The summer is in its home stretch. Soon it will be September and we will be bombarded with news of the next generation consoles. Microsoft has been pulling off 180s trying to position the Xbox One as a possible leader of the next generation. Sony has been relatively mum on the PS4 front, but you just know that theyíre planning on putting a big push soon. There is just one issue I have with the next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft, and that is Iím not terribly excited. That's not going to stop me from getting one at launch and eventually both, but I'm not as excited as I've been in the past.
Now donít get me wrong, as I am looking forward to the next-generation. Iím intrigued by the possibilities and the potential that these consoles have. However, Iím not psyched in the same way as I was on previous new console launches. Doesnít anyone else feel that the lead up to this new generation of hardware has been dull if not uninspired? It certainly feels that this next generation is more evolutionary than revolutionary. There is nothing truly groundbreaking in either of the next-gen consoles coming out. They are just better versions of what currently out there.
I remember when the NES was launched. There was something magical about that system. It wasn't launched in the typical way that consoles are launched today full of pomp and circumstance, rather, it just appeared. It was leaps and bounds better than the Atari 2600, which was what I was familiar with at the time. Everything about it was revolutionary compared to what the 2600 was. The console, the controller, the games, the add-ons (R.O.B. I'm looking at you) were a massive leap from the 2600.
Why, you are not Johnny 5! You... YOU'RE A FRAUD R.O.B.!
Then there was the launch of the Sega Genesis. That too did not have the pomp and circumstance of modern launches, but I remember hearing about this new Sega system from friends at school who knew I was a massive Sega SMS fan-boy. Seeing the Genesis at a Toys R' Us for the first time was, for lack of a better word, a revelation for yours truly. Graphically, the Genesis was such a substantial improvement from the NES and SMS. The audio was also amazing, pumping out stereo (really, this was a big deal) and recorded human speech.
Wise fwom your gwave! - - They even captured Zeus' speech impediment perfectly.
After the 16-bit era, we witnessed a massive change in how we played videogames with the introduction of the 32- and 64-bit era with the PS1, Saturn and Nintendo 64. This was the first time that consoles were pumping out games that were nearly identical to their arcade counterparts and were in proper 3D. 3D games like Wolfenstein and Doom have been around for a couple of years already on PCs and even on some home consoles, but the console versions were always rough around the edges. The Saturn, PS1, and N64 also ushered the era of the BIG console launch. This was the first time that I recall huge hype to get a console on launch day.
Continuing the era of big console launches was Sega with the Dreamcast, which I adored. That was the first console in a long time that truly felt like the future arrived. I remember playing NFL 2K, when my dad walked in the room asking what the score was. He didnít immediately realize that I was playing a videogame. Ultimately, the PS2 came out, killing the Dreamcast and eventually the original Xbox. Eventually the Xbox cam e out, which does hold a place in my heart with Xbox Live, which made playing online so easy.
Finally we come to todayís current batch consoles, which are in the their golden years. The Xbox 360 and PS3, in my view were the beginning of the evolutionary versus revolutionary phase. We saw a jump in graphical fidelity, but not nearly as impressive of previous generations. We did witness the convergence of media as these new boxes integrated online multiplayer, movies, music, and the emergence of utilizing the cloud, which will also be at the forefront in the next-gen. These consoles also embraced motion controls, like the Wii. The jury is still out on whether there is any future in motion control, even though itís continuing onto the next-gen consoles, how Microsoft and support the technology and how much they will pursue it in everyday gameplay varies greatly between them. Microsoft is pushing the Kinect, packing it in with the Xbox One, while Sony is taking a more laissez fair approach with the move, releasing it as a separate peripheral.
So what will these new consoles provide the jaded gamer, the gamers whoíve been around the block a few times? Yes, theyíll be more powerful, the graphics will be more impressive, and the action more immersive. Sure, there will be motion control, online multiplayer, and media streaming. There will be access to the cloud and social media connectivity, but these are all things we have now. Iíve seen these before. Iím excited for the new freshness, but not particularly amped up like I used to be. For a moment, I thought it was because Iím getting older and itís harder to impress me, but that isnít the case. There is something out there, over the horizon that has my nerd juice flowing.
The Oculus Rift VR is, by far, the most next-gen of all the next-gen hardware coming out. At first, I thought the Oculus Rift was all hype. Iíve seen virtual reality promised to gamers before and the results have been disastrous to just plain vaporware. Does anyone recall the Atari Jaguar VR? That was hilarious! The Oculus is different however, as it has received the backing of some heavy hitters in the industry. Respected designers like Cliff Belzinski and John Carmack have praised the unit are are urging the industry to support it.
Carmack, who is essentially the face of id Software is now working for Oculus full-time as their CTO. He hasnít left id entirely, as the company confirmed via Twitter that Carmack would still "provide leadership" for the developer, but I take it that all his efforts are now with Oculus. Matt Hooper, design director at id, who headed up development of RAGE is also now working for Oculus. So it would appear that Oculus is putting together a strong roster of talent to support their VR headset.
In the end, when I think of something being next-gen, I look for something that changes the way we see and play games. I look for something groundbreaking that transforms the industry in a way. All the previous console launches I mentioned earlier did this in some way. The Oculus Rift VR does this for the industry as well. I see it as futuristic and exciting, something that I feel the PS4 and the Xbox One are not delivering at the moment.
I'm getting either a PS4 or an Xbox One on launch regardless of them being evolutionary rather than revolutionary, because I'm a gamer and new tech is sexy. I have both reserved, but I will not be getting both, as that proposition is too rich for my blood, and my wife would go Bobbit on me if I did.
I'm sure that eventually, I will own both, but I'm leaning towards the Xbox One, which I'm sure will rile some of you up, and that's okay, because I welcome the discussion. At the moment, Microsoft appears to be the only company that is looking to change the way we play, some of them are for the right reasons, and others, for the wrong reasons, but change is good, it gets people to think and pushes boundaries and leads to innovation.
Maybe the Oculus will eventually release on the consoles and that my friends, would truly be next-gen.