The Coming Next-Gen Video Game Consoles

What do you think will be coming in the next generation of video game systems? Since Nintendo prematurely announced their hardware, I’ll start off with some intelligent speculatio
n about the other two.

Right now, this is a golden age for the video game industry. There is a stability in the market, a balance among the three rivals who have their own exclusive IPs that keep gamers coming back for more, and comfortable sales in the black quarter by quarter.

We are seeing unbelievable innovation in gameplay over the last two years. There is stability in the online networks, in the hardware manufacturing, and in the game engines. Today, engine developers are pushing the limits of the hardware without sacrificing gameplay. So, frame rates are up, gamer frustrations are down, and everyone’s having a great time. For the most part.

Here’s the deal with Microsoft and Sony: They don’t want to rock the cart.  These two companies have to be very careful to maintain a good relationship with their top developers, because as you know, games sell hardware, not the other way around. If a developer gets tired of the hassle, the hoops that a hardware company makes them go through, they’ll just pull support and go to one or two competitors, which could be devastating for sales. So, that accounts for why we do not hear rumors of any next-gen systems from these two companies. They don’t want to screw with a market that is stable and extremely profitable right now. But, the hardware is starting to show its age.

The 360 has a subset of Direct3D 9/10 in the hardware. That means, the shader hardware can do everything we know of in 9 or 10, but not 11, which is now already 3 years old itself. No geometry shaders. No GPU massive threading that you get with 11. On the PC, there is really no comparison today, so that’s a good sign that new consoles are now in the works and will be coming out within a year. (Look at Skyrim on PC versus Xbox or PS3 as a good example).

The new Xbox hardware will be backwards compatible with the 360 and will simply offer more horsepower under the hood, with full D3D11 hardware. Since the 360 name is so prevalent (good job, marketing!), they will have to change the name of the new system. Xbox 360-2 won’t cut it. They also can’t just use the same “360” name. It will have to reflect the fact that it’s compatible, the same product line, but vastly superior. It might be as simple as calling it Xbox 3. But marketing people get antsy if a competitor has a bigger number than they do, so PS4 might give them fits and they might go for a more swaggy name to one-up Sony.

That has been Nintendo’s policy, but then Nintendo suffers from clinical narcissism so that is to be expected. Little weirdo alone in the corner, refusing to put on the boxing gloves…
What is a catchy name with the inclusion of “4” that is related to Microsoft products? It will be something stupid like Xbox 4X (because Microsoft engineers fancy themselves as Lockheed Martin engineers working at the Skunkworks, as they suffer from delusions of grandeur).

The PS3 started off with difficult hardware so anyone making a PS3 game is investing huge amounts of money into engine development first, and will then do several games off the engine if possible. Or, they’ll just license a third-party engine like Unreal. Sony’s hardware came out after the 360 with inferior hardware. Their idea was massive threading in the CPU, without the potent kick of serious GPU hardware, and that has proven to be a difficult problem for engine builders. The next iteration from Sony will fall in line with the PC architecture, embracing OpenGL as Nintendo has done, and abandoning their old proprietary designs in favor of unification in order to better cater to their top developers. They must do this or face mutiny. If they don’t, they’ll have to create middleware drivers for their developers who refuse to start over again. Or, make it 100% compatible with PS3, with better capabilities (this is more likely).

Sony has consistently lost market share over the past two years, so whatever they come up with has to be less swaggy and more reliable, realistic, “grounded”. No one cares about their uber-glitzy CELL nonsense. Just give developers high-end hardware that supports OpenGL, or drivers with equivalent shader capabilities, and stop it with the engineering nausea. Typical Japanese techno-dweebs. No one cares. Japan goes through this phase in every industry. With their cars, they finally got over the techno-weeny phase with cars in the early 1990s, realizing people just don’t care that the digital clock on the dash works natively with 100% Japanese silicon… they just want to know how much horsepower and handling the car has, and how good it looks in and out.  Sony is starting to realize this. It seems to be a cultural case of agoraphobia, turning inward, being geeky, and then finally coming out of it and getting on with things, like a well-adjusted person.


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