The next generation is nearly upon us. The Wii U will release this year, and Microsoft is all but certain to announce their next console at E3. Sony claims to not be playing that game, and while I don’t expect a new console from the at E3, I’d be surprised if they didn’t at least hint at their plans for the future there. Which can only mean one thing! It’s time for rampant unrequested advice from us pundits! In this two part series will first explore what we would expect to see as standard from next gen in general terms from the industry, and then what each of the major players needs to do, in order to shine their brightest.
If there’s a time to establish a new intellectual property, it’s at the beginning of a generation. Early on in a new console’s life, everyone who is buying is the core gaming audience who eat this stuff up, and aren’t afraid to take chance on a new IP. So why not give them what they want? Something fresh, something new. In more than ways than one.
Aside from just providing them with a new game in an existing genre, what about new genres? Or old genre’s that have fallen by the wayside? Or even doing existing genre’s right? There are numerous examples of each, for instance, RTS on console has gotten some good entries, but there is so much more that could be done there. Space combat simulators don’t exist on consoles anymore, and Classic Adventure games barely do so.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for existing genre’s, but fresh takes on even worn out genres would be welcome. Mirror’s Edge was an interesting take on platformers and FPS’s, and if there’s any genre that needs some radical overhauls, it FPS. The genre has been far too common this generation, with too little innovation. Different weapons, different maps, different amount of health, same basic gameplay. It’s time to shake things up. There have been a few series that have tried to push the boundaries, it’s time they pushed them further.
The Last Great Visual Leap
Graphics have evolved great over the last 30 years in gaming. However, it may finally be time for that to slow down. The visual leap from beginning of last generation, to the end of this one, was not as great as the end of the 32-bit generation to the beginning of last generation. Which means it’s likely the beginning of next gen, will be the last generation with a major leap in visuals, for the most part.
However, can that be so? It looks like the console makers may not be so keen on the idea of monster powerhouses next generation. Perhaps it’s a push to save money? Traditionally, many console makers have sold their consoles as loss leaders, making their money on software and, more recently, services. However, last generation, Nintendo showed that it’s possible to sell a console at a profit, by cutting costs and still sell well. This leave next generation with the ultimate conundrum. Stick with the old model? Or gamble on the new?
I say, stick with the old. At least for one more generation. The problem here is, the sale of the Wii last year was a one trick pony. The sales were to casuals who, now satisfied with their purchase will remain satisfied for a long time. Even Nintendo has recognized by re-focusing on their core audience. Though they haven’t given up their hopes of capitalizing on last generations market. However it may cost them, since I believe this generation will likely consist very largely of a bigger group of core gamers than ever before.
This means, they expect a graphical leap, and a big one. Yet, there isn’t much left to pull out of these things. What would a console that was a generational leap beyond Crysis at max settings look like? Damn near reality. Can they do that next generation? I don’t see why not, at least for Microsoft and Sony. Since it’s been such a long generation, they could make machines considerably more powerful than 360 and PS3, without having to invest as much as they would have had the new generation begun two years ago. Will they do it? Rumors abound, but no one knows for sure.
Features and Extras
Despite some resistance, the gaming consoles of this generation have become more centralized media hubs than anything else. Everything indicates that this trend will continue well into next generation. So I say, if you’re going to do it, do it right! And while the current generation machines have a good start, there’s always room for improvement.
For instance, haven’t you ever wished you could catch that perfect gaming moment you will never be able to replicate again? Sure, some of you might have a capture card, or maybe you can shaky cam capture it. Or if you’re luck, the game might have a replay feature, which you can save. But what if, systems game with a built in capture card that you could enable at will? What if you could then edit and upload captures straight to an online service? Or even better, what if all games game with an in-engine capture feature like Bungie’s Halo series? How amazing would that be?
Or what about the ability to remotely access and manage your console from anywhere? From your phone? Your tablet? Maybe even have it stream live video and controls. Imagine, for simple games, being able to stream them from your console anywhere, using a service much like OnLive, except served by your own internet connection and console? At the very least, the console management portion would work for everyone, and be very useful.
Or how about, and this is a pipe-dream, but seamless cross-platform gaming? At the very least between PC and Consoles? Not likely. Between PS3 and Xbox? Nigh impossible? Between each companies mobile offerings and their consoles? Now that one is a possibility and one that should be seriously considered.
So how about you? What things would you like to see as something console makers take into consideration next generation? Maybe new control schemes? Or something else? Let us know in the comments below.
Next week, we get more specific. We cover the major players, and a few of the not so major. We’ll point out their strengths, weakness, and offer some constructive criticism. Stop on by next week on Tuesday for the conclusion.