For the last year or so, I’ve asked multiple companies when they thought their next-next-gen systems would be arriving. Everyone seemed to agree this generation will most likely break the mold of the typical 5-year console cycle. Now with Microsoft exec Steve Ballmer dropping word on his company bringing out a "new console" next year, my stomach's getting a little uneasy. Sure, Microsoft as a company is denying it, but Microsoft can keep a secret about as well as TMZ.
Dear console makers: We don’t need new machines yet.
There are a number of things that push the coming of a new generation, the main two being current hardware becoming dated and developers can’t push the hardware any further. The third push comes from companies trying to one-up each other; if one thinks the other is making a new console, the others will follow suit. Last? The consumer is demanding it.
Even though developers have said from the outset they were pushing the limits of each console, the truth of the matter is we still haven’t seen the full potential of any of them. The jump from standard-definition to high-definition has been a long and arduous road for all developers. The proof is in the past two to three years, where every year you see deeper and richer gaming experiences on each platform. Graphical fidelity is still improving, and all three consoles still have plenty of legs – even the Wii. And speaking of the Wii, it’s not until recently where we’re finally seeing developers figuring out how to make a solid Wii game out of the new control scheme.
Let's be honest, there’s still quite a number of things that still need to be addressed on each console. Why release a new console that’s going to be full of new technical catastrophes when the current generation still has problems to be worked out?
If Microsoft wants to release some new Xbox 360 that’s Natal-enabled and a bigger hard drive that doesn’t sound like a freight train when it’s powered on - fine. Sony, a PS3 slim? Okay.
But, we really don’t need anything new yet.
Out of all three console makers, the only company I’d like to see make a new console is Nintendo. If Nintendo added true HD support, digital audio out and backwards compatibility with everything Wii – including all controllers - I’d personally be there on day one. The casual set that Nintendo is currently marketing to wouldn’t care to upgrade, but the hardcore Nintendo fan who wants to see Mario and Zelda in high-definition would be completely appeased. And it would be easier for developers to bring their PS3/360 projects over, as well. Just saying.
Does the consumer really want to drop funds on a new set of consoles yet? I’ll toss that to you, the reader. But I’m guessing probably not, especially considering how much more expensive consoles, games, and accessories were this generation. The thought of another new console at this point makes my wallet cringe.
So much as like sands through the hour glass, let's hope when the clock hits five years we won’t be at the store with a few hundred dollars to get the latest system. Until console manufacturers and developers can maximize and utilize each of the current generations’ consoles to the best of their abilities, we’ll be fine with what we have now.