Monday, August 13, 2012

Next Generation Console Analysis ~ Wii U / Xbox 720 / PS4

(A new Xbox is possibly on the horizon. Are you ready to shell out another 300 bucks though?)

A new article released by Gamespot seems to suggest a new Xbox is coming out in Late 2013 or early 2014. Being that we've heard the rumors for the past 4 years and there are still articles out there claiming the new consoles would come out in 2011[ :D ], we should take this bit of news with a grain of salt. For my younger readers that haven't heard that saying before, it simply means we should be more critical, and more skeptical, rather than believing this news wholeheartedly.

The announcement of new consoles brings up a Pandora's box of more question though. Assuming the news is true, are Gamers excited to see the new consoles hitting store shelves soon or are they weary over the last round of Console Wars? On another side question, who won the last console wars? Do Gamers even have enough cash to secure these new consoles if they come out? Will these consoles be more expensive; as we've seen happened with console prices jumping each generation? Do we even need new consoles? Has the PS3 really been pushed to its limits?

There are a thousand questions and I, like always, will try and answer them all thoroughly; just like all my other obnoxiously long articles :D. This is going to be a long read, so I hope you're comfortable and have some awesome cookies on hand.


Let's be honest here for a second, this really is all about price. Assuming the new consoles were going to be sold for $1, no one would keep their old Xbox, Ps3, and Wii. We wouldn't even be having this discussion. It's the price that's the big 1,000 pound elephant in the room, and it's our wallets that are running scared. That initial anxiety we feel when we hear about new consoles is always due to the insanely large amounts of money we pay, just to give us the opportunity to play the games we know we'll want to.

Now if you're a major PC gamer like I am, you slightly snicker and laugh like an evil Joker when you think of the console gamers having to buy a new console. But I can't join in this time as I feel their pain after many generations of console wars and I'm one of those suckers that ends up buying consoles as well.

From the news article mentioned above, it seems the price point for the new Xbox will be $300 dollars. That's good news, even if it causes a slight cringe. The original bare bones Xbox 360 was also $300 dollars and now years later as Technology has gotten even more affordable, we can reap those rewards and keep the same price for much higher technical specifications.

The PS3 on the other hand on launch was loosing money! It really was the Juggernaut of the console wars and you definitely got your moneys worth even if you paid $499 for the base version or $599 for the upgraded one. Both cost Sony nearly 800 dollars to make, and Sony saw it as an investment and was willing to take the nearly $2 billion dollars in losses to give its Gamers the most powerful console on the planet at the time.

No one really knows what the new Xbox or PS3 will cost, but I'm wagering that because Technology is becoming cheaper and because Gamers don't have the largest wallets, all companies will make a strong effort to keep prices down. My prediction will be that 500 dollars will be deemed unacceptable for a new console. This may not be the case, but with technology being how affordable it is, and Gamers being very picky in what they buy, manufacturers can simply not afford to alienate their consumers and charge exorbitant amounts for hardware. The PS4 may go for 400 but it would be a huge mistake to charge 500

Backwards Compatibility

Both consoles should make their consoles backwards compatible. Sony is notoriously known for not doing this for some versions of its console and it has lead to quite a few gamers being disillusioned and upset. When asked why some newer models of the PS3 could not play PS2 games, Sony simply told people to buy a PS2 and that it was still on sale. To be honest, it's cheaper to buy a PS2 and PS3 than to buy the expensive backwards compatible PS3's which I believe aren't even on sale anymore.

XBox 360 is also not backwards compatible with the vast majority of its games. When gamers buy a game they expect it to play on newer consoles as well, especially when the medium is the same. Both consoles used DVD interfaces. It's not like we went to a different type of cartridge.

The winner in all of these discussions is definitely Nintendo with their Wii. The Wii plays Gamecube games flawlessly and really shows how a next generation console should treat it's past generation sibling.

The DS also is a shining example of how to incorporate Gameboy games into a new handhelds lineup of entertainment.

Nintendo shows that developers can meet these issues if they truly want to. It's all about will and if willing Sony and Microsoft can make their consoles backwards compatible. Gamers across the world should protest if these demands aren't met especially because the gaming lineup on the Xbox360 and PS3 are tremendous and most people have hundreds of dollars invested in those games.

