REPLY TO ALL: The Next Tech Part 2

Welcome back, we continue our exploration of potential updates to the next generation of gaming consoles that we started last week. Let’s get to it.


The future has arrived


I am not ready for a new console. I really don’t want to go through all the hiccups that come with a console launch, and I don’t think I can emotionally handle it right now. My feeling is that this generation is beginning to hit it’s stride. I am hopeful that the motion push from Microsoft and Sony will extend the life of this console generation.

With that said, here is where I stand with video game tech. First off I, like GiffTor, am not a code monkey and will not pretend to be. My expertise is going to lean more on the business side. So here we go. I must say Nintendo is starting to scare me to death. Nintendo has been using crazy gimmicks to drive sales since the 80’s, R.O.B. and Power Glove to name a few. Despite their hardware and graphical downfalls, they are the Jones’ and everyone else is trying to keep up with them. Obviously the concept of motion controls introduced by the Wii are having a lasting impact since I can’t go a day without Kevin Butler boasting about motion control. Now enter 3DS: the device that will cost you the same as a Wii. Not to mention they are porting a Zelda title to the 3DS that I can buy on Wii for a third of the price. I am beginning to wonder if Nintendo is going to drift into oblivion as a hand held developer only some day. I know that rumors are a foot that Wii2 is in development and may be announced at E3, but the 3DS is being treated like a new console. I have this sinking feeling that Nintendo will continue to push the envelope with ideas that can be easily marketed to your mother. Nintendo knows and understands their market very well. We the cursed are not that market. I worry that Sony and Microsoft will follow suit and try to copy what Nintendo is doing just to get a piece of Nintendo’s pie. Yet, Nintendo will continue to exploit their consumer for every penny they can. I can’t blame them. They marketed the Wii brilliantly. The huge amount of commercials with the ‘shortages’ made interest extremely high, and easily drove sales. It’s just sad that the company that made me love and appreciate gaming has become content and complacent in their industry role, and refuses to recapture me as a consumer. I would just hate to see them go away like SEGA did a few years back.


I’m definitely in the “phone game tie-ins are a cool gimmick but that’s all they are” crowd. I’m more fascinated by it from the technology side than as a gamer. As for the cross-console-to-PC gaming, that’s definitely the weakest area I’d like them to work on, but I still consider it a dream until one of the consoles fails. There has to be clear reasons to buy one console over another or multiple consoles won’t exist. We are seeing less and less exclusive games, and those that are exclusive from 3rd parties, tend to only be exclusive for a short period of time.

I think the winner will be determined in the next round by the effectiveness of their dashboard experiences and their ability to grow and support a large marketplace. Whomever can accomplish that will rule the living room. That being said, I’m ok with waiting for a new console for another 3-4 years unless you tell me that release day downloads and cheaper hard drives (hell yeah, Coop) aren’t an option until then. I’m ready to preload and play on the first day now.


Turns on my wallet


Charging something like 1,200% of the going rate for storage space when the guts of your console’s hard drive are no different than the one in a laptop or desktop is a goddamned crime. Either sack up and sell the memory for ~market rate (I can live with a little mark up, but 1,200%? Not even bars get away with that kind of mark up!) or get rid of the per-device limits on external storage. If you want me to buy into your system as a true replacement for my DVR and other media players, great, I’m in…but not with those rates for storage space.


I’m also sure that there are consumers out there what want their next console to be a home entertainment system ‘hub’. By that I mean you run everything through your console. Throw away the cable/satellite DVR, DVD/Blu Ray player, and so on. That isn’t going to work for me either. I am afraid that trying to fit too much into one box can result in some major fails. I like the surprise that has come with the multiple interface changes in the current life cycle. I really didn’t think that Netflix on my Xbox would have been possible when I got my first one. The big three need to start with a strong base and work up from there.

Back to money, the market will dictate the cost of items. Yes, it is dumb that there is a major mark up on storage devices, and of course the console makers are going to control what will work for their device. Yet, no matter what any analyst tells you, Sony shot themselves in the foot on price alone with PS3. Sony’s pricing choices has put them well behind of the pack in this console cycle. I think after price is in the discussion, you can nit pick what Sony has done wrong from an experience stand point. I think that any one who purchases the 3DS at the 250 dollar price point is a moron. I would then expect NGP to show up around 250 to 350 dollars. So where will this leave console prices next go round? Especially when they add telepathic controls, 4D, and the ability to play co-op with your pet. Let’s stick to great games. Some times less is more, Nintendo. I guess my point is, don’t ask for too many bells and whistles with the next console and complain about the price. FYI, booze mark up in bars is anywhere from 100 to 300 percent.


