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.


Scratched wrote:

It's sidestepping the question, but two aspects that affects the income from game sales has to be the larger audience it has now, and also the new ways of charging people for games.

Number one is questionable but I can see your point that because of ease of distribution and the larger audience $20 games can make pretty much any developer of any size a good profit with a healthy margin. But the fact that the mega blockbuster games with the huge budgets can still be sold for the exact same price is a testament to the value one can get from video games.

Number two I can't get with. Subscription gaming has been around since the dawn of games and DLC is largely optional in all cases.

Not sure if we are ready for a full fledged Xbox 720 thread, so this will have to do.

Microsoft plans to release a next-generation Kinect device so accurate it can lip read, sources have told Eurogamer.

Kinect 2 will come bundled with future Xbox consoles, we understand.

The intention is that Kinect 2 will offer improved motion sensing and voice recognition.

One development source told Eurogamer that Kinect 2 will be so powerful it will enable games to lip read, detect when players are angry, and determine in which direction they are facing.

Kinect 2 can track the pitch and volume of player voices and facial characteristics to measure different emotional states.

The current Kinect is hamstrung by having to pass data to the Xbox 360 through ageing USB technology - an issue discussed by Eurogamer last year.

When Kinect launched in November 2010 the depth sensor was set at a 30 frames per second limit and a 320x240 resolution limit. The issue relates to the USB controller interface, which is capable of around 35MB/s, but it only uses around 15/16MB/s. This artificial limit is in place because multiple USB devices can be used at once on an Xbox 360.

Kinect 2, however, can feed the next Xbox more information, and thus a higher resolution CCD [charge-coupled device].

Microsoft plans to launch two very different versions of the next Xbox, according to a Digital Foundry report on

The first is described as a "pared down machine" to be released as cheaply as possible. It is likened to a set-top box, and will act as a Kinect-themed gaming portal.

The second is a "more fully-featured machine" with optical drive, hard disk and backwards compatibility. This would be aimed at hardcore gamers and released at a higher price-point.

Jayhawker wrote:

Not sure if we are ready for a full fledged Xbox 720 thread, so this will have to do.

Hmmm, depending how they're aiming the 'lite' version it might be okay, if it's just for media or they set a distinction of 'lite gaming' with less 3D. I suspect they'll try to have their cake and eat it though.

Different SKU's are never a good idea.. unless of course they arent different SKU's so much as completely different devices with different audiences in mind.. I can totally see a more purpose built Kinect powered "media" hub for those consumers that really just want a media center like device for $100ish.

But hopefully the "gaming" device is a single all encompassing platform that developers can count on every consumer having that.

TheGameguru wrote:

Different SKU's are never a good idea.. unless of course they arent different SKU's so much as completely different devices with different audiences in mind

I imagine it will be comparable to the difference between the Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire. Both include the brand name, but are different devices for different uses, with significantly different prices.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

It's happened almost every time-- my console of choice this generation was the PS3, which exists on these forums mostly as a punchline or a blu-ray player.

You should play my PS3, it's awesome.

The only console-ish device I plan on buying anytime soon is the PlayStation Vita.

I said the same thing when i had my PC jr back in 1987. "How much better can it get??" I look forward to the new technology. The fact is current gen consoles are holding back PC games due to the porting of games. If the lowest common demoninator (weak console graphics) gets upgraded, it will be that much better on the PC.

To reference your pic of STNG, until i have a Holodeck, im not satsified.


TheGameguru wrote:

Can someone explain to me how games have gotten more expensive to the consumer as consoles have increased in capability? I see people throw out that the next gen will bring higher prices for games.. yet games are still the exact same price I paid for them back during the Atari 2600 and on.

I mean even some SNES and Genesis games retailed for $79 and those weren't even collectors edition.

And please don't give me the DLC argument..

They don't even seem to be keeping up with inflation.

Of course, I'm guessing that the marginal cost of cartridge-based games with huge manuals was much higher than dvd/bd based games with little teeny manuals, so that might at least offset inflation.