This weekend I was thinking about the next generation of gaming. The current generation of consoles has existed for 4 years. Surely Microsoft and Sony are carefully planning their next edition of hardware. I do believe that the XBox One X and PS4 Pro are evidence that Sony and Microsoft want to lengthen the life of this generation as long as possible. But I am confident we will see the announcement of the next generation within 3 years. As I considered this over the weekend, I thought about what I would want out of these new systems. I also thought about what the larger gamer population would want. Lastly, I looked at what Microsoft and Sony appear to have in mind. Let's discuss a few of these concepts.
Right out of the gate, we have to talk about the Switch. This is next-gen. Literally. The WiiU was part of the same generation of Xbox One and PS4. Nintendo was the first to lead the charge into the future of hardware. In my opinion. they have been enormously successful. The portability of the system as well as the interchangeable controllers are next-gen thinking for hardware. Nintendo hasn't cared about hardware power since the N64. They have, instead, focused on delivering new ways to interact with our devices. The Wii was a grand, successful experiment. But it was like flash in a pan. I believe that this console/handheld hybrid is the future. Whenever Nintendo launches their next gen, I just want a Super Switch. Pack in more powerful hardware. Perhaps tweak the joy-con and make them more ergonomic. But keep the same basic idea of the Switch.
It is highly probable that Microsoft and Sony are looking to imitate the Switch in some form or fashion. I think it is highly probable that the PS5 is a straight-up ripoff of the Switch. Look at Playstation Move, if you doubt me. I don't personally see Microsoft buidling a system like this. They seem more and more interested in building a dumbed-down PC for a console.
Motion control really seems to be on the out, doesn't it? Microsoft, for the second generation in a row, seems to have abandoned the Kinect. Sony still has motion capabilities in the DualShock 4, but it isn't used much by the average game. I could definitely see Microsoft implementing a similar technology in their next gen controllers, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Sony and Microsoft seem really interested in this technology. You can bet that their next generations will support VR in some way or another. Personally, I feel that the tech is still too early to catch on. But perhaps several more years will change that. Maybe the PS5 will be entirely VR based? Who knows? I really don't think that Microsoft will go full-VR. But I expect them to support existing systems like the Vive in their next hardware.
The Almighty Cloud.
Microsoft, inexplicably, has a million servers out there. At the start of this generation, they spoke a great deal about the power of the Cloud and how it would enable new gaming experiences that you can't find anywhere else. So far, this has meant precisely nothing for the XBox One. But, Microsoft isn't a software company. It is a "products and services" company. Look at Office 365. Microsoft doesn't want you to buy a new version of Office ever 3 years. They want you to pay an annual fee for access to Office every year for the rest of time. I predict that Microsoft will move further this direction in the next generation. They want you to subscribe to a service. They will push XBox Live more towards a gaming service. Think EA Access, for example.
Sony may take this further. They care a lot about Playstation Now. A service which, well, does anybody use this? I don't know anyone who does. But Sony loves it. I would not be even a tiny bit surprised to see the next generation embrace cloud-based gaming. This would dovetail nicely with their hypothetical clone of the Switch. No discs. No cartridges. Just an internet connection is all that's necessary. Hopefully, they don't make you purchase a propietary flash storage memory card as well (I'm convinced that's what killed the Vita, personally).
What else is there?
Surely Microsoft and Sony can produce more powerful hardware. Perhaps they can support 8K, if that becomes a common thing. They can push for more teraflops, which I'm told is a thing that matters. I don't know what that is, but they can go for that. But how will this actually impact the gaming experience? This generation has been such marginal change in gaming that it's almost laughable. Think about when gaming went 3D. Or when we went online. Or when we finally hit High Definition. These were like watershed moments. They really impacted the gamer. But what tech is left to do this? Perhaps in ten or tweny years, there will be a significant change in computing technology that will allow for another change like these. But it doesn't exist right now. Not to me, anyways.
I currently have no interest in a PS5. I'm not interested in an XBox One, let alone its sucessor (XBox 4? XBox Infinity? Xbox Zero? XBox 720? Xbox 1080? Super XBox? XBox 9000?). What would it take to make you interested? Where do you think Microsoft and Sony will go? How many years do you think it will be before we see the next generation?