Monday, November 11, 2013

The next next generation of consoles

So, here is the... 8th generation of gaming consoles for the living room.

Or is it?

Let's be honest, consoles stopped being all about the games some time in the last generation. Sure, it's what made them popular but Microsoft in particular wanted the Xbox to be a media hub for the living room, and the fact it played games was a nice-to-have.

Why? Well, digital consumption of film and TV has become huge and Microsoft, to their credit, saw that coming and wanted a piece of that action. Using Kinect to talk and wave your way through the latest episode of The Walking Dead is the way forwards... Well, maybe not but it's certainly a possible future.

With the 8th generation the plan was to talk that up and then mention the games. Microsoft made that mistake, then Sony mopped up afterwards (could have gone either way given what we've learnt the past year or so).
That much hasn't perturbed Microsoft of Sony from making out that, should you give in your crazy gaming ways, the new wave of hardware can also light the way to a better media experience.

Yet gamers want games. Despite the hardcore still preferring PC (well, duh), a console is a "pick up and play" device in a way PCs never will be and do occasionally come along with a game us PC owners will never see (Halo, Uncharted, I'm looking at you!).

And what's generation it will be! With hardware almost identical - and seriously, it's almost embarrassing, with both consoles both using AMD CPU (Jaguar) and GPU technology, alongside DirectX APIs I can see very little between these design studies that will make a lasting difference.

First run games are showing that the PS4 has an easier to write for RAM architecture that means we're seeing lower rendered resolutions in some triple-A games, but that will change in time. Those dedicated to one platform will ultimately make the killer, must own titles whereas everything else will be a little too similar for comfort.

Yes, the shared architecture is good for developers, but for us on the digital street, it's not so interesting. If you were around for the Amiga versus Atari ST days, or SNES versus Mega Drive arguments then you know what I mean. The "our console is the same!" arguement is unlikely to hold water... It'll be about those games again!

Personally, I never bought in to the media hub part. The Xbox couldn't stream what I wanted, and the PS3 interface is ugly. I hope that changes once the dust settles with the new kit so I can continue streaming via uPNP or watching Netflix in either device (yeah, we'll see).

Are you buying in to the next generation? Me... I'll wait until I see a sniff of Halo or Uncharted.