Seriously, Console Wars Are Pointless

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Urgh, as much as I loathe the idea, I think Apple has cemented the lock-customers-to-your-product strategy as the way the world is going to work from now on. Yeah, consoles started this trend first, but Apple did it on such a huge scale that I don't think you could pitch Yahtzee's idea without getting laughed out of the conference room, before being kicked out of the building. Then being shot. Having a customer base that isn't loyal because they like you, but because they have to be loyal (you spend $300 for the device, maybe $500 for games, and unless you're a gaming enthusiast, you're not switching), is literally a money farm that isn't affected by weather. The only time you'd lose money is when no one is buying anything, even from your competitors. The only thing that really keeps the consoles from being truly Apple is the lack of backwards compatibility. At the end of each console cycle you can switch, because your old game collection won't work on ANY other device.

Come to think of it, this is probably another reason for sequel spam. Want to find out what happens next? Better buy our new console!

Yep, I want games consoles to be more like DVD players. Region-locked monstrosities from a bygone age.

...And as a European player, who needs all those American / Japanese games anyway? I still get my Minecraft!

Treblaine:

Batou667:
The DVD player analogy would break down if DVDs came in different technical specifications that required progressively better hardware to run - like games do.

Xbox 360 is as powerful today in 2013 as it was when it launched in 2005.

The only changes to Xbox 360 have been to make it cheaper to manufacture, lower power consumption and peripheral changes like adding internal Wifi and a new Hard-drive and a fancy new looking box. It still runs software in the EXACT SAME WAY. The vital technical specifications are UNCHANGED!

Console technology moves forwards in big leaps like the leap from DVD to Blu-ray. But console has the equivalent of blu-ray and HD-DVD selling in the same market yet you can play HD-DVD on blu-ray players, nor Blu-ray on HD-DVD players and you can't jsut choose one as so many movies are exclusive to either Blu-ray or HD-DVD.

Look at how much Xbox 360 has kept up to spite using tech that wasn't even top-of-the-line in 2005.

True, and that's why I don't think unrealistic to say that SOME DAY the jumps between generations won't be worth it any more. The cynical part of me says we may already be there (with the recent news that PS4 and Xbox 360 "may not offer better graphics" - so why release new consoles!?) Xbox 360 and PS3 games are already pretty damn good graphically, who knows what more we could wring from the hardware if developers were encouraged to optimise their code rather than plan for the "next gen".

But then again, what if somebody had decided this at the start of the last generation? Imagine we were still playing new releases on original Xbox and PS2-level hardware up to this day. Think of all the great experiences we'd be missing out on.

Does this mean a new console every 7 years until photorealism is achieved? I sincerely hope not. I think one or two more generations are inevitable and maybe even a good thing. But I welcome the day games become cross-platform and we can focus on the quality of the software rather than this silly hardware arms-race.

Treblaine:

"Your logic for your Utopia is completely devoid of Economic Reality."

Coming from the guy who doesn't realise that they are simply paying for their smartphone by instalments is somehow a loss-leader that requires high licencing fees that's only possible with competing platforms having petty exclusivity.

Says the guy too foolish to realize that Selling a console at a lose is the exact same dame thing. Just that the Console maker has an incentive to continue to make games, or they won't get their money back. I prefer the penalty to be on their end anyways since it being on the consumer end results in poor service.

I'm also not saying that their aren't people out their who won't spend 500$ on an unlocked smart phone. Heck, I'm one of them. I spent 500$ for an Unlocked Nexus One despite the fact that I could have got one for 200$ with only a 100$ early termination fee. However, most people don't have that kind of money to toss around.

Vuliev:
Ah, my mistake--I was under the impression that EA had bought Epic and Crytek. DICE, the owners of Frostbite, is owned by EA, though.

EA has bought Crytek, it's just that Farcry wasn't part of that deal. But they do own the Cryengine.

