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(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[ 😀 ], 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.


Price

 

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.

Processor

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.

Ram

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.

 

 

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  • Sean
    October 13, 2012 at 12:49 am

    You know, I wanted to respond seriously to this article but I knew from experience I’d simply get downvoted for sounding like an @ss.

    I’ll just say I disagree with most of this article and leave it at that.


    • October 13, 2012 at 10:56 am

      Feel free, I’m sure you can without sounding like you suggested.


    • bleachorange
      October 13, 2012 at 7:41 pm

      backwards compatibility is important, but really, you can simply keep your existing console to ensure your games work. unless, of course your console is on it’s last legs as mine was (and decided to trade it in before the fan whirs no more and the disc-loader gets stuck closed for all time). such is the price one pays for a refurbished system, I guess.


  • Kelsey Miller
    October 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

    This is a topic that is popping up more and more frequently as console power is beginning to level off; there’s only so much room for improvement with our current hardware, and I think we’ve reached a point where most new titles are touching on that upper-limit graphics and processing wise (though I only dabble in hardware… just calling it as I see it). I’m not sure that I’d say next year is when they’ll strike, or at least not Sony, but whatevs.

    This article did a great job of touching on many questions and issues in regards to the next generation of consoles; however, I’m not certain that I agree with many of the points.

    Price-wise, I can easily see a more-than-$300 launch, or at least for the PS3; when the 360 launched at $300 at the end of 2005, the US was going through something of an economic slump in that final quarter. Then, we went through the whole “uber terrible” recession ordeal. Gamers still found the dollars to pay for their hobby throughout both.

    Since then, we’ve seen inflation. I’d say $300 is the low end of an estimate for the next, bare-bones Xbox. Companies know we’ll be willing to pay that and more. People shell out $400 for an all-the-bells-and-whistles 360 right now (including things like Kinect, 300+ gb drives, etc). It seems safe to say a next gen high-end could hit $500.
    I could argue about those losses Sony was said to have taken in the production of the PS3, but I’m just going to say, they’ve shown their willingness to push a strong product despite the blow-up of price. And they came out on top, with a decently strong customer base and victory over the HD-DVD campaign.
    And while tech prices have gone down for what is in current consoles, they’re going to be pushing for more memory and better, newer hardware components, which will counter and perhaps even make irrelevant, any price drops.

    Backwards compatibility – a lovely thought, but companies get away without worrying about it. There are so many ways to program and store a game, even with the more linear nature of consoles, that it’s difficult to push. And sometimes, a jump in coding and storage methods simply do not allow for easy ways to connect to outdated ones. I can see the reasons and cut the industry slack in this regard.

    Ah, I’ve already written a long textbook analysis… I guess I’ll cut myself off here. It’s just, I’d like point out that so many other articles out there base their opinions off of the opinions of other articles which base their opinions of yet other articles; it’s what kills journalism and brainwashes both the writers and readers. I like that the author threw in his own opinion here. I just feel he may have let his sun-shiny, optimistic attitude as a hope-filled gamer get the better of him.

    PS- What I’d really like to see next-gen is the refinement of what we have now. Things like motion controls have a lot of potential if companies would get their acts together and perfect their usage of them. Games such as Skyrim, Fallout, and Day Z push our concepts of open environments and how realistic a single-player RPG or an online MMORPG can get. I want to see these things continue to evolve, and want consoles with specs geared toward that. I don’t need anything mind-blowingly new and different. I don’t need new DVD player hardware or some other crazy new idea; I just want a bit of evolution.


    • October 14, 2012 at 12:07 am

      It seems like the meat of your article is that consoles will push higher than $500 dollars and that backwards compatibility isn’t a necessity.

      The games you mentioned, like Skyrim and Fallout, are perfect examples of why Backwards Compatibility matters.

      Those games could be played 5 years from now, and still be considered excellent. Heck Fallout 3 is from 2008, and when you play it, it plays like a 2012 game.

      The answer for why that is,is simple, because Technology is super cheap and super powerful.

