By Luther Blissett
A recent poll at popular games website Gamespot suggested that not many of us were terribly excited by the prospect of a new Nintendo Wii. Now this might be because users of the website are perhaps more seasoned gamers keener on platforms such as the PS3. Or it could be that the Wii is what it is and unless the latest version is massively different, buyers won’t be turned on quite so quickly this time.
It’s a difficult pitch. Almost everyone is in agreement that the three main consoles (the PS3, Wii and XBOX 360) are coming towards the end of their natural life. The operating system behind the ever popular XBOX 360 for example, is extremely outdated when compared to even moderately priced modern PCs. But what do gamers want from a future release and what will it take to replace these massively successful machines?
Let’s take a look back at the release of the XBOX 360. Launched way back in 2005, the platform was undoubtedly an improvement on its not-too-shabby predecessor. The graphics were obviously a big step up, as was the storage space, user friendliness and personalised aspects such as your Avatar. But what really turned gamers on was the likes of the revolutionary wireless controller and later on the impressive additions such as Last. FM. The online gaming (though an extra expense) was slicker than the same experience on the XBOX and the ability to really create and share an online presence with your mates made the platform much more social than
anything released previously.
When you bought an XBOX 360 or a PS3 you weren’t just buying into a toy you were buying into a community and a way of spending time with friends many of us would never have considered. As the machines have evolved and the likes of SKY TV, Lovefilm, 4OD, Twitter and Facebook have been integrated into the experience these ‘gaming’ consoles have become even more essential. So, what can we expect from the next generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony? We’re still unsure. As discussed in a previous article both companies are keeping tight lipped about any developments, though most industry experts have pencilled in a release in late 2013.
While we can’t really begin to speculate on what will be part of any new release, we can discuss what we think should be part of the next generation consoles.
Here’s our wish list.
Play all the old games
Both the PS3 and XBOX 360 have seen a stack of excellent titles over the years. From the recent release of Skyrim to the seminal Gears of War, it would be a travesty if fans couldn’t play these games on a new machine. Sadly with the likes of the XBOX 360 there were major compatibility issues with older XBOX games meaning fans missed out on experiencing some of their old favourites. Full compatibility would give gamers a real incentive to purchase any new machine, particularly if online multiplayer options also remained.
Make hardware upgradeable
2005 was a long time ago and maybe we should be celebrating the longevity of the XBOX 360 rather than deriding the fact it hasn’t really been spruced up yet. But the fact remains, PC gaming at the top end is much better looking than either of the leading consoles recent efforts. While hard drives can be swapped and upgraded with ease on current consoles a real plus point would be the ability to swap graphics cards manually. Having the ability to enhance your original machine’s visual capabilities as new technology becomes available is a key plus point to gaming PCs and would be a welcome addition to any new console. Also, the likes of Kinect should be a built in feature to any new console rather than be an extra add-on.
Become more social
There’s no question that multiplayer games are one of the big success stories of both PS3 and XBOX 360. But still there’s more to be done. Neither platform has ever managed to create any significant MMORPG titles yet for example. You only have to look at the continued popularity of World of Warcraft to know that if a console could provide a fully interactive online world the potential would be massive. Another interactive aspect which could be improved upon is the way games work with social media. Wiring achievements into Twitter or allowing players to automatically link up Facebook friends to their gaming account would be a solid start. To this day, I’m still finding mates with XBOX Live accounts who I didn’t even know had the console in the first place.
While indie games have been an integral aspect of today’s consoles, neither the PS3 or XBOX 360 offer anything like the same amount of gaming customisation as is available to PC gamers. Massive modding communities exist online creating content, patches and extensions for existing games. Some of these mods are as good as anything created professionally and in the case of some titles have greatly extended the life of certain games. Allowing console users the creative license to explore a title’s capabilities might not be so easy, but if in-built accessibility was there it’d breathe a lot of life into the gaming community.
Sony’s latest release The Playstation Vita will be hitting UK stores this month. Its launch in Japan late 2011 suggested that while smartphones and tablets were eating into the demand for handheld consoles, there was still a market for powerful portable games. What we’d like to see is some sort of interactivity between portables and non-portables. Perhaps you could customise an RPG player on your phone or create a Modern Warfare multiplayer class before unleashing them on your actual console? The Whispernet technology utilised by Amazon’s Kindle shows us that syncing between devices can work and if big screen console gaming (or aspects of it at least) can be experienced across multiple platforms that would be a massive step up. Commutes would be a whole lot more exciting if you could take your phone out and continue the game you were playing the night before in some shape or form.