This year marks a change in our industry and it’s leaving many gamers, including myself, feeling uneasy. Ever since the home console was introduced, gamers have had a very consistent ecosystem. A company will release their newest game system and this is what their future game releases will be played on. When the Super Nintendo was released the Nintendo Entertainment System was dead, or at least on its last legs. These stretches between new consoles were called generations. About four to five years in a generation, gamers would start to anticipate what the next generation or “Next Gen” would bring. After a year or so of waiting the new game system would be revealed and all the gamers would go buy that new piece of hardware. The cycles ran like clockwork, with only a few exceptions, and this is how the console gaming life cycle worked. This all changed with the latest generation. The PS3 and Xbox 360 saw the longest life cycles of any game system. They each lived on store shelves for roughly ten years and in some form both systems are still being sold. Because of the long life cycle; PC gaming flourished. PC gaming is an ever-changing landscape with new graphics cards, processor upgrades, memory upgrades, and more. Your PC could always be upgraded to be the best on the market, while PS3 and 360 were losing more and more ground. However, all hope was not lost. Myself and the majority of console gamers were eagerly awaiting the announcement of the next PlayStation and Xbox and we wouldn’t have to wait too much longer. The magical year finally hit. The PS4 and the Xbox One were announced. Console gamers rejoiced while PC gamers looked at the specs and thought that will be outdated in a year. However console gamers didn’t want to hear it. These consoles were now as powerful as a respectable PC and that was all that mattered. Sadly though the PC community was correct.
Now here we are, about to celebrate the third birthday of both the PS4 and Xbox One but instead of celebrating we are preparing for the next console announcements. During E3, Microsoft announced Project Scorpio. Scorpio is a big step up from the Xbox One and rumored to be more powerful than the leaked specs of the PlayStation Neo. Both of these systems are new iterations of the current systems on the market. This type of business model has never been introduced into gaming until now. Never before have there been two systems that ran the same games on the market under the same name with one being more powerful than its older counterpart. It’s true that home consoles have seen redesigns before, but not to this extent. When a console had a redesign, normally it’s called ‘slim.’ The Xbox 360 S still was a 360. However, these new systems will be a step up from the current model on the market. Games will run better, load quicker, and process faster. This new method of releasing better versions of current gaming systems will be very similar to cell phones and many people are already comparing the two. When Apple launched the iPhone 6 it was arguably the best smartphone on the market, but roughly a year later Apple released the iPhone 6S and have done similar scenarios in past iterations. Yes the phone is better, but you do not need to necessarily upgrade. Apps run better on the 6S, photos are more crisp, and there is a new function with the touchscreen. However, your iPhone 6 can still run all the apps, and take amazing photos. There is no real need for an upgrade. This is the mindset we need to take with the new consoles.
The PlayStation Neo seems to be a slight upgrade from the original PS4. The system may cut down some load times, and produce better graphics. However, I predict the main reason for this system is to combine the PS4 with the break out box that comes with PSVR (PlayStation VR). The breakout box is needed because the standard PS4 doesn’t have enough processing power to run PSVR. With the Neo having that built into its architecture the PSVR can drop the extra box and be sold as just the headset at a lower cost to the consumer. This prediction fits nicely into the iPhone 6 to iPhone 6s theory. The Neo will be slightly better with a new feature, PSVR. However, what Microsoft is doing is slightly different. They too are gearing for VR with the team up of Oculus Rift. Yet they are building a console that is much powerful from a hardware standpoint currently available on the market. From the rumored specs of the Neo, the Scorpio will be about four times more powerful. This is no simple step, this is more of a leap. Now we won’t know just how powerful the Neo is until the PlayStation Event (later today). However, regardless of the specs of the Neo, Xbox has made a bold move. The Scorpio is powerful enough to distance itself from the Xbox One. I know many of you are excited about this: bigger is always better, but because of this leap in hardware I have concern for the market.
Your iPhone 6 can still run all the apps, and take amazing photos. There is no real need for an upgrade. This is the mindset we need to take with the new consoles.
Microsoft said on the E3 stage that the Scorpio will not replace the Xbox One, but live alongside it. They stated that all Xbox One games coming will be on both the Xbox One and Scorpio. This is good news for the millions of Xbox One owners, but this is a cause for concern as well. With the market split so much with these new consoles we have three bleak options. Xbox One will suffer from very poor ports of Scorpio games, Scorpio will take a long time to reach its potential because it will always be held back from Xbox One, or developers will be forced to make two separate games. This is essentially what happened every time to old hardware (last-gen). With the release of the Xbox One, Xbox 360 games became the lower model because the new system was the main focus. Although there may be a good option, and this is the one I find the most likely with this new business model. Much like PC, developers will create one game and that game will run at different specs. This will mean if you have a Scorpio or Neo it will be like running a game on PC at max specs. This is the future of console gaming, and the end of the next gen. We will never see a PS5 or the Xbox 53 (makes sense right? Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox 53). You may be wondering how then will we know what is the higher end console and the older console? This is something I will assume will be resolved by the specs on the side of the box, along with price. However, if we do see the consoles named it will be similar to Apple and how they named their phones the iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6S. This doesn’t change the fact that the phones all can run the same apps. The phones will eventually fall off, the iPhone 4 and 4S will not be supported by Apple in the near future. With phones, the operating system is the same across all phones in the same family (Apple/Android) but newer generations run it better. This will be the end of next gen and the console wars will go into a Cold War like state. This will be an unprecedented step in console gaming, to blur the line between console and PC and this is only a good thing for the gamer.
You may be asking ‘What about the game?’ ‘Is this good for the game?’ Personally I think it is. Games will no longer have a ceiling. Once a new graphics card is on the market, or a new processor is available there will be a new PlayStation, Xbox, and PC to run it. Games in the future will no longer have an Xbox One, or a PS4 on the case, and I feel the same will happen for the systems as well. Soon the PS4 will be known as The PlayStation, and the same for The Xbox. This is because the platform won’t have a new iteration, but gradual upgrades. This is something gamers will need to get used to. From now on you will need to gauge if you need the new systems by looking at your current situation with gaming. If you have The Xbox (Scorpio) you probably won’t need the next Xbox, however the Xbox after that you might want to jump into. Again, similar to smartphone release cycles. I skip a generation to get a new phone every two years, and this will be my approach with my gaming consoles. For a consumer to buy a new PlayStation or Xbox every iteration will become extremely costly. There is no harm in waiting until you can’t wait any longer, or until you system breaks. Game on your console until you start to notice your system becoming slower, or until you want a better gaming experience. This is when you should plan to get a new console. There is also a slight chance retailers, Sony, or Microsoft will have trade-in program, where you can trade in your current system for money off the newest model. If they do its up to the individual to make their own decision for the system they want.
There is no harm in waiting until you can’t wait any longer, or until you system breaks.
We won’t know for certain what the future of console gaming will bring. Until we know what the PlayStation Neo will be and we get more information on the Xbox Scorpio, the future is cloudy. What we do know is this will be new ground and new adventures for us as gamers. We will have to be as open minded as we can as well as critical. Just because this is a new form of console gaming it doesn’t mean it won’t be good for our medium. Gaming is alive and well and Sony and Microsoft are trying to keep it alive. By the end of September we will know more about PlayStation Neo and the future of Nintendo. This is an exciting time to be a gamer with unknown announcements on the horizon, and I’m glad to be here with all of you on this exciting journey.
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