The Xbox 720

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The Xbox 720

Experts weigh in on the possibility of a modular Xbox.

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Dennis Scimeca:
The Xbox 720

Experts weigh in on the possibility of a modular Xbox.

Read Full Article

So we take a game console, and we allow people to upgrade individual components like CPU, GPU, and the like. We already have keyboard and mouse controllers available, plus motion controls, so a variety of interface devices isn't a problem.

Of course, each of these components will likely be proprietary. And while there may be imitators, warranties and certifications will only apply to first-party parts.

Developers will aim for the middle of the road, if they want to sell, or for the high-end if they want the publicity. Complaints will range from, "It's slow on my system" to "Why won't they make games that get the most out of my super-duper GPU?"

The expense will begin to annoy people, and they'll continue demanding that their console do more. Playing DVD, Blu-Ray, and music, browsing the internet, social networking, basic software applications... A lot of this we already have, of course.

And we'll have one company (Microsoft, probably) making these modular consoles, while another (Sony, most likely) will stick with the one-size-fits-all model that allows them to more tightly control the whole she-bang...

...and congratulations, we've just invented the PC and Mac markets. Again. All we've done is change the labels and the controllers.

It's okay, though. This is a good thing. Console developers have to stop developing game consoles. Cross-functionality is already in high-demand (see my phone-camera-GPS-browser-texting-toaster-loofa-beard-trimmer), and it is going to be nothing short of essential for the next generation. And you can only get so much like a personal computer before you are a personal computer.

But don't people get a console so they don't have to do all that.
If you're going to go through all that may as well play the PC and get mods and everything too.
They're also going to have to start posting system requirements on console games now too.

Also, this is what I heard they were going to do when they first started hyping up the original xbox and later the 360.

The one good thing about this is that when one of those components melts itself, you wont have to sent the whole machine in, Just that one piece. And if that one piece is cheap enough not too many people complain about it, they wont even have to replace it for free. It'll be profitable for them and a huge pain in the ass for gamers; yea, that seems to be about the direction we're going in.

I don't think the whole "upgradeable consoles" thing will take off.

The N64 had some success with its RAM upgrade, but I think that was the last we'll ever see of such a practice.

I would like to point out that since the WiiU is being completely revealed at the E3, no matter what anyone says, people still think they are going to show a new console. Even though in the past they have taken the same 10 lifespan stance that Sony has taken. I hate all this rumor jazz. And, it's not till June(?). I don't give a damn at all.

Also, Microsoft has almost completely turned it's back on PC development. It's the very reason why some of their biggest products never showed up on the PC. I have the first Gears of War for the PC, but at zero hour they pulled the PC version of the sequel. No Halo games. It's a joke. Microsoft will only ever get my money for OS's, and not Windows 8 either (it's gonna suck if history tells us anything).

Modular consoles would get very limited benefits - developers have to build for the lowest common denominator, or else go mad accounting for all possible configurations. Having said that, I'd rather pay good money for a current-gen 360 with an SSD on-board.

It's more likely they'll license the Xbox software for third-party manufacturers (with strictly defined build requirements similar to Windows Phone 7), and get themselves out of the hardware game that way. Xbox's true value proposition is really in the software, specifically Live.

Really, though, the console market is all manner of messed up right now. The 'console experience' of the future is increasingly less predictable.

The day I have to tweak settings and debug a game on a "console" is the day I quit console gaming. I do enough of that shit at work, I don't want to do it at home. I will switch to Sony or Nintendo if MS starts that game.

I could see the posibility with specific first party hardware designed to run part of upgraded consoles. It's not difficult to design limiters in firmware or software to run older games at proper speeds. Look at DOS-box as a perfect example for that.

Eh, always have been a Nintendo/PC diehard, and never owned a Xbox of any kind, so it is no suprise that Microsoft would try something like this.

