Next-Gen Games Consoles pre E3 – What do you think?

The 80s called, they want their VCR back.

The 80s called, they want their VCR back.

Apologies to outdoor walking enthusiasts who follow my blog and have absolutely no interest in gaming. Please skip this post which will most likely just sound like complete nerdy gadget babble (which of course it is).

So, now we’ve had both Sony and Microsoft’s announcements for their new consoles which will be launched later this year. A new generation of consoles is an exciting time, full of promise and hope. I just thought I’d write down where my head is at this stage and hopefully hear what your thoughts are. It’s all very well listening to journalists but I’m interested to hear what my friends think.

Where I’m at with the current generation.

Currently we have both a Xbox 360 and a PS3. It wasn’t a conscious decision to own both, we got the PS3 very late in this generation’s cycle for two reasons;

1) Playstation exclusives like Uncharted, Flower, and Journey that we’d heard a lot about and wanted to play.

2) Free online multiplayer without a monthly paid subscription.

Since plugging in the PS3 we haven’t turned on the Xbox. The main reason why? Free online multiplayer and 4 friends who also have Playstations. There are other reasons too. I prefer the interface and find it surprising that Sony have taken flack for it, for me it’s much more intuitive (and pleasing to the eye) than the current Xbox UI. The machine is also way quieter than our Xbox which has always sounded like a dying aeroplane engine. The controllers don’t require batteries which is a little thing but boy is it great. Lastly Sony, at the moment, seems to me to be more customer-orientated. It’s not, ‘pay a subscription or get nothing’ it’s, ‘pay a subscription to get more’ and that’s a completely different tone.

As an aside, what a generation we’ve had! I’ve never been as excited and into video games as I am now. Assassin’s Creed 2, Fable 3, Tomb Raider (2013 reboot), Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning, Borderlands 1 and 2. Some of my favourite games of all time and all in this generation.

You're holding it wrong.

Dude, you’re holding it wrong.

How I’m feeling about the next-gen.

So yes, I’m a little bit of a Sony fangirl at the moment and I expect this has skewed my view but this is where I’m at.

Sony talked about supporting game developers and especially indie developers. Making it easier for them to code for the PS4 and to get their games to market. Horay! More of this please.

All of Microsoft’s TV talk completely missed the mark with me. Why would I choose to pay Microsoft (an Xbox Live subscription would be required) to turn my Xbox into the portal through which media gets into my home when I can access it without any additional cost via a laptop, set-top-box, or smart TV? If they want the Xbox One to be the only thing under the TV, replacing cable boxes and Apple TVs, then these features have to be subscription free. Xbox 360 online gamers are acclimatised to paying Microsoft a regular subscription but to me it’s just throwing money away.

Technically, on paper, the PS4 is a more powerful machine although Microsoft have apparently said some processing power could be off-loaded to the ‘cloud’. This probably won’t have any noticeable effect except on Playstation exclusives but still… vroom vroom.

The Xbox One’s Kinect microphone freaks me out. I know, I know. Every-time I sit in front of my laptop, like I am now, I’m sitting in front of a camera and microphone and connected to the internet BUT the thought of having an always-live internet-enabled microphone in my living room above the TV is creepy.

There’s been no definitive answer to the Xbox One’s rumoured ‘always-on’ requirement but a Microsoft representative has said that it’ll need to connect to the internet at least once a day. As a family who switches everything off at the plug when it’s not being used (to save on electricity and for fire-prevention) what happens if we leave it unplugged?

I love the promise of being able to start playing a game while it’s still downloading. If it works Sony have addressed a major frustration with the current generation of consoles.

Call of Duty with a dog. Even pulling a Molyneux won’t get me interested in that game, sorry.

And finally, perhaps the most important thing, that shiny bit on top of the Xbox is going to be a bitch to dust.

Sooo…

It looks like I’m pretty anti-Xbone! Didn’t realise how much so until I wrote it down. Sony haven’t addressed a lot of things that Microsoft have (DRM, paid subscription services, what the box will look like, etc.) so I do feel they’ve let Microsoft fall on the sword first. The more we know the more there is to dislike. If the PS4 requires a paid subscription for online multiplayer then my tune will definitely change.

