Do we need to press the refresh button?

4 Dec

Let me just come right out and say it: this generation of consoles is at the end of it’s life. There’s nothing left to give, the consoles themselves are running outdated technology and sales will only decline from this point on.

Why is this? Time of course! It has traditionally been the case that consoles would be renewed after a period of around five years, at the moment it has been seven years since the release of the Xbox 360, where are our new toys? Now, don’t get me wrong, there is life in the current generation yet, regardless of how flaccid it may be. Let us not forget that in the final days of the PS2 came God of War 2 and Okami, both excellent games. It is at the end of a console’s life that developers have often figured out the best tricks to bring life into their works, this is most noticeable in the 360. Games such as Mass Effect come in multiple DVDs, harking back to the early noughties PC gaming scene and it’s multiple CD phase. Developers are hampered by the memory restrictions of the current generation, the current situation represents tha maximum of what can be achieved with the current hardware restrictions.

PC developers back in the day adopted the DVD as a distribution medium, then digital downloads. As technology advanced, so did developers, as having access to more powerful tools allowed them to express themselves more fully. Now, do you see a parallel? It can be argued that in order to truly innovate, the next generation of consoles needs to expand upon traditional input methods and offer greater internet connectivity as well as offering greater power. Indeed, much as most people bought the PS2 because it had a DVD player built in, current gen consoles are often bought to work as media centres. However, it cannot be ignored that, if given access to more powerful processors and tech, developers would be able to innovate on a greater scale. Simply providing new input methods does not guarentee society-wide artistic momentum.

Unreal 3 is a great engine, however it is old, much like the 360, PS3 and what have you. We need some fresh air to allow the medium to expand in interesting new directions. The swansong of the current gen is fast approaching, with titles such as GTA V on the horizon, things certainly look rosy. The current state of affairs cannot continue for much longer.

Cloud gaming, greater connectivity, different controllers…these are all things that excite me. I don’t want my children to be playing the same Xbox as me 20 years from now. The future, as evidenced by platforms such as Steam, has much to offer.

The open source movement perhaps offers the greatest window of opportunity for the gaming scene. Take for instance the Ouya, $99 when it comes out. Android powered, customisable, funded by the consumer and accessible. Is there anything brighter than a future where anyone can make a game? An in-console app store? This may sound like anathema to some, but greater access brings greater opportunity, and the customer always has the final say over their own purchase. Did Steam Greenlight cause any issues for the PC gaming scene? Has Kickstarter made any significant issues appear? Has mobile gaming killed traditional gaming? No, because the element of choice is involved, along with greater involvement. Computing for the people is a step closer, the stranglehold of EA and Activision is detrimental to the health of the industry. Where is the innovation? They release iterations of the same games year after year to increased profits, yet as we see the total number of games being sold worldwide is decreasing.

Putting power directly in the hands of the developers and the people is the best solution to solving this stranglehold. The gaming market just now is much the same as the mobile market before the introduction of the iphone, stale focussed on incremental upgrades and dedicated entirely to the publisher. Think of how that market changed, then be as excited as I am for what the near future has to offer. If a new generation of consoles is released along these lines, offering greater support for indie developers and allowing greater community involvement, then great, but what we really need is something like the Ouya to succeed and bring competition back to a broken game of monopoly that is slowly killing all involved.


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