I'll start a blog series now talking about the 8th generation of gaming consoles. It doesn't matter if the new consoles will be released this year, 2012 or even 2013, what I'll write here are the tendencies of the game companies in a general way, talking about what to expect on future consoles, games, gameplay methods, new technologies, and so on.
Let's begin this entry with what to expect about the consoles itself, be it Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft:
- Individual Console Tendencies:zing
As most gamers know, Nintendo supported mostly casual players and innovative gameplay methods, Sony focused on hardcore gamers, and Microsoft somewhere in between those markets and adding support with other microsoft products, like Windows. Looking at charts and polls, Sony is likely to become more friendly with casual players, since they represent a good parcel of buyers (just look at Zynga's fortune because of casual games), and probably adding more alternative ways of gameplay instead of being restrict to the normal controller and PS Move. As of Nintendo, no surprise they'll continue to innovate new gameplay methods with the Wii U tablet controller and compatibility with 3DS for an even greater array of control possibilities, and of course, now adopting full HD visuals. For Microsoft, probably it will focus on improving Kinect's abilities of motion capture and voice commands/recognition, hopefully for online gameplay with Kinects, and support for more Microsoft products like tablets, Windows Phone and use of Windows 8 interface.
- More memory, HD space and Faster processors.
Needless to say, in all game consoles (and portables) transitions, all those aspects improves. I'd be as far as to say next generation consoles will have built-in 100+GB of HD space, over 2GB RAM (for those thinking that's little, Playstation 3 and Xbox360 Slim have 512MB RAM) and 4 to 5+ GHz processors (divided in how many nucleus they seem fit). And I'm only guessing in a more cost-compatible viewpoint, since extrapolating much would easily rocket consoles prices over US$500,00, thus reducing sales since USA and Europe are still recovering from their economical crisis.
- Internet Dependency.
The best way of combating piracy is, indeed, internet connection and constant preventive upgrades against new cracking methods and algorithms. No, not constant internet connection like on Driver: San Francisco for PC, but instead, what EA is trying to do with Mass Effect 3, requiring a one-time only online "authorization" using Origin and then play the game normally, be to play in single player or not. Honestly, families that buy a $250 console just for entertaining CAN pay for an internet connection of a few megabytes. 8th-Gen will surely require internet connection for almost anything, and even single-players will have no excuse for not having to connect online, even without subscriptions on services like Xbox Live, Netflix, Skype and Steam (that hopefully will support consoles in the near future).
- Portable-Console Interfacing.
Tablets and Android-powered cellphones are the fever of the moment, so why not exploit this chance? Console controlled by tablets, different gameplay methods, local linking, data sharing and exchange. The possibilities are almost endless, and all I noted was already tested, and it all can go even further. And with AR technology becoming more and more advanced and flexible, it's a good call game consoles will have that kind of support interface (what Microsoft is doing right now).
- Graphics and sounds...not that better?
Yes, the current generations have awesome graphics, and full HD 3D support is even better. Unfortunately, it won't be likely that 8th-Gen will have better graphics than that, or at best, just some polishing on quality by supporting new image-rendering technologies. Thing is, better image quality exponentially increases building costs, and pricey consoles at times like this won't attract that many gamers. Plus, newer image quality technologies like 1440p images and Quad-HD are mostly unknown, have little support, and, on domestic use, don't imply in big increases of quality. Same thing with best sound technologies, like 32bit sound quality, only notably better than Dolby Digital's 24bit TrueHD sound quality on ridiculously big spaces with more than 8 audio channels. As a side note, TrueHD audio can be improved with better-than-bluray disc quality, like HVD, so there's still ways to improve just by changing the game disc's space, but that topic is for another blog entry.
- Region Lockout and No Backwards Compatibility.
Nintendo's Wii U already confirmed backward compatible with Wii games. Next Playstation probably will be backward compatible with PS3 titles, but only in its "native" region and Xbox is likely to not be backward compatible with current generation consoles' games. Also, it's most likely (except with the next Playstation) that region lock will still be present. It is a fair speculation. Why? News flash: 8th-Gen WON'T be an expensive console/game generation, as I mentioned on the first aspect. Region locks eases production of certain games, prevent piracy and regulates pricing of games worldwide (see Wikipedia for more info), not to mention being backward compatible with games from different regions also implies different processes to run before playing the game, thus requiring more processing power for older generation games and increasing production costs again. Simply put, since Xbox 360 and Wii are region locked, their successors will most likely be region locked too, and the next Playstation will be just like PS3 is now when playing PS2 games (region-locked backward compatible, but region free for its own games).
And there we have it, my forecast about 8th-Gen consoles. On the next part, we'll talk a little more about the 8th-Gen game forecast. See you then!