So essentially, he's talking about turning game consoles into base level gaming computers... Considering the price tag the PS3 came out at, you probably could have built or found, with enough searching, a bottom level gaming computer. The nice thing about computers is that you can upgrade them constantly, so you don't fall behind the times so long as you have enough to drop 80 bucks here and there.

kazriko:
If anything, it was more exotic and harder to use than the PS3's architecture. The PS2 succeeded despite difficulties of developers in extracting its power. The Xbox and Dreamcast were both much simpler to develop for, and the gamecube was marginally easier (aside from the quaint memory model.)

As someone who has developed on every machine you mention (and many more), the PS2 was absolutely not harder to use than the PS3. At the time it was a shock, because we were used to writing code for a very different style of architecture, but for those of us who grew up writing assembly language, it was manageable. A pain the ass, and much cursed and cussed at, yes, but manageable, certainly in later years. The PS3 was less of a shock in the direction they took after PS2, but is many times more complex. The PS3 is harder to develop for than the PS2 was, I'm afraid.

And just for the record: the Dreamcast was fine, the Xbox was a pain because the components and specs kept changing, but MS had decent dev tools, and the Gamecube, despite being underpowered, was a joy to develop for (not marginally easier - an absolute breeze) - super simple architecture. It's just a shame that the dev tools were so bad!

And I realize this is OT, so apologies! :-)

CrossLOPER:
I wonder if the 90s are going to come back in the way of "add-ons", where if you want to play a game from the previous generation, you have to plug in a module that plays that game.

I should take a picture of my Frankenstein Sega monstrosity, with the cd unit, 32x and master system plate all pieced together at once. XD

I'd like to point out that running games on PCs doesn't solve this problem. Try getting a copy of Myst to run on any recent computer without crashing every five minutes. We are constantly losing our old experiences... and it really upsets me

ThatGuy:

DanDeFool:
Yahtzee brought up the idea of emulation, and it brings to mind a question that's been nagging me ever since I first saw a copy of bleem (look it up) at Best Buy.

Why don't console manufacturers ever make their own emulators?

How easy would it be for Sony to write an authorized PS2 emulator and release it on PC? If a bunch of bedroom programmers can make this shit work in their free time, it seems like it'd be easy for Sony to do an official (and superior) version and sell it.

Maybe there are piracy issues or something.

It would cannibalize their console sales. It's the same thing as selling a game console for the price of a software program. On the other hand, people always say that consoles (PS3 for example) are sold at a loss, and that they recoup the losses in games sales. But I'm skeptical...

Well, yes. It would definitely hurt console sales, and I believe many consoles actually start making a profit late into their lifecycle.

I was more wondering about the end of a console's lifecycle. If you aren't going to make, say PS2 consoles anymore and have no plans for backward-compatibility on your new consoles, why not crank out the PC emulator and sell it for $60? If they could pull off the graphics enhancements the homebrew emulators like ePSXe are capable of it would be an easy purchase for people with modern PCs and lots of old games.

Dryk:
I'd like to point out that running games on PCs doesn't solve this problem. Try getting a copy of Myst to run on any recent computer without crashing every five minutes. We are constantly losing our old experiences... and it really upsets me

Myst has never crashed on my PC. I've had several versions over the last years. Also, nowadays there are vast libraries of ROM hacks preserving the majority of decent games from all the obsolete console generations. I think it's a nice gesture to go to the trouble of organizing and maintaining them.

WanderingFool:

Xman490:
Well, at least the PS2 being abandoned (and not sent to fiery torment) means that the PS3 won't be abandoned. I've been planning on getting a PS3 this year, since PSPlus is a good deal as opposed to Xbox Live Gold.

Oh, I'm just playing into their hands. All of their hands, in fact. What about the poor family with only one television with members who want to try different experiences? What if the older son wants to play Gears of War, the younger daughter wants to play Little Big Planet, and the parents want to play Mario together? Too bad, they can't, because only one console can fit in their budget or even their living room. THAT, my fellow readers, is why this console war should end.

But... if a poor family can only afford one TV, why would they waste money on buying a gaming console to begin with?

It turns out (and this may blow some minds here) that you actually don't need more than one TV set in a household.