Release a new system (Lets call it the Xbox 360SX), with the ability to upgrade it with 25-50$ add-ons, which leads to games that require said add-ons (example: Wii MotionPlus and LoZ:SS), which ends with people with insufficient income to get left in the cold when Call of Duty: Future Warfare 4 come out.

That is my 2 cents.

I highly doubt modular consoles will happen. One of the main things about consoles that appeal to people is their simplicity. People just want it to work, rather than having to worry about system specifications.

Also, why would I buy a modular consoles? To me it sounds like a PC that has less versatility. Why not just buy a new computer and upgrade the parts in that.

Modular production has an overhead cost that isn't being considered in this argument. Not only do modular parts have to conform to some agreed upon (whether by accident or dictation) interface (which can sometimes even double the cost of production), but it also reduces possible market penetration for individual games. If I make a game designed for one chip set but the consoles have a variety of chipsets, everyone with a lesser machine will be unable to play my game. This is not only bad for me, but it would also be bad for the console maker, who is out the royalties which are the basis for profitability in the console market. The result of this is a market where developers refuse to make games for anything but the base chipset and the console maker has needlessly dramatically increased the price of their console with no commercial benefit.

It's worth noting that console history is not devoid of examples of consoles which tried to be upgraded - it's just that they were all horrible commercial failures. That said, the only company in the business today with enough history to remember these things is Nintendo so I could easily see M$ and $ony stupidly following this route. I'm not saying it won't happen - just that it won't make money.

I would just like to point out that there already was ONE modular console. Remember the Sega Megadrive? and then Sega CD? And then 32X? And even the Saturn which was just all of the above rolled into one?

How did that turn out?

THIS is why there will NEVER be a modular console. And good riddance anyway. If i wanted to mess around with specs and upgrades, i would have bought a PC.

Kojiro ftt:
The day I have to tweak settings and debug a game on a "console" is the day I quit console gaming. I do enough of that shit at work, I don't want to do it at home. I will switch to Sony or Nintendo if MS starts that game.

Exactly. And I say that without having your job but: the whole point of having a console is that you can plug and play and you don't have to deal with all the other shit that PC players seem to enjoy.

On top of that, plug-play things help more people get into the activity. There's a reason that consoles sell by the millions.

I guess Microsoft is scared shitless of the new cost to subsidize the hardware again.

RaggedKarma:
Modular consoles would get very limited benefits - developers have to build for the lowest common denominator, or else go mad accounting for all possible configurations. Having said that, I'd rather pay good money for a current-gen 360 with an SSD on-board.

It's more likely they'll license the Xbox software for third-party manufacturers (with strictly defined build requirements similar to Windows Phone 7), and get themselves out of the hardware game that way. Xbox's true value proposition is really in the software, specifically Live.

Really, though, the console market is all manner of messed up right now. The 'console experience' of the future is increasingly less predictable.

A modular console (or more accurately an upgradable console), if done right, will not turn into a PC. The upgrades (in the form of a single CPU/GPU chip) will have to be first party and a limited amount of them. For example at launch there could be three tiers. As technology progresses new tiers would be added every couple of years. No need to worry about specs, all you have to know is what tier you have. Also, developers will know the precise specs of each tier and so could create built-in settings for each one. The user would not even have to worry about the settings because the game would detect the tier automatically and adjust the settings accordingly.

Movi:
I would just like to point out that there already was ONE modular console. Remember the Sega Megadrive? and then Sega CD? And then 32X? And even the Saturn which was just all of the above rolled into one?

How did that turn out?

THIS is why there will NEVER be a modular console. And good riddance anyway. If i wanted to mess around with specs and upgrades, i would have bought a PC.

Well the 32X was released at about the same time as the Saturn, so no wonder that it failed. The Sega CD was more of a peripheral but its failure can be countered by the success of the Kinect.

Also, I would like to point out that both the 360 and PS3 are modular in that they allow users to upgrade their HDDs.

