The Great Circuit of Life
Around the late 1960s/early 1970s, we were graced with the world's first video game console. Since then, we've made significant and amazing leaps in pretty much all aspects of video games: gameplay, graphics, art, storytelling, you name it. In turn, the quality and depth of games given to us consumers has increased exponentially. We went from games where you push a ball back and forth across the screen to games with breathtaking graphics, sophisticated storytelling, and compelling and complex gameplay. The PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii allowed for superior gaming experiences than last gen (though that answer differs depending on who you talk to).
But is it going to be the same this time around in the 8th generation? With rumors flying about and certain companies claiming that the limitations of the seventh generation consoles are holding them back, its safe to say that its high time for the big 3 companies to develop new hardware. The big question here is: Is it worth it?
Its possible to create an enormous, detailed world and fit it all on to one shiny blu ray disc. You have the most realistic graphics in video game history. You have sophisticated gameplay and storytelling, backed up by its graphics. Consoles also allow you to play online, go on the internet, watch movies on Netflix and Hulu, store music, make purchases, and watch DVDs and Blu Rays. What more could you ask for? A console that makes you a sandwich?
The so called Leap and Do Graphics Matter?
So far, its a guarantee that new hardware will mean new graphics. That's all well and good. Who doesn't like nice graphics? But if that is the only thing that's going to be improved then I see no point in investing in new hardware. The way I see it, we have (some not all) developers whining that the PS3 and 360 aren't strong enough and that they need new hardware for better graphics. I have yet to hear anyone say "we can't implement this particular gameplay element because the hardware is holding us back." Gameplay, music, story, and art wise, you can do pretty much anything on current consoles.
You've got companies like Square Enix flashing next gen graphics but where's the next gen gameplay? Is it going to be better than current games? Are you just luring me to that seemingly delicious cake with only its gorgeous icing because the inside is burnt, hastily done, and disgusting? Graphics are important but they can't be the only thing holding the game up. Imagine a game that looked like Uncharted 3 but played like Superman 64? Oh the horror...
Good graphics are a definite plus and no one can deny that they do add to the overall experience. But better graphics won't make a gamer stay. Nor will it convince gamers to fork over hundreds of dollars for a new console. In the end, the combination of gameplay, story, and graphics should draw the player in. I don't play games to look at pretty graphics, I play for the gaming experience. I want to interact with the game. This is what sets video games apart from other entertainment mediums: interactivity. If I ONLY wanted to see detailed sweat, hair, realistic facial expressions and amazingly realistic body movements, I would go watch a movie with real people.
Could new consoles improve the current services?
Maybe. But is it necessary to create an entirely new consoles just to improve on current services such as PSN or Xbox Live? I think the companies are doing just fine with updating the console's features through download. To me, this isn't the best reason to want a new console.
Earlier this month in an article here on Gamespot, Take Two's CEO also said that next gen may be easier to develop for. His exact words from the article are "In many instances we believe that it may be somewhat easier to make titles for next-gen, depending on how the technology comes together."
He also says in the article that next gen might not be a whole lot more expensive than the current gen. Of course, you can tell by his wording that its speculation. Whether its harder or easier depends on the hardware given to them by Microsoft and Sony. So the jury's still out on that one, we can't tell if development will be easier or harder at this point.
Using resources wisely
Judging by what developers have said and showed us so far, a new console won't change much. Developers have showed us this gen that they are already capable of amazing things with the hardware they have now. I think we need more (as well as a wider variety of) talented writers, coders, artists, designers, directors, composers, etc way more than we need a new console. Great games are great because of the overall performance and quality, not just for its strength in one lone area.
More than likely, the games you remember and love from years ago had great everything: gameplay, story, music, graphics, everything. And if you choose to hide behind great graphics, then a new console will do almost nothing for you. It won't change the fact that you have piss poor gameplay, an incoherent plot, and grating music. But hey, its ok, because its got way better graphics than any game from last gen riiiiight? I mean look at the details on the man's face! You can practically see his pores! At least the game is pretty!! (Yes this is all sarcasm)
Do we need a new console?
Well do YOU need a new console? Think about it. I can't speak for every gamer out there but I can tell you my personal opinion.
I forked over $700+ of my own saved up birthday and Christmas money when I was younger to purchase a PSP, a Nintendo DS, and a PS3, because I knew without a doubt that I would get a vastly superior gaming experience than I did on my Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, and my PS2.
Am I going to do this again in a few years when a shiny new PS4 comes out? Will I shell out $430 for a new console again? Nooooo. I'll probably stick with my current consoles for a while, even after the PS4 and NextBox are released.
The seventh gen consoles still have a lot of life left in them, and I can tell at least some developers are still willing to churn out new and creative ideas with the use of 5-7 year old hardware. Until developers can convince me that there's more to new gen consoles than just beautiful graphics, I'll be stuck behind the times in the seventh generation for a while.
And honestly, I think I'll live.