With Nintendo's imminent "Project Cafe" announcement next week, I think it is proper to begin thinking about the next generation of consoles. More specifically, I think it is the right time to start stirring up conversation about what we should expect and wish for from the next cycle of fancy plastic-enclosed machines that we pay a lot of money to own. This isn't completely technical specification related, but more features and the like.
1. HARD DRIVES
A hard drive change would be nice. I loved Sony's option of having a changeable drive, whereas Microsoft had the awful and overpriced proprietary drives (which were only available in 250GB at the most). Don't forget that Nintendo didn't even have more than 512 MB, and it wasn't upgradeable at all. The lowest option for all of the next consoles should be at LEAST 160GB, if not much larger, and be a standard 2.5" notebook drive. I want to be allowed to upgrade my hard drive. This actually works in their benefit because if I want to download some more online games, but my hard drive is full, I could spend $50 or a little more and upgrade the drive. Then, I could download all I want. I have had the problem now, though, of running out of space and wanting to buy some arcade games, and I refuse to buy a proprietary drive that is $80+ just for some downloadable stuff. So I usually either clear off space with stuff I have already purchased (which is inconvenient when I decide to play those games again) or just refrain from buying it. Unfortunately, the solid state technology is still very expensive to manufacture, so I would be perfectly OK getting more space from an optical hard drive rather than get a tiny bit of space out on a SSD.
There need to be HDMI ports out of the box this time around (looking at YOU, Microsoft!).
Take another note from Sony here, and include both wireless and wired ethernet built-in. In fact, I want to just take a moment now and address the problem of all this proprietary accessory nonsense and say that it should be a fad that dies out in the next generation like the "Rachel" haircut from "Friends".
4. UPDATED ONLINE COMPONENTS
I like what both Sony and Microsoft have got going on with their online services. They offer everything in a somewhat easy to use manner on their networks, whether it be music, movies, demos, DLC, or downloadable games. But when the new consoles come out, I think it would be a perfect time to completely overhaul the online stores and networks. They can call it snappy names like the "New Xbox Live Experience", "Playstation Network 2.0", or the "First Real Nintendo Network". There needs to be release date access to downloadable copies of at least first party games, if not all games. On first party games, digital distribution copies should come with all of the pre-order bonuses and be slightly cheaper. There is no retail store to make money on, so that should be passed along to the consumer. The reason they should encourage digital distribution rather than physical copies is because it is a more convenient option for us. I don't want to put on pants to go get Halo 7 from Wal-Mart. I want to pre-download it (like Steam does with their pre-orders), and at 12:00 A.M. where I live, the game be unlocked for me to play. Second of all, Nintendo needs to get rid of friend codes. The issue of sexual predators hasn't been as big of a deal as they feared. They should adopt friends lists and the basics that the other two companies offer. Third, Microsoft needs to keep charging $9.99 for theirs, and Sony and Nintendo should stay free. Sony needs to beef up the Playstation Plus stuff and make it worthwhile. Cross game chat shouldn't even have to be asked for, and Nintendo has no business going and charging for online. This new "hardcore" system will be the first thing they have had that will garner the games and people that would play online, and if they charge for it, they will turn some people off.
5. GAME PRICES
...need to stay where they are or go down. I personally can barely afford to drop $60 on a new title, much less $70 or $80. There is also NO excuse for digital copies of games to be $60. They should always be at least $5 cheaper (because standard retail mark up on new games is $4.99; the wholesale cost the stores pay is $51-$55).
6. UNDER THE HOOD
We need more RAM, for one thing. The Xbox 360 and PS3 only tote 512MB and 488MB of RAM respectively. That means extremely long load times (worse on the PS3 side, usually). The processors in both of them run at 3.2GHZ and rely on floating-point performance. The problem with this, though, is neither processor relies on multi-threading. If you are unfamiliar with multi-threading, imagine a one-lane highway (one lane in each direction) and sending 500 cars through it. This is what a single threaded processor is like. Multi-threading is the use of multiple threads to process data flow. The i3/i5/i7 PC processors have 4 threads (like an eight lane highway). See the difference? This results in games like Fable 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Red Dead Redemption having choppy and laggy moments. So hopefully, in the next generation, Sony and Microsoft will either go with an AMD or Intel based processor that has multiple threads on the die or develop one that does have multiple threads. Graphics aren't too big of an issue, really. They can make some minor tweaks.
