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Community Discussion: Blog by Falldog | Mind Gamerz: Hardware expandability is a needed feature.Destructoid
Mind Gamerz: Hardware expandability is a needed feature. - Destructoid

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I started gaming on the N64 and my favorite game on that system is Banjo Tooie. Since then, I have played a whole host of games and found my particular genre of interest is FPS and Western RPGs like Elder Scroll: Skyrim, though I do often play a variety of other genres.
I am learning 3d modeling from cg cookie and programming at college.
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I created this blog, as a way to share my ideas, observation and what I learn on various elements of games.

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All long term computer hardware should have expandability built in. I would consider video game consoles to be such devices, as they are intended to be used and kept for an extended period of time. However, I wouldn't considered devices such as, smartphones to be long term devices because they are regularly superseded by newer versions in predictable intervals with a comparatively short shelf life. The three major consoles have been announced or launched and none of them have mentioned expandability, beyond storage space. The addition of an expansion bay would greatly benefit the consoles as it would allow for future proofing and direct hardware access for upgrading.

Wii Uís Predicament
The Wii U is the only console currently out and appears significantly weaker than its competitors, in specs, which could prevent third parties from releasing cross platform games onto it. This may not be an issue initially as games may not utilize all the processing power on the system. However, as time progresses the games will become more power hungry and potentially too much for the system. Suppose, the Wii U came with an expansion bay, the console could have been later upgraded to meet rising power needs. If the Wii U where to have been released with a similar hardware specs to the PS4 or Xbox One, it would have been prohibitively expensive. However, with an expansion bay, it could have been released at a similar price point and later upgraded to match or become closer to the competitors offerings.

Video game consoles of the past
Previous generations of consoles, have had expansion bays included in their design. This has allowed them to adapt to changes within their generation. For example, SNES enhancement chips were used for additional functions, most famous is the Super FX chip the heat behind the original Star Fox. Nintendo also introduced the rumble pack into the N64 post launch, it used an expansion bay on the controller. Rumble is now an inseparable part of controllers, if that expansion bay wasn't available, Nintendo wouldn't have been able to get the early start with rumble. Some of the PS2 models came with an expansion bay that allowed for a network card, for online play, or an internal hard drive, that helped speed up load times. If these expansions had been included it would have driven prices up for the PS2, and may have been useless as the future of network play was uncertain and hard drives were expensive to include.



(This expansion pack doubled the ram power of the N64)

Future proofing
Technology is progressing rapidly, and new technologies are quickly out pacing older ones. Consoles are becoming outdated soon after release, an expansion bay would allow for future proofing. As technology progresses, newer upgrades can be incorporated into the console later to meet the trends. For instance, Microsoft has stated that the original Kinect was limited by the Xbox 360 hardware. If the Xbox 360 had an expansion bay on it, an additional hardware part could have been manufactured to interact with the Kinect and possibly provide a special port to handle more data than available through usb. Expansion bays allow manufacturers to include new or unforeseen components onto machines that werenít originally conceived.

Bundle with game
A common problem faced when releasing expansions midlife cycle of a console is market adoption. The most effective solution, I've seen, is to offer expansions as part of a bundle. Nintendo has been doing this for years, Donkey Kong 64 was released with the RAM upgrade and Star Fox 64 had the rumble pack. More recently, an extra Wii mote was offered in a bundle with Wii play. The bundled game should demonstrate the advantage of the new expansion and show the customer why they should want it. For example, higher graphics quality in donkey Kong with more ram, haptic feedback with the rumble pack in Star Fox 64 and motion controls for Wii.



(This was how most got their expansion pack and rumble pack)


Cloud computing vs. expansion bay
Cloud computing is being mention as a solution to games demanding more power than a system can deliver later in its life cycle. While cloud computing can offer some help in this area, it will also create certain problems that an expandable system wouldn't. †For instance, it would require that the Internet be connected and uninterrupted during your play session. Another issue would be server maintenance or shut down, once the servers for a game are shut down the game would become unplayable or feature limited. Hardware expansions could provide extra horse power and extend a consoleís life cycle without the limitations of cloud computing.

Overkill
While expandability is good, it can be overdone, just look at the Sega Genesis. It is best to release the upgrade about mid-way between a consoles planned life span, otherwise people wonít buy it or see its worth, as next generation is around the corner. Also, it is best to be careful with pricing of the expansion, because consumers may feel they are being cheated by something that should have been available at launch, even if it wasnít feasible.


(Think this is bad, the wiring was worse)

As always, thanks for reading and please leave a comment with your thoughts.
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