There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the half-step console approach Sony is taking. Is this the future of console gaming? I believe it is whether you like it or not. Is a change like this completely foreign to us? No, and I will explain why.
If you look at every electronic device you have today there is an upgrade for it every one to two years. Your PC, router, phone, tablet, TV, stereo, streaming boxes, microwaves, stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, cars, etc. Upgraded technology is the standard around us and consoles have been the exception to the rule with the longest life cycles on the same tech. These longer life cycles can be an advantage in some ways with games looking better with time because of game engine refinement, devkit improvements etc. Long life cycles can also be a disadvantage example being the PS3. At the end of the PS3’s life so many features were crowbarred that weren’t part of the original plan that the console ended up being a laggy mess.
I have been a huge supporter of console gaming most of my life but I still see the advantages of PC over consoles and vice versa. I’m not too stubborn to see the which way the wind blows and accept the direction it’s headed for the most part. Change in technology will happen whether you oppose it or not. Take for instance when Xbox unveiled the Xbox One with its DRM and always online policies. A huge uproar in the console community, even I jumped on that bandwagon, it probably cost Microsoft their strong position in the console market. Fast forward to today always online gaming is happening more and more with games like The Division, Destiny, Need for Speed, Elder Scrolls Online. Going a little further back I remember when Sony took flack for game installs on the PS3 which are a standard now even for physical games. Digital games are another feature that console gamers adamantly opposed yet it’s becoming the standard anyway.
While reading about the uproar and opposition towards Sony’s PS4.5, codenamed PlayStation NEO. I was wondering why nobody seems to be looking at the bigger picture. Is what Sony doing really a stupid move or is this where the console industry as a whole is heading? Lets dig down and see what we might be in for with the future of console gaming.
At the Xbox Spring Showcase event keynote Microsoft’s head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, spoke about future innovations of hardware in the console space:
“We see on other platforms, whether it be mobile or PC, that you get a continuous innovation that you rarely see on console. Consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation. Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger. And then you wait for the next big step function.”
“When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform.”
Call me crazy but that sounds a lot like what Sony’s PlayStation NEO is trying to accomplish. You better believe Microsoft has similar plans. Judging by pressure from investors to kill off Xbox, Windows integration and Xbox exclusives headed to PC. Combine all that with the reports of Microsoft testing new prototypes “with upgraded components you’d use to improve the performance of a PC gaming rig” and the next Xbox might just be Microsoft’s version of a Steambox.
Now lets take a look at Nintendo since they’re on the verge of releasing their next console dubbed the NX. Not much is known about this next edition but as the rumors have it something very different is being developed. Nintendo is going through some major changes and most of them seem to point towards a new network structure and the NX console. One constant remains with the rumors is the NX will be compatible with multiple devices be it mobile, PC or other competitors.
Very interesting report by @gibbogame: Nintendo's NX may work with smartphones, PCs and even rival consoles such as PlayStation4.
— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) January 20, 2016
If the New 3DS is any indication of the direction Nintendo is heading then they are inline with Sony and Microsoft’s vision. Although Nintendo should have never made exclusives for the New 3DS which, judging by the rumors, is where Sony seem to have a better approach planned being game released will need to support both the original PS4 and the PlayStation NEO. Setting a standard rule like this has already given me faith that Sony is being careful not to alienate the current PS4 user-base.
Just recently Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry outlined “the rules of engagement” for developers. Among the highlights list dual shock 4 remains the primary controller, 1080p is the mandatory minimum display resolution, no online segregation between consoles, save data systems are cross-platform and forward compatibility patches are for old games only. The list also goes into more detail covering specific software functions, game compatibility and peripheral support. You get a sense that this was well thought out and designed to keep players from both consoles gaming together.
You can clearly see console gaming is evolving and there will be growing pains but people will adapt. All those angry people that just bought a PS4 nothing will change for you. Keep your 6 year life cycle and get the next half step forward. Better products launch all the time and sometimes it happens right after you buy what you thought was the latest but at least with this half step console your old tech is still relevant, you’re still playing with your friends and when you decide to upgrade your games and peripherals will still work.