Consoles: The Next Step?

Right now, console gamers are standing at the precipice of the cutting edge and staring into the hereafter. Over the last two and a half decades we’ve seen the leading brands pushing out consoles on a fairly regular time table. These gaps in release time have accounted for the design and development of new technology and the general demand for better hardware from the consumer as the need arose.  And while it’s true that console gamers have always sacrificed some of the customization options available to PC gamers, the security of only potentially shelling out a few hundred dollars every six or so years more than made up for this. Now however, with the leaps and bounds of technological evolution and drastically increased demand we’re seeing the edge of that security zone – and it’s a steep step.

In half the normal time we’re already seeing rumors for new consoles from the leading brands, the Sony PlayStation “Neo” and the Microsoft Xbox “Scorpio.” With announcements potentially coming as early as this year’s E3, we could be facing a time where that security we once reveled in could be lost. With specifications spotty at best for both consoles, still masked in a lot of unverifiable speculation, we can’t be sure what improvements are being made. Though boasts of two and four times the power of their predecessors already makes tech-addicts like myself a little giddy, we must take pause and consider the implications.

The edge that we stand so precariously balanced upon at this point is potentially the final step before leaping off into the world of either PC-esque component upgrades or an accelerating time table between new and improved console releases. This should concern the console gamer in some regards because what was once a pastime only for the dedicated, building immensely powerful PCs and shelling out large sums of cash to upgrade and maintain their viability, became exposed to the masses through the advent of the comparatively affordable modern console gaming.

An accelerated release schedule would make many of us cringe and curl into the fetal position hugging the soft leather of our empty wallets. Prices would likely remain the same as we’ve seen; we’d just have new consoles more often in order to keep up with the changing tide of technology. While I don’t believe that this would be the preferred choice for console developers, we can’t discount it as a possibility. In theory this method could result in compatibility issues, people skipping entire console generations to afford the next, as well as pose a problem for long term game development, and the longevity of game servers and support. Just ask PS3 and Xbox360 players how they feel right about now…

The alternative would be the potential for components upgrades, which I know has been the focus of a lot of rumor buzzing about. While I’m not in any way against the idea of purchasing and maintaining a gaming rig, knowing the cost associated with regular upgrades, I don’t think I could feel the same way about the console sitting next to my television. I remember the days of buying an expanded hard drive, additional RAM, a disk drive, and a modem or wireless adapter for my console – those pieces weren’t cheap then and I doubt they will be now. Of course, this would alleviate the issues of purchasing a new system every few years, but what of the compatibility? Would a game run by two different component builds function the same, or would we sink into the competitive world of advantage based on build? Would we even be able to play together unless we owned the same parts?

Both options pose a way to solve the problem of the ever growing curve of technology, yet neither really stays true to the nature and intent of console gaming. However all we can do at this point is await further details from the developers and pose our questions and concerns once we know more. Though while most of the news about these consoles is pure speculation and cannot be completely confirmed, it does highlight that change is coming and that in time we will be faced with the next evolutionary step we have to take, knowing full well that the fall could kill console gaming entirely.

 

Would you buy a new console every three years? Would you buy upgraded components for your system? Or would you simply abandon consoles entirely?

Tell us in the comments below, or on our subreddit!