Even the most pretentious PC snob cannot deny the excitement surrounding a release of next generation consoles, without setting his pants ablaze. For most gamers, it is the equivalent of the Super Bowl and the World Cup finals combined. Sure, more and more powerful PC innards come out and enable us to up the resolution, all the time, but a launch of a new console is a particularly meaningful jump for the gaming industry. If nothing else, it is the time when game developers receive an implied kick in the butt to start delivering something different and more technologically impressive (whether they actually do so or not is another story).
With E3 2012 just around the corner and Nintendo Wii U already revealed, everyone seems to be holding their breath for that massive announcement from the other two. Not I. Not because I don’t care, mind you, I just know that it won’t happen. Yes, some major signs are there and nearly every game franchise of this generation has been milked to bloody nipples but there are very good reasons why I doubt that we will see anything new from Sony or Microsoft until the end of 2013, at the earliest.
1. Current Economy
The obvious first: our current economy–particularly with the US presidential elections this year–is like an RRoD’ed Xbox 360, wrapped in a towel: nobody knows if it will continue to work or for how long and very few would risk going out and buying a full-priced game, until the problem is fixed.
Is it just me or is that the same guy? ‘Cause that explains a few things.
Even before the 2007 financial crisis, the $400-$600 that Sony and Microsoft were asking for their new hardware (while still losing money on each sale) raised many eyebrows and middle fingers. If you are eager to shell out that much money on a toy today, you are either in the minority or you are not old enough to worry about all the crap one has to pay for on a continuous basis. Yes, kids still have plenty of pull when it comes to purchases of unimportant junk and nobody is starving yet (well… relatively few are in US…), but consumers have not had this much desire to save up in a long while so there are very likely to be many compromises in form of cheaper alternatives.
“Go ahead, pick any Kinect you want, son.“
That is not to say that there is no chance. If the iPad proved anything is that there are enough people with absurd priorities who will purchase the trinket they consider a “must buy”. All Apple had to do was identify one such group and target the weak spots. Well, gamers are just as irrationally devoted to their hobby as hipsters and we too might consider cutting food to start a “PS4 fund” if Sony is able to hit our glowing desire for awesomeness as expertly. PS Vita’s performance says that offering the same old affair in higher resolution is definitely not it. It needs to be something we haven’t seen before and cannot get anywhere else cheaper.
2. The Jump Won’t Be Worth It Yet
Of course, MS/Sony know all of this economy stuff. They realize that getting the most irresistible launch line-up is tricky stuff so the new consoles better be cheap. They could take more colossal losses to achieve that but they regretted their “sell at a massive loss” strategy last time. Today, such a risk would equal not replying to one of those Nigerian “Business Proposal” emails with accurate account information.
Doesn’t get more legit than that.
What will have to give is the hardware. MS/Sony will have to release what both sides can afford so don’t expect photo realism just yet. There are people who think that the famous demo released by Epic Games, called ‘Samaritan’–which ran on three Nvidia GeForce 580 GTX graphics cards–was taken from a next generation console title in development. Others think that these new consoles will completely max out Battlefield 3. In both cases, the answer is no. See, unless you know something most do not, to even build a PC capable of maxing out Battlefield 3, you are looking at a careful shopping process and a negative $1000-$2000, if you are lucky.
Someone spent $500,000 on this golden Wii and it won’t even run it on medium.
True, MS/Sony will not be buying their components at Best Buy but building a console is not as simple as ordering parts wholesale and assembling the units either. There are numerous research and development expenses that will need to be made up during the next cycle. Everything from the internal organs, to the controller design, to the integration of development tools needs to be painstakingly crafted to maximize appeal and usability. That is not to mention all the business related costs for planning and injecting the new consoles into the market successfully. In other words, things will add up unless there are cuts but then what’s the point?
3) The Addons
Last time I saw an E3 Kinect presentation, I pulled a face muscle cringing. I mean, even the world’s worst, most desperate actors looked uncomfortable performing those astoundingly facepalm-worthy scripts. As a couple of “typical” girls discussed how “legit” their gamerscore was, one could just see “think about the money” in their eyes, repeated over and over to dull the shame. Others just struck me as douchy jackasses who were simply told to be themselves.
Here, a voice off-stage is reminding the unfortunate black dude that they still have his family.
