a handful of studios put out some games based on smart, innovative design as a last hurrah for the current gen of consoles.

Doing this, however, doesn't really prove anything useful. If publishers put out profitable, ground-breaking games this late in the hardware cycle, it serves as a case against next-gen. It just shows how much life is still left in our old boxes by doing more with less. If publishers can't come up with anything other than more sequels, then the incentive for next-gen consoles is just to repackage everything in nicer clothing.

So... what am I saying? I don't know anymore.

I would like a new round of consoles so the lowest common denomination is higher and PC games get gimped less.

Sure, some devs go the extra mile for the PC port (BF3) but most don't (Rage!).

I'm sure Skyrim will be amazing based on DX9 tech but I can't help but to wonder how much more the devs could do if they weren't tied to 6 year old pcs.

Another thing I would like to see from the consoles (and we don't necessarily need a next gen box for this) is downloadable games at launch. Buying games on a disc is pretty 2005 itself!

I don't know why we're all worrying about this. There won't be any new consoles released since I have it on good authority that the world is supposed to end next year.

Personally, I want a console refresh. Not, you understand, because I really care about consoles at all, but I'm getting mightily tired of the craptastic hardware in the current gen consoles holding back advances not just in graphical fidelity, but game-world fidelity. I've got 16GB of RAM in my system; there's no reason I should be confined to a game-world area that can be held in half a gig of memory just because that's all the consoles can do. Give me a world where I can walk through doors, rather than loading through them! Take one of my cores and dedicate it purely to AI and pathfinding routines! Make 1080P the baseline standard for resolution!

I've made peace with the fact that game makers are, for profit reasons, going to cater to the console buyers. I just want the consoles to be somewhat less of an anchor on game development than they currently are.

In addition to the comments on graphics, and how graphics cost money, and the cost of doing business, really what it comes down to from my point of view is doing something new.

There's going to be some people that are happy with the same games but with flashier graphics (I'm trying to do this without saying "just get a PC"), but at what cost? The PS3 launched at $600 and games are heading north of $50 (US prices), how much are you comfortable paying for the same game with more sparkly bits? That is assuming it's for the same game, as with higher budgets comes the demand for a broader audience, to sell to more people to break even, which few enough games do already. Where's that point?

Enough with graphics, what new thing can they do? How about adding all the motion control functionality into the base units. My impression is that most developers are quite happy making the well known, safe and comfortable gamepad controlled games, and motion control hasn't set the world on fire, yet. Adding more features to the base increases the price and complexity.

So what if they don't make a powerhouse, and it's a slight evolution on the formula we've got now. They need a big prestigious entertainment box to sell, and the software to pull in the money ongoing.

In short, it kind of seems to me that consoles have written themselves into a corner. I'm not the one that's got to conceive the next big thing to convince people to part with their money though.

There are three main problems in the current generation:

1) Limited RAM;
2) Limited storage space. The PS3 has all the space it needs, but it ends up being functionally limited to the 360's DVD space, because separate textures would be too expensive.
3) Weak/oddball CPUs that are incredibly good at matrix operations (ie, putting shiny on the screen) but pretty rotten at everything else. This sharply constrains the kind of games they can do; AI code in particular is weak and slow on that kind of processor.

The graphics are actually still reasonable, although it would be nice to have enough power to do 1080p really well, something roughly comparable to a 6950 card from ATI. Of course, those cards cost $200 all by themselves, so that may be wishful thinking.

Put 4 gigs of RAM in there, improve the CPUs so that they can run branchy code properly, and maybe give it a graphic update, and a whole new class of games will become possible. They don't even need to be that much more expensive to develop for... with better CPUs, they can go for 'interesting' as opposed to 'shiny'. Shiny is kind of all they can do in this generation, and most of the time, that's what drives the development budgets through the roof.

Traditionally, consoles have been fairly comparable with a decent gaming PC when they first ship, so if that holds true, you should see something with maybe Core 2 level CPU power (preferably quadcore; you can get C2Qs in a 65W package), probably 6870-class graphics (not as good as the 6950, which is what you really want at 1920x1080), and probably, realistically, 1 gig of RAM. They're always stupid about starving their consoles of RAM to save money, where if they'd just put a gig in the 360 and PS3 to begin with, they wouldn't need to update them now. If they'd put 4 gigs in the new consoles, they might actually get ten years out of them.

A system like that would absolutely kick ass and take names. It would stomp all over the current machines and snicker. And you'd have a hell of a hard time differentiating it from a $1500 PC in most respects. They'd be able to run games that are every bit as complex and interesting as the best PC stuff ever done, but would have the advantage of the simple OS and guaranteed hardware, so things would just work, no fussing about.

With that kind of hardware, the limit would mostly be imagination and budget, rather than technical specs.

We are way over due for our next cycle of "THE PC IS DEAD!"

Honestly, though, I do hope they come out with something. As long as the console market is using ancient hardware, the games on the PC really won't push far beyond (despite what is possible).

Give'em more power to do more things with AI and have more memory/storage for digital downloads. It'll be better for me in the long term.

It seems like the console guys and PC guys have some common ground here. They both want new consoles with beefy hardware specs.

Today is a rare and beautiful day.

Is there really a market for games with sophisticated AI? How did Call of Pripyat do?