As companies start gearing up to launch new consoles or rumored to announce new consoles, there's going to be changes coming to the hardware. Besides the usual desire for more powerful CPU and GPU, here's a list of three things the staff at Gaming Nexus want to see in the next generation of gaming hardware
1) Removal of restrictions on companies producing peripherals
: I'm looking at you Microsoft and Sony. I know Microsoft makes a good deal of money on wireless controllers and such, but I want this practice to stop. Let other companies use your wireless technology to generate peripherals. I'm tired of needing to use dongles or wired solutions. If your stuff is good enough, it'll sell but let others have the ability to create controllers and headsets that integrate into your system better.
2) Ease restriction on expansion of internal storage
: Sony has it right. Let us dictate what size hard drive goes into our system and let use change it out. Sony even has instructions on how to do this yet Microsoft's still wanting to keep that process all to themselves and charge and exuberant amount for their hard drive. The Wii at least lets you use whatever SD card you want, but let's see all consoles in the next generation allow you to use any hard drive you want.
3) Backwards compatibility
: I love being able to play some of the old game on my system. I have the PlayStation 3 that has PS2 compatibility and there are some Xbox games that work on the 360. I want the next consoles to be able to cleanly play this generation's games.
1) Screenshot and movie capture
: I think that the time has come for both screen capture and movie capture to be built in natively to the hardware in the next generation. Many of today's top tier games support one of the two features at a software level, why can't this be done one the hardware level and be something available across all games? I would love to be able to capture movies and images on the fly to share with my friends and the technology seems to be readily at hand...
2) Full backwards compatibility
: There is no doubt in my mind that backwards compatibility is something that needs to exist in all future hardware releases. Especially with such a big push for the digital distribution of many titles now days, gamers need to be given some sort of assurance that their purchased goods will be of use to them for more than just a single generation. Can you imagine how it will feel if the next Xbox comes out and you no longer have access to any of your XBLA games?
3) Streamlined internet connectivity
: I want to be able to do everything from my console in the next generation, or at least everything reasonable. Light web browsing should be a feature on every platform; no, I don't expect to surf the web endlessly and make the living room my main source of web utility, but it would be nice to be able to simply open up a browser and check my email on occasion regardless of platform (I am looking at you Xbox 360!). Conversely, I would like to see gamers gain more access to their console via the internet and their PC's. Microsoft is moving in the right direction by allowing gamers to queue up downloads on their console through Xbox.com, but why can't all of my systems do this?
1) Persistent online connection
: one of the great things that a lot of people don't know about the Xbox 360 is that you can use Xbox.com to find content to download to your Xbox 360. It's nice it's handy but you still have to turn on your 360 for it to pull stuff down. What would be nice would be to have the system flip online every few hours or so and check to see if there's anything for it to download and if so to pull it down and then turn itself back off. This way you could have demos already sitting on your hard drive when you get home from work. Same could apply for system updates (I'm looking at you Sony) as it's frustrating to have precious gaming time ruined by constant updates, updates that could have been done over night.
2) Mobile experience
: Each new console system should have multi-platform apps that allow me to auto download content (see #1), check with my friends, and monitor my console (if it's on). It would be a great way for parents to be able to monitor what games their kids are playing without having to be in the room.
3) Use pictures instead of codes
: Each next generation system will probably have some kind of waggle/motion control system built in so let's use it to end the pain of having to enter 16 digit codes to unlock online multiplayer, DLC, and other stuff that's bought in the store. I want a place on the dashboard somewhere where I can turn the camera on and scan a code (much like QR codes are used for cell phones). These codes aren't going away anytime soon but it would be nice to make them easier to enter.
1) It plays games first and foremost
: Look, console manufacturers, I have a television, a PC, and could get a smart phone and a Blueray player if I wanted one, so I want a next gen console that is all about the games because I don't need it for anything else. Ideally, it would just a box, with a disk drive and an on/off button. I don't even need a lot of memory because I won't be ripping music onto it or sharing pictures with my buddies over the internet or downloading movies because I JUST WANT TO PLAY A DAMN GAME ALREADY!
2) Hardware and peripheral reliability
: Do I even need to explain this? I'm on my third 360, my Wii-motes were clearly never intended for regular use, and I've got two play and charge kits that barely work, That's not acceptable anymore.
3) The ability to do all the other stuff I don't really care about in the background while I play a game
: I'd like to be able to access the dashboard, or surf the internet (Ok, full access to the same internet I get on my PC is one non-game feature I'd be into to) without exiting my game. They already do this to a degree, but I'd like to see it expanded. I good example would be watching a walk-through video on the console while the game the walk-through pertains is only paused, rather than off.