For whatever reason though, that crap caught on. People continue to buy into those new ways to play like a twit by the millions and that is a major new customer base for MS and Sony. Motion gaming is apparently a very lucrative segment and a couple of years is just not enough time to properly butt in. The actual gamer segment is still waiting on a decent offering of the more “hardcore” motion titles like ‘Sorcery’, ‘Project Draco’, and Crytek’s ‘Ryse’, while there are also more games to be renamed and resold to the casual crowd like ‘Zumba Street Hardcore’ or ‘Tennis Super Ab Challenge’, that they will undoubtedly eat up.
Not to mention the accessories, like these Move boxing gloves… WITH… PADDING…
The point here is that because of all these successful additions like the motion gaming, the various new Live/PSN services, TV streaming, 3D and all the other crap that you never asked for but that is being aggressively shoved in your face, there is still plenty to do and plenty to earn this generation.
4) Current Gen Still Has Lots of Juice
There is simply no need for another generation for Sony or Microsoft yet. For one, current games can still wow visually. Not only do even some older games, like ‘Uncharted 2′, still look damn amazing but some new and upcoming releases like ‘The Witcher 2′, ‘Bioshock Infinite’, ‘Assassin’s Creed 3′, or ‘GTA V’ are setting the bar even higher.
…and our jaws lower.
We don’t need a new console and neither do MS/Sony nor game developers. The install base is bigger than it has ever been this cycle, which benefits everyone. With over 100 million console owners or potential buyers, the game companies do not have to worry about pleasing everyone to sell their titles. This is why some of the most unique and quality games of last generation came at the end of the cycle (‘Okami’, ‘Shadow of the Colossus’, even ‘Metal Gear Solid 3′, etc.) and this is what we can expect to see from game developers now: more risky and ambitious projects. The big two are fully participating as well, with Microsoft only just hyping the next Halo trilogy with ‘Halo 4′ and who knows what else, while Sony is preparing another ‘God of War’ and a whole new major IP with ‘The Last of Us’. Why would they want to announce something that could take the thunder away from these huge upcoming releases of their own (not to mention the third party titles)?
Yes, PC games look a lot better these days but what else is new? Thing about PC’s is that there is never a limit to the visuals they can produce. There is always a bored basement genius who can slap ten graphics cards together inside his “PC” and mod Tetris to look like Gears of War 3 on steroids (or on more steroids). No matter what chip MS and Sony come up with, their consoles will never catch up so make best of what you have, I say.
The general consensus is that being first to a hardware launch is best, so most assume that MS and Sony have to drop something soon, now that the Wii U has been announced, but I do not necessarily think so. For one, everyone hates the “First!” guy. Two, it helped Xbox 36o against Playstation 3, sure, but those two consoles had always been expected to provide comparable experiences so it makes sense. With the Wii, Nintendo took a step to the side and repositioned themselves as the mysterious third guy in the drunk brawl of consoles, where the smiling weasel is the only one to come out unscathed.
It didn’t even matter that they launched a full year after Xbox 360 because they caught the attention of an entirely different crowd, for whom “Nintendo” is now Japanese for “the video game thing”. This crowd doesn’t care about graphics or horse power and will stay with Nintendo no matter what MS and Sony release alongside the Wii U, until more of them realize that there are other products out there that can burn ass fat better. That is the type of product that MS and Sony have just introduced and one they can still push further. After all, their motion gaming offerings have enjoyed an impressive performance, considering the fact that they have barely had any time and not even a fraction of the Wii’s diverse and high quality line up of exclusive motion titles. That is what happens when MS and Sony take their time to comprehensively analyze Nintendo’s new strategy and gauge public reaction before copying them, instead of rushing into it with dumb ideas and horrible PR.
Neither MS nor Sony can improve Kinect or Move drastically enough to one-up Nintendo right now so it would be smarter for them to compete on price with what they’ve got, for awhile, instead of spreading themselves thin by introducing a Wii U-like controller or an expensive “hardcore” console that the Wii crowd won’t care about. They can afford to wait too. Rumor has it that the Wii U will not even be more powerful than Playstation 3 or Xbox 360, in some ways. Sony and Microsoft have the time to prepare to truly make the Wii U irrelevant while pleasing the hardcore fans at the same time. To start, they will most likely lower their prices significantly at this E3 and then start working on sending this generation off with a bang, over the course of another year or two, hinting that Wii U and its’ silly ass name belong with it. Of course, that is unless Nintendo pulls a Nintendo once again and owns everyone regardless of logic.