There is a rumor going around that Microsoft’s next generation console, which has been unofficially dubbed the Xbox 720 around the Internet, will be revealed next year in 2012. The console, which is apparently codenamed “loop”, is said be smaller and cheaper to produce that its predecessor. Without more expensive hardware, the Xbox 720 would have to rely on Kinect support in order to offer an interesting and compelling reason to buy it. In fact, it is also rumored that there will be a Kinect 2 that is bundled with every system. If this is all true, then we may be entering a console generation that isn’t solely led by graphics. With all things considered, this possibility is more probable than one may be led to believe.
Think about it. This generation of gaming has been around longer than any other before it. Previous consoles would last about 5 years before making a leap to the next generation. However, things have changes drastically since then. Sony and Microsoft are now looking at system sustainability, as they expect their consoles to last longer than most have predicted. They have stated that they plan on keeping their current systems around for at least ten years, which effectively doubles the time gap between generations. Efforts such as Kinect and Move show that these companies are keeping their word, since they are clearly using add-ons to elongate the life of their systems. Nintendo is in a completely different league as Microsoft and Sony, since the Wii never had spectacular graphics to begin with. Because of this, they can get away with releasing a new HD console, the Wii U, in 2012. Yet, Microsoft and Sony chose not to interfere with Nintendo’s launch and decided to continue to follow the ten-year plan. It appears that these companies are hesitant to releasing a new console with just better graphics.
The shift from a five-year plan to a ten-year plan isn’t indicative of a peak in graphics. There still is so much that could be improved upon and added to enhance the visual experience of a game. Hell, you could even consider PCs to have “next generation graphics”, as the visuals are far more superior compared to that of what is offered on home consoles. However, that doesn’t mean that the Playstation 4 or the Xbox 720 will have jaw-dropping, revolutionary graphics. The market has changed vastly since prior generations of gaming, and I expect the consoles to change as well in the future. In the past, the leaps that were made from system to system were truly great enough to warrant a new console. However, improved graphics alone will probably no longer impress the average consumer.
We aren’t even ready for another huge graphical jump. Developers are still struggling with pushing the PS3’s hardware to its full potential. It can be done, but most developers do not feel the need to push the boundaries on graphical quality anymore. Sure, there may be some Triple A titles that have the budget to push the a console’s graphics to the absolute limit, but not many games fall into this category. Even some recent big titles, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, found it comfortable to stick to graphics similar to that of previous titles in the series. Although the graphics in Modern Warfare 3 could have been improved, the developers decided to make the gameplay their main focus. This seems to be a common mentality that most modern developers take on. When a game has a limited budget and a set development time, only certain aspects can be focused on to improve the experience.
From here, there’s only way to go, and that’s innovating on the way one experiences a game. This is the only path left for Microsoft and Sony if they don’t want to rely on graphics as the sole reason to buy their consoles. They are already experimenting in this area with Kinect and Move, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that we can expect more ideas like this to be implemented in their newer consoles.
It’s either that or I’m completely wrong and have extremely idiotic opinions. I’m hoping for the former.