As far as the media center console: I’ve already got my AT&T UVerse connected to my Media Center PC and my Xbox 360. Turns out that it works damn near flawlessly already – streaming video and audio from my PC to my TV via my Xbox is basically painless and I can get rid of my Uverse box now and just use the 360, saving myself $7/month. I’m just missing the Xbox w/ a Blu-Ray player. Also: I know – I used to bartend, which is why I made the analogy.


The one method of streaming media I have never understood the purpose of streaming games, and I don’t see the need for that type of service during the next generation of consoles. Streaming games requires a decent and steady network connection, but eliminates the need for expensive hardware. In that regard it is useful for rental type services, but it is my opinion that by the time connection speeds are viable for lagless play, that there will be other downloadable rental services available for the systems. At that point I’d rather just pay the game from my hard drive. So once we have day and date downloadable games, I think you will start to see a lot more options as far as demos or timed rentals for games that you can download and delete later. OnLive just seems like a service destined for frustrated GameFly fans until the downloadable solution is more widespread.


Not what I had in mind


Although I’ve had a pretty good streaming experience for movies recently, I’m still not drawn to downloading day&date downloadables or a streaming service. Having the ability to get games from XBLA is nice, but a digital-only games makes my skin crawl. Aside from my love for actually having (and organizing alphabetically) boxes with discs in them, I’m skeptical of bug-free downloads in the same way that I have trouble giving the “everything will be in the cloud!”-ists much time. I don’t lose data because I back it up in several formats; if weren’t so time-intensive, I’d have it imprinted on stone tablets, too. So that’s not a direction I’d like to see things take. I think I spit out my way-more-than $0.02 on Media Centers, but I’ll just add (reiterate?) that Windows Media Center makes connecting my desktop, Xbox and Uverse box a piece of cake. (And I do it over hard lines. Because I’m old-school & paranoid/security conscious like that and best friends with a guy who goes through Cat-5 cable like it’s kleenex).


I agree with you, JDevL on streaming services. I just would rather not go there. I’d rather own the games I’m playing or rent them and return them. AT&T is already talking about limiting the bandwidth used by its internet customers. The limit is something extremely high, but as the demands for broadband keep escalating it seems to me like their really just ensuring higher profits down the road. Anyway… I don’t know how much bandwidth a streaming game of today’s standards uses, but I imagine it’s quite a bit. As convenient as downloadable games are, I’m not all that for them, either. I can see why publishers would love them… no packaging costs and no resale. It doesn’t feel very nice when you go and just delete a game from your Xbox HDD that you know you won’t play ever again, though.

As far as future tech in upcoming games… I’m perfectly content with the traditional upgrades (speaking to consoles.) Graphics have obviously come a long way over the years, but I do think there is still room for improvement there. If I could run Battlefield 3 as it looks in the trailers smoothly on my console, I’d consider that a win for a next gen console. Anything beyond that would be a bonus… albeit a welcome bonus… but when is a bonus not welcome? Other tech, like 3D (though I’m interested in the 3DS) and motion controls are whatever… BUT…. that does remind me of something I saw a while back that would be really bad ass for FPS games. Head tracking (see below)… This would let you literally peek around corners and give a you real sense that you’re in the game space. I think they could technically do this now with the Kinect and PSEye if they wanted to… and they should.


As far as your future tech, Rob – two great points. I’m not feeling like I’m missing anything graphically right now, but agreed that one more jump would be nice. I still want some separation between playing a character and literally looking like I’m moving/killing human beings. The head tracking…YES! How long have I been doing that on FPS’s/over-the-shoulder’s – trying to peek around corners? That would be absolutely excellent.


I’ve come around on wanting/needing packaging for my games. There will always be the games that I’m big fan of that I want something tangible for, but I’m happy with special edition types of items. I don’t need a game disc, box, or instructions other than if to prove I own/bought the game. As long as that is taken care of, and the developers/publishers still over extra items for “superfans” like the music industry is doing more and more, I’m cool with going all digital.


It’s not that I mind having the digital copy versus a physical disc. I actually prefer to not have to get all the way off of the couch and walk all 6.73 feet over to the xbox to change the disc when I switch games. I just wish there was a secondary market for digital copies. Even if M$ would give you some fraction of the going price to give up your rights to live arcade games (or same for Steam, etc.) good toward future purchases or something. Some type of resale value would be nice.


Is it wrong for me to be happy with the current state of gaming technology? To me, new tech is intimidating and I’ve just gotten used to having all the major console systems (PC, Wii, Xbox360, PS3).

I will say, however that I am more than ready for better virtual reality equipment. 3d is kind of novelty in my opinion, I want full immersion. I miss those VR machines at the Indy mall.