But I've already got a fully upgradeable and customisable console. It's called a full-tower desktop. Well done Microsoft.

Toeys:
i just popped in to say that PCs are for real time strategy, mmorp, strategy and FIRST PERSON SHOOTERS. the damned halo generation have screwed it all up. i blame it for everything, and im not even going to bother giving my reasons cause ive given up

Nothing like stating opinion as fact is there? Yours to keep for sure, but one I disagree with and I don't stand alone there. Not everyone likes a mouse for FPS'.

There's been talk of this for some time, I remember when people were putting Linux on their PS3 (and remember being shown how to by OPM of all things), same idea arose and was spoken of fondly. Something more akin to multi-functionality is better though, I can see a time where PC and consoles basically become the same thing, they're already damned close, my PS3 can access the internet and run as well as my laptop and PC, it plays music and streams films or plays blu-rays, it has it's own photo album and so on. The only major difference comes in controllers (which can be crossed over anyway) and then this, hardware.

On the hardware front it comes down to the same old argument, pre packaged console like the PS3 was WAY cheaper than the requisite parts to make an equivalent PC. FAR cheaper, shockingly cheaper. Expense is likely the only real counter to this (ignoring business), buying the premade consoles is thus far still cheaper than the premade PC's and the DIY ones too...

" the power of a PC and the stability of a console."

Sigh. I do wish I didn't have to sit through remarks like this one... Upgradability and stability are almost mutually exclusive.

The whole reason for the stability of consoles is primarily down to not having to hit a moving target, and thus being able to do extensive bug-testing where you know there will not be any bugs induced by unexpected hardware configurations.

As soon as you add upgradable hardware to the mix, you throw all of that out of the window, and there goes most of your 'stability'.

so what exactly will be the difference between the consoles and a pc? modularity would surely make things more expensive, and in the end youll be paying for a less able pc, with more prone aspects into gaming.

Do I want a console with mods? Yes. And it can be done.
Do I want a console that can be modded? No. Low-maintenance and stability are supposed to be two of the big selling points of a console (something that seems to have been forgotten this generation...)

I don't think modular consoles will ever work against PC because of the mark up cost that MS us. I mean just look at the cost of their HDDs compared to normal PC ones. They are complete and utter price gougers in that respect and it borderlines disgusting.

Also this ruins the point of consoles and everyone may as well just go back to PC as you are just bringing all the problems of PC gaming to consoles with none of the benefits and the shitty UIs.

This also increases complexity something consoles gamers do(or should given their preference) abhor. Well not deep games just complex set ups. This is why people play on consoles over PCs because it is easy and there is no hassle. What do you think is going to happen when someone fries their console changing parts with static because they didn't know? Small chance but still.

The only thing about PCs that should ever be brought to consoles is true KB+M support and mods.

That is all.

I mean PCs are already multi media centres that can do basically everything while consoles still remain closer to single function devices. Not particularly powerful ones I might add. I mean with everyone wanting all their things in one place you would think more people would be moving to PC rather than staying on console.s

So now Microsoft will be releasing consoles like they release their OS- every other one sucks.

I should go preorder my Xbox 1080 now.

No offense to console lovers but the reason I enjoy them is because while the quality is usually slightly inferior (well, for sure when PC gaming was a big thing a few years ago, I suppose) I don't have to worry about any problems in playing the game-they're simple to use. Even when I had a computer that could play Crysis just fine on max settings (when this used to be the benchmark, heh) i still had crashes more often than on consoles...

In addition, this seems expensive. And like work. I don't think any of us even like putting in the 20 digit online codes/dlc codes, let alone modding.

Finally, the 360 has what, one or two worthy console-exclusive properties (per person-i'll account for taste)? I can live without them if it means avoiding the hassle of PC gaming again. Yes it was a hassle for me, I don't like work mixing with my hobbies.

