Why Next-Generation Games Consoles Can Wait [Opinion]

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video game consolesThe current generation of video game consoles – the Wii, the PS3, and the Xbox 360 – have all been with us for some time. This seventh-generation began in 2005 with the release of the Xbox 360. The Microsoft console was joined by Nintendo’s innovative new motion-control-based Wii and Sony’s more-of-the-same PS3 a year later in 2006.

By industry standards this is a long-lasting generation. Gamers are now champing at the bit to get their hands on shiny new video game console. With the Wii U already on the way, and successors to the PS3 and Xbox 360 definitely in development, they will get their wish very soon. However, I am in no rush to see the next-gen emerge from whatever rock it’s lying dormant under. Here are five reasons why I’d like to hang on to the current-gen just a little longer.

Launch Games Always Disappoint

video game consoles

The games available to purchase at a new console’s launch are almost universally bad. There may be the odd good title in there – Perfect Dark Zero on Xbox 360, Resistance: Fall of Man on PS3, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on Wii – but even these exceptions lose their sheen a few years into the console’s life.

The reasons for this are simple: developers rush to get a game, any game, ready for launch; they invariably struggle to properly get to grips with the new hardware. This not only means they don’t take advantage of the new hardware capabilities open to them, they also make mistakes. So, launch games are, at best average, at worst glitchy and generally grotty.

Couple this with the fact that games released at the end of a console generation tend to be some of the best yet seen (for the exact opposite reasons as those outlined above) and the case for holding back begins to take shape.

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Hardware Failures

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The start of a new generation of video game consoles brings with it the probability of new hardware failures. It has happened before and I’m sure it will happen again.

The Xbox 360 is of course the main culprit here, at least in the current generation. Early versions of the Microsoft console had a high failure rate, with the user’s first indication there was a problem being the infamous Red Ring of Death. The reason for the RRoD hasn’t ever officially been revealed but it’s believed to have been as a result of cost-cutting by Microsoft; designing the graphics chip in-house.

I don’t know about you but I’m not looking forward to a similar thing happening next time around, whether the company at fault is Microsoft once again, or Sony or Nintendo instead.

Paying For New Hardware

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Even if the new hardware is perfect and failure-free, it still costs money to buy in the first place. Money that many of us haven’t got at the moment thanks to the continuing financial crisis. New hardware costs money, and companies tend to charge a small fortune at launch, knowing the hardcore, early-adopters will not be able to resist jumping on board.

I would rather be spending that cash on new games than a new machine to play said games on. The PS3 cost $599 in the U.S. at launch. With the games retailing at $59.99 that was 10 titles worth of my hard-earned cash spent on upgrading from the PS2. The same will be true for the PS4. The longer I can get away without having to shell out such a sum of money just for the opportunity to play new games the better.

Anti-Used Games Measures

game consoles

There are rumors that both Microsoft and Sony are planning on building measures aimed at killing, or at least mortally wounding, the used games market into their next video game consoles. They may ‘allow’ Gamestop and the like to remain in business but they want developers and publishers to get paid for every sale, whether it be new or used.

Microsoft’s plans for the Xbox 720 (codename Durango) haven’t been revealed, but Sony’s plans for the PS4 (codename Orbis) have. The new console would require all gamers to be online and have a PSN account which a new game would sync with. Buy it used and you’d have to also buy a code to unlock all but the most-basic of content. Mere rumors at this stage perhaps, but it would be a believable endgame from what has already happened.

Many in the industry hate the fact there is a such a thing as a market for used games. In an ideal world they would like you to buy a title brand new and then keep it forever. Or just bin it when you’re done with it. Their argument being that while the physical media may be your property, the actual content on the disc is merely licensed to you.

There have been attempts during this generation to limit the appeal of buying used – offering extras to those who buy new, only allowing the original purchaser to play the online multiplayer portion of the game – but Microsoft and Sony (possibly in some kind of mutual agreement) could be about to up this effort a notch by using the hardware against those who buy used. A development I’d rather not see happen for as long as possible.

Incremental Upgrades

video game consoles

There is one indisputable reason why this generation has already lasted longer than any other: the pace of change in this particular sector of technology has slowed down. The jump between some generations has made a vast difference: from 2D to 3D, from cartridge to disc, from offline to online. No longer.

It could be argued that motion control was a big innovation, but that has already arrived. Nintendo put it front-and-center with the Wii and the gamble paid off. Microsoft and Sony then copied them. Kinect will be an integral part of the next Xbox, Move will possibly an integral part of the next Playstation. But that change has already occurred. What else can we expect?

The obvious call is for better visuals. But hasn’t the success of the Wii shown that visuals aren’t everything? Gameplay and storyline, which some developers seem to have forgotten how to institute, are more basic tenets of great games. I would rather see these being improved than the eye candy being ratcheted up a notch.

Conclusions

This opinion piece may make me come across as a backwards-looking fool settling for what I have rather than imagining a glorious future. And that may well be the case. But I have been bitten before, and bitten hard, by the bug which makes us all look to the next big thing.

In the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii we have three video game consoles which appeal to different demographics. And there are still great games being released on all of these machines. I’m settled, I’m happy, I’m a seventh-generation console kid (aged 34). I’m happy for that to remain the case for the foreseeable future.

As always we welcome your comments on the article above. Do you agree or disagree with my views? Feel free to let me know either way. Opinion is free, discussion is good, debate is healthy.

Image Credits: DieselDemon, DavidHT, HowardLake, Seth Werkheiser, Radly J Phoenix

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