The PS2 btw was my favorite console and the feeling I got when I found out I couldn't play those games on my PS3 console was heart wrenching. It was extraordinarily brutal and as a result I ended up getting a PS2 to enjoy playing my favorite childhood games. But it's a feeling I never want to experience again. Gamers should not allow another console to be released without Full, and I emphasize the word FULL, backwards compatibility.

Who won the 7th Generation Console Wars

 If you just look at Worldwide sales numbers these are your figures:
  •     Xbox 360 – 67.2 million as of 31 March 2012
So you can see that Playstation and Xbox didn't get too much of a lead ahead of each other. It was really the Wii that destroyed the competition. I remember Wii fever when it struck. My family actually purchased the Wii first mainly because of my siblings. Plus the gaming lineup at the time was enough to satisfy the regular gamer. Sadly the gaming lineup of the Wii really dropped off a cliff only after a couple years and people really got discouraged by the Wii. A lot of people simply don't play their Wii anymore because there are no good games on them. All the best games sit comfortably with Sony and Microsoft.

Given that in depth analysis, you could say the Wii won early on but Sony and Microsoft have gotten the upper hand in the end even if they haven't sold enough consoles. Remember the Wii was sold to a demographic outside of just Gamers and that demographic doesn't need dedicated gaming consoles like the PS3 and Xbox. That's why there is such a disparity in sales numbers.

Has Nintendo alienated the common Gamer though for a more mainstream position? We'll know with the Wii U which is a much more powerful console and is already getting exclusives like ZimbiU that match the common Gamers taste.

Sales numbers though are only one metric for measuring success. Some say you can't even properly gauge who won the console wars; that there is no way to measure it. Given that all 3 consoles sell millions of games and make billions of dollars, I have to agree that it's very difficult to pick a winner when all 3 are living on cloud 9.

Do we need new Consoles?

There is a misconception I want to get out of the way when discussing if we need new consoles. The issue lies between data storage and processing power. Data storage is simply the ability of something to hold lots of information. Processing power though is the ability to sift through large amounts of information to get at some end goal. For your video card that means showing off those awesome graphics. For your CPU that means making sure you don't lag or stutter while playing the game.

Some people argue that because the PS3 has plenty of storage space at nearly 50 gigs on a two sided blu ray disc, we don't need to go to a new console. Storage space isn't the main reason why we buy consoles though. We want an amazing gameplay experience. As a result, people are willing to put in multiple discs if it means playing a game at a very high graphical setting.

So the real question is, how are the Xbox360 and PS3's video card and processor doing? Are they maxing out? Are they on their last leg?

Video card

The video card is probably the first thing that a new console will benefit from. Back in the mid 2000's video cards were VERY expensive. Even if you paid an exorbitant amount, you still got a subpar video card by today's standards. The GPU inside the video cards was also very old and dated.

Video cards nowadays are amazingly powerful and very cheap. Even getting an average one at 150 dollars will get you a super powerful 1 gigabyte stick of dedicated ram with a large GPU on the side.

So even if Sony and Microsoft get average video cards for their next consoles, that will still be a huge step up in graphical processing.


Processors have gotten even cheaper than video cards thanks to the smartphone revolution which forced manufacturers to go to extremes to satisfy our cell phoned creatures.

The Google Nexus, which is the leader in Tablet technology,  just as an example, has a quad core processor that runs at lightning speeds and has a 12 core GPU strapped in a tiny flat space.

All of this for only $199. That would have been unheard of in the early 2000's. Technology has really come light years from where we were and the main change has been Price. Price is important when it comes to consoles and it's the price of the new hardware that's so surprising.

This is huge for the next consoles because while their processors may not have been on their last legs, their video cards definitely were, and an upgrade in both would be a HUGE step up for gaming.


A 1 gig stick of ram used to cost more than 200 dollars. Then it become 100. Now, about a year ago, I bought 6 gigs of triple channel high quality ram for 100 bucks. Ram was a rare commodity and console makers had to decide on exactly what they could afford to put in there.

That's no longer an issue for new consoles. Lets take the Wii as an example. The original Wii had 88mb of RAM. The new WII U has 768MBs of ram which is nearly a full gig. That's almost a 10 fold increase!!