I'm on the fence with this. It would stop the need to revamp the hardware entirely when it get's to old to develop anything worthwhile on (where we are now)

but

CrystalShadow:
As soon as you add upgradable hardware to the mix, you throw all of that out of the window, and there goes most of your 'stability'.

This. It kind of defeats the purpose of a console in the first place.

Rock - PC/Console gamers - Hard place

"One can keep a PC for massively multiplayer online role playing games and real-time strategy games, i.e. the experiences that demand a keyboard and mouse setup for governing complicated control schemes, and run everything else on a console for ease and convenience."

...OR one can keep a console for the rare good exclusive title and a PC for everything else. Y'know, unless you hate lower prices, modding, better graphics, pinpoint precision, and the ability to bust out a controller when you really need one...

More on topic: I'd almost expect something like this to happen - have a "core" of the console that fits in the "base" and provides the ability to upgrade the power of the system in an all-in-one package for lower prices (say, $150-$200) over time (Every two years, to prevent buyer's fatigue). Offer your users assurance that the next core will run all previous cores' games, and allow developers to cater to either the current core, the next core, or multiples by way of auto-detecting detail settings. A linear progression with just one set path to follow would remove the problem of system variance while maintaining the "upgrade quality over time" core concept.

What wouldn't work at all is your plan of basically turning the console into a PC. After all, if you're just buying jacked-up-price components to stick in your closed system, you might as well be trying to upgrade an iMac.

So this is what I say: If a system can promise me full utility - for both games and other purposes (development, random programs, indie software) without Microsoft or Sony coming and demanding the lion's share of every pie, that system holds potential. This is the true power of the PC: Anyone can make a game and sell it, or give it away. Anyone can make a tool, and change the function of the system itself. Consoles simply cannot compete, and no amount of upgradable components or Windows compatibility (Why do I suspect that this "compatibility" will only go one way?) will change that.

Firstly, I've been playing on consoles since the Atari 2600 also. This generation is done hardware wise...When you have to sacrifice one party of a game in order to get something done, the hardware is maxed out.....seems like resolution has been the sacrifice in a lot of games this gen.

Next, while I understand Pachters point of view, in the end he is a financial analyst....He is just looking at the money MIcrosoft is making, not the people that are buying 360's almost 7 years into this generation...The people buying 360's now, are NOT going to be in line on launch day of a new console. I know it, you know it, any gamer knows. A console that is going to cost 400+ is not going to attract the casual crowd, unless of course Microsoft goes the Wii route this gen only taking a 1/4 to a half step forward and basically become Nintendo. This is very reasible with there focus being mostly on becoming Nintendo for about 3-4 years now.

Finally, upgradeable consoles would not work. It defeats the purpose of a console firstly because parts will be expensive because they will be custom made...it's not like anybody is using off the shelf parts we can buy off newegg....Secondly, how much of a market do you think there is for upgradeable parts? Only the core gamers that make up each console will be a few million to 10 million max...Finally, and upgradeable console defeats one of the strengths that consoles have. A unified closed platform....developers don't have to develop a game to work infinite combinations of computer components....It would be an unnecessary cost for the development industry. A closed platform is why games like Gears 3 and Uncharted 3 still kind of hold up compared to PC games.

Matt Ployhar is a Senior Product Planner at Intel, and President of the PC Game Alliance. "I don't think it's impossible," he said, but besides added cost, there's the question of whether developers would embrace the idea of a game console with variable configurations. "One of the key reasons they like consoles is [they] provide a stable, known design target they can fine tune for." Console modularity could also complicate the test/validation/certification process.

IMHO, this is the key advantage of the console over PC gaming, both for developers and players. Modularity certainly has benefits, but can you imagine having to check to see if *your* Xbox could play that new XBox game? Can you imagine a developer trying to learn what percentage of the install base for their console platform will be able to play his game?

Color me skeptical.

I don't want this. The reason I have a PS3, is that I'm comfortable that all the games for the next half a decade will be playable by me at no extra cost and running as the designers intended them to.

