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The next-gen video game consoles are almost here, with both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 due to be released before the end of 2013. We’ve taken a first look at both consoles, with Matt explaining why he’s firmly in the Xbox One camp PS4 vs Xbox One: 5 Reasons To Buy The Xbox One PS4 vs Xbox One: 5 Reasons To Buy The Xbox One This year's E3 felt almost like it was over before it began. Though the conference lasts for days, both Microsoft and Sony made their announcements before the doors opened, showing not just hardware but also... Read More , and myself explaining why I’m firmly in the PS4 camp PS4 vs Xbox One: 5 Reasons To Buy The PS4 PS4 vs Xbox One: 5 Reasons To Buy The PS4 E3 2013 marked the moment when the next-generation truly began, with all three contenders -- the PlayStation 4 (PS4), Xbox One, and Wii U -- revealed in full. The Wii U is already on the... Read More . But to be honest, both deserve a place underneath your television.

A new generation of consoles obviously brings better visuals with it, but graphics aren’t everything. While previous console generations relied rather heavily on improvements to how the games looked, this one is set to value a wide variety of other features above pure aesthetic appeal.

What follows is a list of five key features the next-gen consoles are set to bring with them, all of which are likely to have you salivating at the prospect of obtaining one or both of the previously mentioned machines.

Video Streaming

While non-gamers will no doubt wonder why on earth anyone would watch someone else play a video game, it happens, and with increasing frequency. Gameplay videos are watched by millions of people on YouTube, and live streaming footage of people playing games How to Live Stream Your Gaming Sessions How to Live Stream Your Gaming Sessions As we enter our month of gaming giveaways, it seems only appropriate that we look at the delicate art of live streaming PC and console games. Although it's difficult to understand why anyone would want... Read More can be viewed on the likes of Twitch.tv and other sites.

The next-gen consoles are catering to this demand, with both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 constantly recording gameplay in the background. The Xbox One will reportedly save the last five minutes of footage, while the PS4 will save the last 15 minutes. This means that if something awesome happens within the game, you’ll be able to share it with other like-minded individuals in an instant.

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Social Networking

This brings us neatly onto social networking, which is going to be built into both next-gen consoles. The PS3 and Xbox 360 already have some social features, including chat functionality and Trophies/Achievements, but these are going to look petty and underwhelming in the face of what’s to come.

We don’t quite yet know all of the details, but it looks clear from what we have seen so far that both consoles will let you plug into various online social networks The Positive Impact Of Social Networking Sites On Society [Opinion] The Positive Impact Of Social Networking Sites On Society [Opinion] Social networking isn't for everyone, but it's now such a massive part of all our lives, whether we embrace or reject the notion, that it can no longer be ignored. But are social networking sites... Read More in a big way. This will make it easier to connect with your fellow gamers online, meaning multiplayer matchmaking will be easier than ever.

Multiplayer Madness

Speaking of online multiplayer, this is one area which both console manufacturers (and the game developers who support the consoles) are keen to improve. After all, a good multiplayer experience can mean the difference between a mediocre review score and a near-perfect 9/10 (that some people will disagree with 5 Beloved & Acclaimed Games That Are Incredibly Overrated 5 Beloved & Acclaimed Games That Are Incredibly Overrated Reviewing something, whether it's hardware, software, art, or an experience, is a deceptively tricky thing to do. You have to try and put aside personal biases and focus on the actual positives and negatives of... Read More ).

The processing power of the next-gen consoles will make multiplayer matches more epic than ever before. Rather than having dozens of people in a single match we’ll see hundreds (or even thousands) competing in the same environment and on the same server. And if the developers do their job properly, bugs and glitching should be reduced as well.

Improved AI

It doesn’t seem to matter how powerful games consoles become, how good the visuals look, or even how moving the storylines are, the AI of NPCs is often shockingly poor. Take The Last Of Us, for example, which has everything going for it apart from some woeful AI from the people travelling with your character.

Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic here but I can’t help feeling there will be significant improvements made to the AI in next-gen titles. The developers can no longer blame a lack of resources, so if an Xbox One or PS4 title does feature poor AI it will be as a result of programming inadequacies.

Epic Scale

Last but not least is a feature that could be argued comes under the general heading of “visuals.” But I think it stands out on its own, disconnected from the unimportant graphical improvements the next-gen will bring. I am talking about scale, a small (rather ironically) part of any game which actually has a big bearing on how a game makes you feel.