They could have put more but their GPU will do a lot of work without needing excess amounts of RAM.

The Xbox360 in comparison has 512 MBs of RAM and the PS3 has the same 512 MB. Both companies would have benefited from putting more but every bit you add increased costs dramatically. Nowadays since RAM is dirt cheap you don't have to make those sacrifices anymore.

Gaming Medium

Again we have to be honest here and mention that the gaming medium we've been playing on is finished. Its days are numbered because the DVD 9 which holds 9 gigs is simply not beefy enough. It needs to hold more and it can't. Some games have even been shipped on 3 discs.

Rage for instance is 3 discs on Xbox360 and 1 disc on PS3. The game was released last year. A lot of us love our Xbox consoles and like playing on Xbox Live as well but this gets all the more frustrating to do when you're juggling discs in the console. It also really breaks your immersion in a game when it asks you to switch discs.

Sony has the edge here because in 2008 it destroyed Toshiba's HD-DVD format competitor. Blu Ray won the format wars and as a result left Xbox and Microsoft with no competitors from which to buy from.

If Microsoft wants to have a larger disc from which to play games from it either needs to make a new format from scratch which would costs millions in Research and Development or it would need to license and pay Sony for the ability to use Blu Ray Discs.

Since Blu Ray discs are a long ways away from being maxed, Sony has no issues on the Gaming Medium front. But Xbox is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Predictably they will probably make their own format. It's hard to imagine them paying Sony for Blu Ray.

Gamer's Quandary

 Comics courtesy of BeUndertaker

The truth when it comes to the console wars is that Gamers don't want to choose. They're really in a quandary and their pockets get stabbed every time they delve into the issue of consoles.

Imagine for a second if you didn't have to choose. Imagine if all the console makers could come together and make one console that all games would be compatible with.

That's what Gamers want and that's why open source consoles like the Ouya are gaining popularity. It's probably never going to happen and profit margins as well as stock holders insist that making different consoles continues, but imagine a future where it was possible.

Even if we had to pay an extra 200 dollars the cost would be worth it because now you had one console for all your needs. Industry insiders agree that having one console is better for gaming in general as the linked Gamespot article explains.

Having many competing consoles has always been the Gamer's Quandary and as a result most gamers have to sacrifice one console for the other. For Gamers it was easy to sacrifice the Wii because of the gaming lineups of the Xbox and the PS3, but now that the Wii U has amazing console exclusives, this decision will simply get harder.

Most Gamers today do not own all 3 consoles. Myself and others are in the minority that own all 3. Which console will gamers sacrifice for the next generation? Might Gamers sacrifice two consoles, if triple A console exclusives dry up?

Final thoughts

What we've learned from this long discussion is that gamers really are split on enthusiasm for new consoles. On the one hand we have an issue with backwards compatibility and possibly having to say goodbye to our old generation games and on the other we have a very powerful system with great specs awaiting us.

Then we have the issue of worrying about prices, but then we think about all the new games we will get a chance to experience. For every positive there seems to be a negative and this has lead the gaming community to really fracture over the announcing of a new console.

Some of us are happy, others are slightly discontented, and others are simply numb. We buy consoles for the games so it's always one step removed from what we really love. No one really cares deeply about a processor or video card. They care about the memories they had with that amazing game which was silently rendered in the background by your console.

Gamers also would love to have a world where one one console reigned supreme and where all the console makers could work together to achieve some better end goal. But sadly such a world is just a mirage for now.

The final thought for Gamers is that they want the new consoles to come out well priced, with backwards compatibility, and with gaming in mind [Wii U controller and Motion controls are very much a fad].

If console makers keep these tenets to heart then maybe whenever the new consoles are finally officially announced, we'll be more excited and less apprehensive. The truth is our consoles are getting older and a replacement is due sometime soon in the next couple years.

My final advice to console gamers is to open up to PC gaming. Starcraft, Diablo, and more than a decade worth of amazingly fun games are there. Hopefully that can give solace to your wounds when deciding which console is right for you. Most gamers will not be buying 2 next gen consoles on launch day; let alone 3 being available in the future.

1 comment:

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