Nintendo just needs a processor and some RAM, period.
7. DISC DRIVES
Blu-ray. Blu-ray. Blu-ray. Blu-ray. Should I even have to mention L.A. Noire or Mass Effect 2? Multiple discs suck, and if the performance bar is going to get raised, the multiple DVDs are going to get even worse. The BR drives are cheap enough to make that move. Plus, the number of flat screen owners is substantially higher now than in 2005-2006, making high definition a bigger priority. It is just good business to want your console to be all a person needs, rather than your "Xbox 3" and a Blu-ray player. This worked really well for Sony this time around.
Also, slot-loading is nice. :P
8. BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY
I think it is time to let the PS2 backwards compatibility go. We all complained at first, but let's just move on. It is 10 years old, and by now most of us who care about playing PS2 games have a PS2. I think that the new consoles should be completely BC with Xbox 360 and PS3 games, but PS1, PS2, and Xbox games should maybe just be let go. We can NOT expect our industry to move forward and still support all the old stuff. There is a point where we have to realize that some games and their systems are collector's items now, and I believe the Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox should be let go. I will still keep my PS2 and Gamecube and will buy an Xbox when the next Microsoft console comes out. Let's move forward.
Wii games should be remade over the course of the "Project Cafe"'s life cycle to be controller friendly and become downloadable. It seems like the only smart way to combat the motion controller issue.
Kinect and Move support is not hard to incorporate into the next console. It will take some tweaking on the software end, but it is 100% doable. Maybe release a new camera for the Move, but that isn't even necessary. Nintendo can find a hardware solution to work in their existing remote technology to the next console, as well. I am not a hardware extraordinaire, but rather a software whiz (code monkey) myself. But I can imagine that since the remote works on IR detection, similar to the wireless music game peripherals, that an updated sensor bar model could work as a solution. This is all assuming, though, that motion control is a priority for any of the companies.
As far as controllers go, I like Sony and Nintendo's Bluetooth connectivity. Microsoft should drop the 2.4GHZ radio system they have now and move to Bluetooth. It provides a farther, stronger signal, and it is SLIGHTLY more energy efficient. This is really the hardest topic to hit on because it is usually the most innovative in some ways. I can't predict what the companies are thinking, but I am not opposed to the Dreamcast-like screen on the controller. If they can keep the cost down, a small screen would be great. I could call my Madden plays without my friend peeking or see my inventory in Fallout 4 on the screen as I am moving. I could tap a bumper button that would pause the action in Mass Effect, use the TV to issue orders and use the small screen to select weapons and biotic attacks on the fly. In Need for Speed, it could function as my rear view mirror. It fighting games, I could choose moves that I can't remember to be displayed for my fighter so I don't have to pause to look up a quick combo. In Metal Gear Solid, it could function as my radio transmitter, instead of popping up in the middle of the TV.
10. LAUNCH WINDOW
There needs to be a very strong launch lineup. There needs to be an awesome first party title (Zelda, Mario, Kirby, Halo, Fable, God of War, LittleBigPlanet, etc.) in the launch mix, plus at least 3-4 AAA titles from third parties (Need for Speed, COD, Assassin's Creed, Rockstar title, etc.) that can be multiplatform in order to make an awesome release and give us something to play on our shiny new boxes o' fun.
There are some things that don't make their own categories. They all need to be quiet. The original Xbox 360 sounded like a G6 plane. The Wii was nigh impossible to hear if you weren't trying. They shouldn't put out a ton of heat, like the PS3 did. They also all need much more dynamic and intuitive user interfaces. The PS3 XMB has to go. It was neat at first, but now it is slightly annoying to try and go through all the different tabs, then scroll down to whatever I wanted to find. I like the Wii's idea of just having channel-like selections. Maybe take the categories on the PS3 XMB and make them different pages like the Wii's channels are in. I wasn't a fan of all the stuff I have to sift through on the Xbox 360 just to get to the arcade games section. Also, having free Netflix and Hulu Plus support (Microsoft) with no disc required (Nintendo) would be nice. I already pay for it through those guys. I shouldn't have to pay twice; that's just dumb. Last but not least, no Playstation 4 or Xbox 720. I think it is time for some new names.
You stay classy, San Diego.