      Software is now lagging behind Hardware, and developers have more to work with than they need. The next consoles will prove this point even more as I’m sure they’ll easily last 10 years., the WII U included. The power is just extremely hard to max out.

      My 2006 Dual core PC is still running ahead of most computers and it’s 2012!!

      My 2009 CoreI7 is still better than 80% of computers out there, and this was UNHEARD of in the 90’s or 00’s.

      Given all these facts, Consoles can be cheaper and will be. 500 is a line I don’t think they’ll cross.

      Backwards Compatibility is a must or games like Red Dead Redemption and Skyrim, will be abandoned. Older Consoles will break down and won’t be replaced always.


  • bleachorange
    October 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    truthfully, i think that while the era of dvd is almost over, and blu-ray will be around for a while (but not too much longer), digital distribution is the platform of the future. physical copies will never die out, nor should they. steam, xbox live arcade, and PSN downloads are only getting better as services, and hopefully nintendo will get it’s act together with the wii u online offerings. netflix, hulu, amazon prime, and other services appear on your console that allow you to stream instantly from thousands of movies. all this will only increase as bandwidth, digital offerings (DLC,etc.), and internet service in general (worldwide here, i’m talking developing nations and rural areas) grow by leaps and bounds. i’m talking the next decade, not the next year.

    back to the moment. personally, i like to carry 50 HD movies around in an external hard drive the size of a wallet, plug them up to my PC and play them whenever I want (I save my PC storage for game installs). it’s quick and easy to do, and I only have to transfer them to a new device whenever I hit capacity. with terabyte hard drives costing $90, it’s a no-brainer. besides that, digital content is platform agnostic, aside from streaming services. pretty much every digital device made in the last decade can play either an .mp3 or .mp4 file, regardless of the operating system or device maker.

    quite simply, I see the general transition to digital as an easy way for people to streamline the clutter in their lives. imagine if you didn’t have bookshelves, because you own no books or videos, dvds, or blu-rays, but instead have it all on your devices. imagine never needing to swap out a disc to play a different game, but instead simply boot up your system (or console) and select the icon. imagine if all your books were e-books and you had access to them on your phone wherever you were, all the time. this is something i see many people transitioning to over time, though i doubt the complete abandonment of the printed word or disc-media will happen for many years, if ever.

    but as always, the world is driven by economics, and technology changes the rules of the game quite frequently. who knows what tomorrow holds? i feel sorry for paul atreides, because I don’t know the answer to that question. it’s exciting!


  • Daniel Flatt
    October 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    As far as price goes it all depends on what exactly 360 and PS3 do with their new consoles. I think it would be a mistake just slapping new graphics cards and processors in their machine so that games look a little prettier or can perform a little faster. Not when Wii U is providing an entirely new experience.

    Microsoft has more than once been seen talking about the next Kinect as much as the next Xbox. Personally, I feel Microsoft has put wayyyyy too much support into the Kinect as a whole, but I think they are ready to back this horse again next generation. That means, out of the box, there is no way that it’s going to hit around $300. I would be absolutely flabbergasted by that price. Sure, they could offer a 360 without a Kinect, but I still would be surprised if it hit at $300 or below.

    PS3 to PS4 again all depends on how they are shooting this next gen. I think they could be more comparable price wise to the 360, I really don’t think you will see the level of disparity price wise that we’ve seen previously. Sony is surely far too smart to be caught flat footed on a financial standpoint again this generation. They will price to sell, but again I would be surprised by a less than $350-400 price point.

    As far as backwards compatibility goes, I think it’s far less of an issue than it once was. First of all we were looking at a disparity between SD and HD and a lack of numerous ports on most TV’s for SD options on HD TV’s. This made it slightly more important to be able to play games on your other consoles. Just keep the console you owned previously in order to take advantage of the games. It’s tempting to trade to get 50 dollars off the price or so, but really it’s not worth it. Outside of Nintendo the backwards compatbility this last gen was pointlessly broken.

    My real question for both consoles is how long are they going to support XBLA downloads and keep servers up on older games? I own hundreds of dollars of XBLA games, how long are they going to support those or keep them up for download. When we talk about backwards compatibility, that’s what I’m really concerned about.


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