This just sparked an idea. I can play a game that runs on both the Xbox 720, PC, and Windows 8 Tablets using the same disc/program as well as share save data and DLC between them. Consoles are quite easy to have split screen on and tablets for some quick sessions on the go since batteries usually get in the way.

Now with a modular based console, it might be wise to have said upgrades to be sold in packs so one game requires more memory while another requires little. Probaly mark it on the box as Grade # or something.

Fawxy:
I don't think the whole "upgradeable consoles" thing will take off.

The N64 had some success with its RAM upgrade, but I think that was the last we'll ever see of such a practice.

But it's all they have left.
Screen based technology is about to peak, selling a new console after this peak will be impossible. "We already have the best you can get, why buy a new platform?"

OT: I think that xbox 720 (The name) is retarded. Microsoft is usually somewhat intellegent in naming things.
Windows 1-3
Windows 95, 98
Windows ME (Trollface)
Windows XP
Windows Vista
Windows 7

So Xbox
Xbox 360 (Paradox enough)
And now 720? Who the hell is the "Creative mind" behind that.
If this console is going to be upgradable, I better never have to buy a console again. Call it Xbox Omega or something with a ring to it. too many numbers.

I don't think that modular consoles with multiple viable configurations would benefit the console market, but one could make the consoles modular with a preplanned upgrade path for the future. Make it cheap(in comparison to the PC), uncommon(4 years apart sounds okay), and mandatory(kind of... I'll explain that one in a minute). The idea here wouldn't be to give people more options, because that would confuse some people, make stability questionable, and not really serve any real purpose. The idea is to plan an upgrade path that would allow expand a console's longevity and keep up with new technologies, albeit at a rate more in keeping with a "typical" PC gamer than an early adopter.

The thing is, not all games need to have advanced graphical capabilities. Not all studios even have the budget to take advantage of it. But the big AAA releases would benefit from having improved capabilities down the road, and so I would propose that, when such an upgrade becomes available, a label for games that require said upgrade be made. Black label, Elite, Seal of the Murderhobo, I don't know... pick one. It would be a prominent mark on the game that would allow people to distinguish games that require the upgrade. Alternatively, developers could make the games with multiple configurations, but now we're talking disk space and more development costs, so I'm not sure which way would be better.

More or less, I'm advocating the N64 method taken to its modern equivalent.

Don't most people get consoles because they want to avoid this? you made your console into an incredibly brand controlled pc. Most people I know who choose console over pc do so out of sheer user friendlyness. Which is better furthered now that consoles offer things like dvd, netflix and browsing. Of course it would make sense to make it ready for a preplanned upgrade substituting for a new generation making upgrading graphics easy and user friendly but still keeping the platform unified.

Yeah, as much as module based consoles might sound good from certain perspectives, I generally agree with the posters here that they would bring more damage than good. I mean, once you start further splitting your userbase (it was already a problem this gen whether some 360 users had hard drives or not), devs start getting annoyed. And if you want to do the different specs thing, you might as well go to the computer - because otherwise you get..

him over there:
an incredibly brand controlled pc.

And that's the other main problem I fear. Memory cards were awful things back in the day. Now imagine to keep up with the best graphics, you have to upgrade potentially as often as once a year?

No thanks. As tempting as a console-based simplicity with pc-like upgrading might sound, Steam is good enough at that on PC. Leave my consoles be.

That is absolutely not going to work. The single benefit of consoles is that they are always going to be able to run games made for them, and fragmentation would completely ruin that.

BAHAHAHA. This on the heels of the last article that said Sony and Microsoft were gettin out of the game. Called it. Love it.

On the note of the consoles i think its pretty smart for the hardware developers. First this gives gamers a chance to change some aspects they dont like (low memory small HD.) Then for the developers they get to made tons of money because gamers are not going to buy the lower end systems. Good move for them lets see if it pans out.

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