Virtual Reality

Ethan's crowd

I am a major fan of downloadable titles now, but am not as excited about streaming quite yet. My reason for this is that owning a game is a committment and streaming means I can jump from game to game. Its bad enough that Steam is so cheap, but a flat monthly fee and endless possibilities?! My head would explode


Lack of games is never going to be a problem with the future problems. You’re right, Ethan, the one that’s gonna “win” is the one that allows us to sort through the insanity. Everything should be within our downloadable grasp, but without an effective marketplace interface it’s going to be overwhelming.

What the hell every happened to Virtual Reality? I think that’s why 3D glasses annoy me, it’s lazy immersion. If I wanted that I’ll play Wii or Kinect, but offer a fully immersive experience and I may buy something ridiculous.




Agreed that the 3D-in-its-current-state is a half-assed immersive effect. I’m not sure that I think that you can do a proper market interface without a keyboard and/or mouse-cursor type interface. I’m aware that there is a monstrosity that attaches to my XBox 360 controller that serves that purpose, but even with XBLA/Zune being pretty slick, it’s still sort of a chore to search for things that aren’t “featured;” vis. – try searching for something specific by scrolling through alphabetical movie/game titles. It sucks.

Back on topic, though: JDevL is spot-on; the marketplace interface on the consoles (admittedly, my Virtual Console/PSN experience is limited and vicarious) is still somewhat cumbersome without something more like a keyboard/mouse interface that we’re used to/tied to. Get me a cybernetic implant that lets me input my search by though command alone, though, and you’ll have me as an early adopter for your system, absurd price point and all.


I’m kind of with Ethan that I really don’t have any issues with my current gaming consoles. It does suck getting used to a new interface, and I’m definitely comfortable with what I currently have. Sure it can be a pain in the ass searching for new content, but if i’m going to do any heavy browsing I just jump on the marketplace website. A simple fix would be just adding in a nice search feature that works with the chatpad. I don’t know, maybe that’s already there and I don’t know my console as well as I think I do. The one feature I am missing is the ability to slow down time while I’m playing. That’s really my main problem. I never have enough time to play. If you could just slow down time and get about 5 hours of gaming done in about 10 minutes that would be perfect… or completely dangerous. As far as VR goes, that stuff was so much better than that 3D crap they try to sell us now. Although my wish was always that they could let you play in a big room where you actually ran around instead of being stuck on the little platform.


A room vs a platform does sound cool, but even then you run the risk of slamming nose first into a wall. Really, they need to figure out how to tap into our brain to let us have programmed, controlled dreams, essentially. I guess you could say like The Matrix… but hopefully it wouldn’t turn into a human battery farm for the machines.


Tron may be safer than The Matrix


Hitting the wall adds to the realism! Do you run into a lot of walls in real life? I’m hoping that you’d see it in the game and think to yourself, “Hmmmm, I’m pretty sure I can’t walk though that wall.” You’d just want to make sure your controllers calibration wasn’t off at all.


The game worlds would either have to be tiny, or the room you’re playing in would need to be HUGE. I guess that depends on the type of game you’re playing, but when I think VR I want to play Battlefield! Plus to get the true experience it would be impossible to mold a real room to the shape of the game world. There may be hills or rocks or cars or any number of things that couldn’t really be represented in an empty room with some VR goggles. I think for a truly real experience we need brain tapping tech to pull it off. In the mean time, I would be cool with a headset that tracks just your head movements and control the rest with a controller like we have now. That would be really sweet…. so you could be completely visually emerged into the game world complete with peripheral vision, but not have to jump around like a monkey or feel limited by standing on a platform.


This isn’t complicated. Omni-directional treadmill. Electro-resistive suit and gloves w/ haptic feedback. Duh.

Anyway, I had a dream last night about how the only way I’m going to get really excited about Kinect is if they make it the controller for Fight Night Champions, but I’m not sure if it’s sensitive enough. Regardless, there’s something I actually would do. I love to box and I love the fight night games so if in the next gen they turned out a well-done kinect controlled fight night, I would totally buy it.

Try reading NatuLife by David Brin in his (Nebula award winning) collection of short stories called “Otherness” if you want to read about a pretty cool and not absurd description of a VR system.


So basically you guys want the room from Jamiroquai’s Virtual Insanity video to play your games in. Count me in!


Don't get ahead of yourself


Yes. Except, without Jamiroquai.


All we need to do is discover a way to consistently have lucid dreams and then create some kind of system for tracking the achievements earned in those dreams. Games would be cheap (free) and systems would be cheap (free)


I was contemplating taking the fact that I am a lucid dreamer and turning it into a “your mom” joke here, but decided against it.


The consensus is that we’re pretty damn happy as gamers today with a few minor suggestions as to how to improve our game acquisition process. Other than that, don’t come at us with half-assed ideas, they are just a waste of time and we aren’t your guinea pigs. However, if you are going to sell us a holodeck, we’ll sign up for your newsletter.


Giant Bomb (images)