Soon it’ll be E3 when Microsoft will be bringing their game face and Sony will get the last word. In the meantime, please tell me what you think…

Gamer Girl by Samuel Deats

References

IGN’s PS4 Xbox One comparison chart here

The Weekend Confirmed audio podcast, Xbox One episode here

Adam Sessler’s first impressions video and others from Rev3Games here

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7 thoughts on “Next-Gen Games Consoles pre E3 – What do you think?

  1. Honestly I’m perfectly happy with my console, i too own the big two. I see no reason for any time in the near future to buy another console, there is a huge amount of game for the current gen I have not played/finished. I could spend $300+ on a new console or spend the same amount of cash for game for my current system and spend the next few finishing them. I just don’t see the point.

    It’s not like the games look bad, skyrim on the 360 looks incredible and so do the new batman games and many others. It just seems to me like the updating just to get more cash out the players. It will be at least a year after they are released before they get all bugs out the system anyway.

    sorry to rant, great article.

    I miss the pod btw.

    M

    • Thanks for commenting Myles 🙂 I agree, we’re probably not going to buy at launch either. We didn’t get a 360 until it had been out a while. I’ve only just hopped on the 3DS bandwagon now that they’ve brought out the improved XL version. Just common sense to let the early adopters take the pain but I still like to read and speculate on the next-gen releases as they happen.

      I think the next consoles are going to be a big step up in graphics and processing power. At the moment they’re a long way behind PCs. Although that doesn’t really bother me as I don’t have a PC to compare my console to. I am enamoured with the thought of being able to play a game while it’s still downloading and installing though. Heaven! Agree wholeheartedly that there are still lots of great games on the current generation that we haven’t played yet. Bioshock Infinite is on my list of shame!

  2. As a PC gamer (and the Mrs owns the telly in the evenings), I watch these announcements with some interest but not a buyers eye. I think it is very interesting that both boxes are based on x86 architecture now – good news for everyone as software titles will be easier to port. I also dislike a subscription service, the PC online big titles are going free to play and still make huge amounts of cash (Planetside 2 is an example).

    I think it is telling that Microsoft feel in such a strong position that they can still charge for online gaming, which is a real cheek. I’m surprised the boxes do not have more oomph than they do but I doubt most gamers will notice that difference.

    As for gesture and “always listening”, I think those technologies need to be used before you can understand their impact. Like iPads, which many couldn’t see a need for until it filled a hole in their lives, I think gestures and voice activation needs to be gotten used to.

    Great article, Sah!

    • Thanks 🙂 Did you hear that people’s Kinects were responding during Microsoft’s presentation to the voices coming out of their TV speakers? Brilliant! Christian Spicer (from Weekend Confirmed) says his next Call of Duty gamer tag will be ‘Xbox Off’.

      “Xbox Off can you flank the guys on the left…sh*t!”

      There is too much fun to be had with that.

      I agree though, hard to predict where this tech is going. When Kinect comes in the box it could really take-off with developers.

      Microsoft seem out-of-touch with regards to the future of broadcasting and subscription services. It might work with the world as it is now (just) but in a few years time will the Xbox One be flexible enough to adapt? I guess we’ll see. More and more I see people having success with the ‘give the product away for free but pay more if you want special extras’ model. In fact I think there was a TED talk about that being the future of commerce so it must be true! The days of giant broadcasting corporations and expensive cable company subscriptions are coming to a end. Why would Microsoft chose now to try and get into that party? And as you say, every else is going Free To Play. For me that is a big advantage that Sony has and I hope they keep that model.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. So here we are! We’ve had both reveals and frankly colour me unimpressed. If I have a vice in life then let’s say that gaming is it. I have been gaming since the late 70’s (I’m 44) and have avidly followed the technology and advances in gaming since those years. I purchased both the 360 and PS3 on their launch dates and am in the demographic both MS and Sony love – early adopter, hang the cost group. After seeing both reveals I am the least excited I’ve ever been for the future of gaming.

    Two years ago in a gaming forum I made a post in which I predicted the face of console gaming would change forever when the next generation came along. I could see the writing on the wall each time MS updated their dashboard with the focus on new features that promoted live TV watching, or Netflix integration. Sony for their part made a huge deal of their PS Home development that would allow people to walk around a virtual world and watch movies together. Both vendors were sending strong overtones of the how the world of consoles was changing. Now we are seeing the culmination of this come to pass.