1) Streamline local storage
: The first thing on my list would be to target the inefficient (and pork-barrel pricing) of storage in consoles. Ideally, we would see the gargantuan Hard Drives be replaced with smaller Solid State drives (SSD) which run quieter, more efficient, have no moving parts and get the data written and read faster than a traditional hard drive. I would be OK with the price of the console not dropping in order to get a standardized SSD drive of say, 100GBs to work with. However, think this also should be coupled with the retention and loosening of the rules on use of thumb drives, SD cards and the ability to swap out your SSD with a newer and larger SSD if you choose. While this sounds good, I am sure some of you are still thinking “WTF, Where am I going to store all my stuff?” However, that brings me to my next point….
2) Cloud-based account management
: This is a no-brainer for me. As digital content and mobile gaming become more the norm than the exception, it makes sense that the infrastructure that drives it should be equally as nimble. It is time for Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft to loosen up their standards and let you access what you paid for anytime, anywhere and on any console without paying an additional fee. PlayStation IDs, Wii Friend Codes and Xbox Gamertags should be able to be used both locally and on the move without having to carry them in your pocket or physically in the machine. In addition, if you bought a digital title, you should be able to access that from any console that you are logged in to. Your saves should/could also be accessible, depending on if you chose to save them locally or in the cloud. I can also see where updates that happen normally when you log into your console or fire up a certain game could be scheduled to be done off of your cloud storage unit and allow you to pick and choose when and what updates to perform. Something along the lines of how Windows Update works. If you couple thee suggestions with a standardized memory size/type in the console (see above) and the level of premium service you purchase, gamers and console manufactures could be sitting on a win-win for everyone. If basic service folks get 100GB locally and another 50GB in the cloud, while premium subscribers get 100GB local and another 200GB in the cloud, this could work for all. The console companies will also have the option of making additional storage available for a fee, say an extra 50GB a month for $10 or something. The pricing and size I am sure would need to be tweaked, but from an illustration perspective, I think it makes my point.
3) Lose the SKUs
: A pet peeve of both Chuck and I is the ridiculous amount of SKUs that come out for consoles. While I am OK with a redesign about half way through the life of the console, the silliness of changing storage sizes, pulling features and adding features, all in the same chassis really needs to stop. Not only is it confusing to the customer, it can absolutely slow or wipe out sales for a particular model that hasn’t sold through stock yet. Also, while I think there is a place for these limited edition consoles, I think the manufactures need to work with their retailers and come up with some sort of trade-in program if they want to continue to pump out limited edition units when people have already happily purchased their base unit. Although this article is based on consoles, I would be remiss if I didn’t share my distaste with the handheld market as well. Nintendo and Sony makes the console SKU dilemma look like a simple choice when dealing with the have created in the handheld market. There are currently four (FOUR) Nintendo DS iterations available for sale at retail. The DS, DS Lite, GS XL and 3DS and the Sony PSP had both the PSP-3000 and PSPGo siting on shelves with the two-SKU Vita inbound. You wonder why the handheld sales are struggling, over-saturation with too few improvements from model to model would be my guess.
1) No Region Locks
: Look guys, if you're not going to bring me games from halfway across the globe, then at least meet me halfway and make it so that it's not prohibitively expensive (ie. buying a second console, or modding) to play the games I want to play. Just kill region locking already. It only frustrates me as a consumer to have to jump through so many hoops to play obscure titles. Or go the route of Cave with Deathsmiles 2 and release it in to the wild via digital download and offer it completely as is.
2) Kill the obfuscated save locking system
: I've had all three consoles die on me this generation. And the most devastating loss was from my PS3, since it took all my save data with it, including stuff from the PS1/2 era, that 120 hour Final Fantasy X data where I finally beat Nemesis? Gone. Putting my hard drive in to another console only offered the option to format it, casting my data even further in to the ether. Cloud solutions are a nice option, but not at the cost of having to sign up for Playstation Plus when Steam does it for free. Let me move my data across to whatever console I want, trophy or achievement data be damned for my friends.
3) A true reason to purchase digital downloads
: Sony and Microsoft have really bungled online purchasing this generation, selling games at sometimes nearly double the retail cost of a boxed copy. It seems like there was very little thought on being market competitive with prices in the online stores. Sure you can make the argument for bandwidth costs and all that other crap, but that just encourages me even more to shop at a retail store, even with the rising cost of gas. Gamestops and Best Buys are a dime a dozen in larger cities, so why should a smart shopper, who is going to receive special offers and bonuses for buying a game in the store, be compelled to purchase through XBox Live for a bare bones digital download? This also gets extended to the PC market as well, with the whole Battlefield pricing scheme on Origin, we see that there really is no reason other than cash-grab for companies to sell their wares online.