We can debate forever on whether or not the time is right for the next generation of video game consoles but the reality is that it's coming. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have been around for a while now - in the case of the Xbox 360, more than six years - and their successors are in development. It's just a matter of time.
What we can agree on is that we have high expectations for what the next-gen will offer. It can't be just a little better as we fear the Nintendo Wii U may be, it has to be significantly different if these consoles are expected to not only replace what we currently have but to last many years on their own. Or as Epic Games puts it, the next-gen systems need to be "huge" and "fundamentally different."
In an interview with VentureBeat about video game tech, Epic Games 3D graphics specialist Tim Sweeney shared his thoughts on the good and bad that comes with extended console lifecycles and what he believes is required from the next-gen consoles:
" The longevity of this console generation has been a mixed blessing. On the game side, it’s been really great for our business. We have been able to ship three Gears of War games on the same generation of hardware, each one with dramatic improvements over the last and a two to three-year development cycle. So it’s been a very good thing for a game business today. With each new title, there is a bigger and bigger Xbox 360 installed base of users, so the games can sell more. On the other hand, it gets harder to generate the same excitement from the same hardware. That is when the new hardware is justified. But then you reset the installed base to zero and it’s a lot harder to sell a lot of games again. So you should only replace the hardware when you can make a dramatic leap in quality, not just 2X or 3X. It has to be huge and fundamentally new."
Last week's latest rumors included tech specs indicating Nintendo's Wii U would only be twice as powerful as the Xbox 360, and a common concern about the hardware is that it would be more of a match to the PS3 and Xbox 360 rather than a leap forward in tech. Nintendo is aiming to keep costs down for consumers and at the same time is hoping to lead and market themselves through innovation with their tablet controller, as they did the last gen with motion controls. On the Xbox 720 front, rumors have that yet-to-be-named system running at six times more power than the Xbox 360.
Is this all the consoles need to pay off?
The only people growing more tired of all the PS4 and Xbox 720 rumors than you and us are the teams at Sony and Microsoft, who continue to claim there are no imminent announcements regarding such products. There's still a strong possibility of major console announcements at E3 this summer, but if that were the case, they wouldn't release until 2013 at the very earliest.
What do you want from your next console purchase?
On the Epic Games front, Gears of War 3 and Infinity Blade II are now available and they're currently developing Fortnite before moving on to their next "Triple-A" title.
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