    If I had to pick a winner of the two reveals then the PS4 one was marginally less sucky than the Xbox One. Having said that the focus on Indy development by Sony is welcome but being a PS Vita owner concerns me that the PS4 will suffer a similar fate – i.e. low number of first-party releases that they then hope are supplemented by Indy games. Anyone who has a PS Vita will know how poorly it’s fairing and why.

    I recall as well how bad the first two years of the PS3’s life was. Game after game was delayed, hugely over hyped (often by hardcore Playstation gamers tbh) and then when they arrived they almost all under delivered. The E3 demos of Killzone 2 far exceeded what the game actually looked like on its delayed release. All multiplatform games looked worse and had reduced frame rate versus their 360 counterpart. All in all, I remember a strong PS3 reveal which led to the dream simply not being realised (no trophy support, no rumble in controllers, a poor, single threaded UI (imo), missing USB ports, and so on).

    The 360 on the other hand leaped out of the starting blocks and did great. However over the life of the console it’s a clear case of starting with a bang and ending with a whimper. Clearly their focus in the past two years has not been on improving the gaming experience rather instead attempting to expand their demographic and make the Xbox the ‘one stop device’ for home entertainment. I just don’t like this approach. The last place my Xbox will ever be is in the living room. I’m part of a family and just because I want to play a game does not mean everyone else in my household wants to watch.

    From the reveals I would say that MS have declared their hand early and I hope that Sony learn from the negative reaction and tailor what they do accordingly. For MS, they are in damage limitation mode. By focussing on TV TV TV features in the reveal they have made an implied declaration of what they consider to be most important for the next generation. Unfortunately for them that doesn’t align with the expectation of their hardcore gamers, of which I include myself. Here’s what is getting my goat…

    I am unhappy that raw power has been compromised in order to allow them to ship a Kinect with every console while keeping the price ‘acceptable’.

    I am unhappy that there is a strong rumour that developers must utilise in some way the Kinect in every game. I do not want to stand when I’m gaming, wave my arms about, or talk to my freakin’ TV. I want a controller and I want engaging gaming experiences.

    I am unhappy that they spent time developing an operating system which allows them to fast switch between playing a game, watching a film and skyping with someone. Basically they are fixing a problem that nobody felt they had.

    I am unhappy that they expect us early adopter, hardcore gamers, to fork out a premium release price for a glorified TiVO (in fact it’s not even a glorified TiVO as it requires a feed from a TiVO, or some other source. I mean wtf!)

    Most of all I am unhappy that MS have blatantly stuck two fingers up at the hardcore gaming community in order to try and ‘do a Wii’ and capture the casual gaming demographic. Lets just be clear here. The casual gamer is very constrained on entry point cost and will not fork out early adopter prices. When the price is right they will go out en masse and buy a console, however the market saturates and eventually, mid-way through the product lifecycle, they stop buying games and peripherals. The console will gather dust or go on eBay. This is the market MS are in danger of tailoring to. I’m not saying they should ignore the casual market, but it shouldn’t be an either/or. If they shut out the hardcore gamers they will reduce the life-cycle of their console – simple as that (I’m on my 5th Xbox 360).

    As for Sony. Well at least, for now anyway, they do look to be focussing on the gaming experience and for that I’m pleased. However, history has shown us that Sony very often over promise and then fail to deliver. We have yet to see their console, what it’s capable of and exactly how many first party developers will be supporting it. What are the exclusives and when will they arrive? Will multi-platform developers develop their games for the lowest common denominator (the Xbone) in order to reduce development costs and maximise return on investment? We’ll have to wait and see.

    For now, my leaning is toward getting the PS4, but I’m not hugely enthused for either. Roll on E3, you have a big role to play this year!

    ;TLDR
    Annoyed with MS; Leaning toward the PS4; All to play for at E3.

    • Excellent comment! Thanks for posting. Be very interested to hear your thoughts after E3.

      Btw, what news channels do you follow for your console news? Do you recommend anywhere in particular?

  4. Thanks Sarah.

    For my fix I tend to read Eurogamer (it’s on my soon to disappear iGoogle page) and IGN. I have the Engadget and TechCrunch apps on my iPad and also browse the PSU (Playstation Universe) forums. Bit of a mish-mash really.

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