Are The Next-Gen Consoles Arriving Too Soon?

Ever since the Atari was released in 1977, every eight years or so we’ve been treated to a batch of new games consoles. With each new generation the consoles become more and more advanced, with everything from graphics to loading times receiving dramatic improvements. Without reiteration of consoles we would be stuck with the grossly limited processing power of the Atari. And I can tell you, Uncharted just isn’t the same in 2D.

But though new consoles effectively enhance the gaming experience, there are those who would contend their arrival. New consoles, they would say, are all very well, but to a large degree they are attempts by the developers to take advantage of the consumer. To play the latest games you need the latest system, and in this respect the consumer can be at the mercy of the developers. In theory, Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft could release a new console every couple of months outdating the previous console with each new iteration. Consumers would have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a new system several times a year if they wanted to continue to play relevant games.

The issue is many say that it’s a long time coming before current consoles reach their processing limit and become bottle-necks to game improvement. For instance Heavy Rain creator David Cage said just five months ago, “Are there technical things I can’t do on PS3? Honestly, no… When you look at the past, you realize that the technology evolved must faster than the concepts we rely on.”  He goes on to explain that he would be content to work on the PS3 for the next five years. If Cage is to be believed then Project Durango (the next Xbox) and Playstation Orbis/PS4, both of which are rumoured to be revealed at next year’s E3 and released later the same year, are coming far too soon. We as consumers are not getting our full money’s worth in terms of the investments we’ve made in this generation of consoles.

Of course there are those on the other side of the argument. The president of Gearbox (developers of the Borderlands series) Randy Pitchford said in regards to the next generation, “More power is always better. There’s always things we can do that we cannot do today that we can do with more power.” Pitchford and those like him would say that the next gen can’t come soon enough.

And then there are those who believe that the power of the current gen is low: But that’s just fine. John Carmack of id Software who’s games include Doom, Quake, and Rage, said “If you take a current game like Halo which is a 30 hertz game at 720p; if you run that at 1080p, 60 frames with high dynamic frame buffers, all of a sudden you’ve sucked up all the power you have in the next-generation…” He goes on to explain, “It will be what we already have, but a lot better. You will be able to redesign with a focus on D11, but it will not really change anyone’s world. It will look a lot better, it will move towards the movie rendering experience and that is better and better, but it’s not like the first time you’ve ever played an FPS.” In essence he is saying that though it may be time for the next gen of consoles, they are not what improve games; innovation is.

But let’s take a moment to look at some of the recent history of console generations. When the PS3 was released in 2006, we were promised “a ten year life-cycle.” If the rumours are true that the next Sony console will be released sometime next year, then we will only have been given a seven year life-cycle. However, Sony would argue that a life-cycle is determined by how long the platform is supported, not by how long it lasts before the next console outdates it, this was their rational with the PS2. Though in 2006 the PS3 dethroned the six year-old PS2, the PS2 still had a ten year life-cycle because games were released for it up until 2010. It’s an interesting rational, one that is not exactly easy to debate.

Ultimately, it is inevitable that at some point, though precisely when is in dispute, the PS3, Wii, and 360 will no longer be able to handle the new games that are released and become outdated, like the PS2 and original Xbox are inarguably now. Even if you’re working in the industry, developing the games, it’s hard to say whether or not the consoles are starting to show their age.

Do you think we’re ready for the next generation of consoles? Let us know in the comments.