Monday, April 2, 2012

Will the next generation of video game consoles be underpowered?

Ars Technica had a very interesting article today about the processors rumored to be powering Sony and Microsoft's next generation of consoles (which might just be the last generation of consoles). It's well worth the read, but if you don't have the time let me sum up. The rumored processors behind the Playstation 4 and the Xbox 361 (patent pending) are a little underwhelming. They're especially underwhelming when you compare them to the processors the 360 and the PS3 were sporting at the time of their launch. The Xbox is almost seven years old and seven years ago if you wanted to build a gaming machine with the horsepower the Xbox has you were talking $2,000 easy. The AMD x86 processor the PS4 is rumored to be using is arguably less powerful than the current PS3 cell processor. That's not to say the machine as a whole will be less powerful, but the processor itself isn't as cutting edge as some Sony fans would expect.

There are perfectly reasonable answers for why Sony and Microsoft would look to take a step back on in the innovation battle when it comes to the next generation of consoles. First off it's cheaper. There's no way Sony can come in at the 600 dollar price point again, and this time around I don't see anyone lining up to take a dollar loss just to gain market share. Setting the hardware standards a bit lower will keep the price down. As Nintendo showed with the Wii sometimes cheaper wins. Secondly, using a more traditional chipset will make it easier for devlopers to program. The closer these things are to regular computers the easier (and cheaper) it is to develop games. Just look at the success Microsoft has enjoyed with Xbox Live arcade.

What does this mean to you and I the gamer? I think it's just confirms the idea that our gaming machines are moving to what Nintendo envisioned 25 years ago, a real "entertainment system".

I'm not saying that Call of Duty 7: Blackest Ops won't look and play great, but if you thought Sony and Microsoft were pushing the previous generation of consoles as home entertainment integration devices, you haven't seen anything yet. Soon we'll all be logging into Facebook through our Kinnect facial recognition software. All so we can play Angry Birds the way it was meant to be played, fumbling around with our hands in the air looking like jackasses.




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