Some PS3 and Xbox 360 games have been able to show off large environments and give the player an impressive sense of scale, but these games are few and far between, and include moments picked out to show off a setpiece rather than sweeping, ever-present portions of the games. The next-gen, however, should allow a sense of scale to shine through unhindered in every single game.

Conclusions

As someone whose desire for better visuals has waned over the years, these features are the real reasons I’m now psyched at the prospect of playing next-gen titles on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. After all, some of my favorite gaming experiences in recent years have come from playing games which value everything else above mere graphics.

Are any of the features listed here enough to get you excited about the next generation consoles? Are any of them — particularly the video sharing and social networking aspects — actually turning you off from making the leap to the new hardware? What other key features are you hoping the next generation of games consoles bring with them? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credit: -EMR-

  1. Adam
    August 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    I agree that these features are what next generation consoles need to keep the gaming experience alive. On the other hand I disagree that graphics aren't important. You can't say that graphic improvements are not important as they use to be. People want realism in every game. To feel like they are apart of something big or important for a couple hours out of the day. Maybe it is my generation where we couldn't wait for the next arcade game to hit to see how cool it looked and pump that extra quarter in it. I am excited that from what iI have heard, PS4 has claimed that this console will be smooth running and extremely fast. I like the live gaming s streaming and as a fan of BF3 and COD titles, the multiplayer improvements are very exciting. Finally we are getting consoles which will be able to compete in the arena of PC's....or did I just start an argument with that statement. thank you for the article it was definitely a great insight!

    • Dave P
      August 2, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      My point about improved graphics is borne from the fact that indie games are experiencing a major resurgence, and visuals are usually the last thing on the minds of indie games developers. Sure, for the big franchises with direct predecessors improved visuals are expected, but I really don't think they're as important as they were a couple of generations ago.

    • LegacyUntouched
      August 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Comps will always have the upper hand sadly. More companies develop software and hardware for computers yearly not just for gaming but for all sorts of programs and media. Consoles have limitations, where as a Computer does as well but I can at least expand those limitations. once a console is pushed out, it doesn't change much until a newer console is released. with that being said, compare the jump from consoles since the 64. the biggest advance I can see is the ability to match make. being able to play online with players from around the world is at its basics, the improvement consoles have made. I have to agree with Dave P. graphics are no where near as important as the ability to play socially and in a community. I always bring up how playing with a friend in the room on a separate TV and console is more fun than inviting to an Xbox live party but its all opinion. i play console strictly because I feel the social aspect is better than the Computer. The Variety of gamers on console is more vast than Computer in my opinion.

  2. Thicky
    August 1, 2013 at 3:32 am

    Your third, fourth and fifth points fall under the same category, and it overlaps with the graphics aspect. This is all achieved with the improved processing power. Your article is incredibly unprofessional and your're writing this from the perspective of a true layman. Of course, that is your target audience, but it is a little infuriating for the some of us.

    • Dave P
      August 1, 2013 at 3:39 am

      Massive multiplayer matches and improved AI don't have anything to do with graphics. AI especially is about capturing the essence of human behaviour and visuals don't enter into it one iota.

      We write for a mix of laymen and experts, offering a little for both ends of the spectrum. I'm sorry you feel I got the blend wrong on this occasion, but hopefully you'll find other articles more to your liking.

  3. Sheldon
    July 31, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Open world games seems to be the norm next gen, and I approve :). That was a lot of the reason why I fell in love with GTA games. I liked being in a big world, where I can go almost anywhere.

    • Dave P
      August 1, 2013 at 3:35 am

      That's a good point. The more processing power developers have the more they can build living, breathing worlds in which you can do what you want.

      I hope linear games aren't abandoned completely though, as they tend to have the most compelling stories.

      • Stone Dragon
        August 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm

        I agree that linear games shouldn't be completely abandoned, but I would kill to see a Red Dead Redemption remake or sequel on the PS4. It was beautiful on the PS3, but struggled at times with frame rates. The story line sucked me right in and I felt like I was there. I want more of that on next gen as well. Along with another Fight Night Game to pick up and play for fun :)

        • Dave P
          August 2, 2013 at 6:54 pm

          Man, I really hope Rockstar are working on a RDR sequel. That game has the perfect blend of linear story and open-worl options.

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