Y'know if we standardized consoles and devs would just compete over the best hardware under the hood or most comfy controllers, we'd probably end up with a PC with a gamepad, wouldn't we? Kind of the Steam Box, but with the absence of Linux software restrictions Valve dreams of.

I think the next generation of consoles need not worry about the controller. As a wise man once said (on this very website) [paraphrased] "controllers are a perfectly apt medium of connecting man to machine by way of thumbs." Even as a PC gamer, I understand why my console friends like their controllers the way they are, despite me getting cramps after 2 hours of play (I've got really big hands). What I believe the evolution of the console entails is the way games are networked and distributed to us-- the software which gives greater ease and betterment to our gaming experience. From what I've seen OnLive is a good step in the right direction, not perfect by any means, but a step. We need more new ideas for both connectivity and just good digital distribution on consoles, and none of that DRM bullshit. However I doubt we'll ever get rid of that anytime soon...

DiamanteGeeza:
As someone who has developed on every machine you mention (and many more), the PS2 was absolutely not harder to use than the PS3. At the time it was a shock, because we were used to writing code for a very different style of architecture, but for those of us who grew up writing assembly language, it was manageable. A pain the ass, and much cursed and cussed at, yes, but manageable, certainly in later years. The PS3 was less of a shock in the direction they took after PS2, but is many times more complex. The PS3 is harder to develop for than the PS2 was, I'm afraid.

And just for the record: the Dreamcast was fine, the Xbox was a pain because the components and specs kept changing, but MS had decent dev tools, and the Gamecube, despite being underpowered, was a joy to develop for (not marginally easier - an absolute breeze) - super simple architecture. It's just a shame that the dev tools were so bad!

And I realize this is OT, so apologies! :-)

Hah. Specs and components changing would only be a problem for the early titles. :)

You're right, I was being a bit hyperbolic on the PS2 being harder than the PS3, but they are a very similar arch, with the PS3 just having a lot more, and more freedom, which meant more challenges with moving data around rather than a nice clear pipeline through the 3 cores to the GPU. I was more thinking about the GPU on the two, with the PS3 using a really standard PC derived gpu, while the PS2's GS was just odd.

In any case, treating it as a war is bad, we should just be treating it like competition for developers and consumers. I still think that a complete lack of competition would lead to stagnation...

What everyone seems to be forgetting is that Yahtzee is describing an alternate reality where console makers aren't selfish twats who force people to buy a specific console just to play whatever exclusive games are on the console.

I for one have an Xbox because I enjoy the Halo series as well as many of the other exclusives. However, I would love to play resistance 3 or little big planet on my Xbox, but I can't because Sony got to the developers first. If there was just one game format then I would be able to get those games without paying for a PS3 on top of the Xbox I already own. Just having one game format with various control schemes makes a lot of sense. If you want to play an FPS, get the keyboard and mouse, racing game, get the wheel, platformer, get the controller.

But this will most likely not happen unless Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and Valve(They basically run the PC exclusive game market)work together to make a standardized console that can play any game. And so far, only Valve seems even slightly interested in that concept.

Actually I think it can be done. While technology marches on and games get more and more demanding, the vast majority of games are only demanding in terms of graphics. The internal game state is usually very simple.

The solution would therefore be to put the graphics hardware in charge of deciding how to render a scene. The game would only be able to define the art assets, describe the game world and tell it to render. The hardware would then have the freedom to decide the screen resolution, lighting models, texture quality, etc. There are algorithms that can generate low poly meshes from more complex ones (hard to do well but possible) or the hardware could convert meshes to voxels and optionally scale the voxels down.

So basically a weak piece of hardware would be able to render a graphically demanding game by just scaling everything down. And we would not depend on the developers writing lots of clever code for this, because we know they won't, but on the manufacturers, who have a huge incentive to. The graphical power would depend on how much you were willing to spend, while the rest would be standardised hardware.

If Sony and Microsoft do massively disappoint me and bring out a new generation PlayStation and Xbox, what really haunts me is the thought that they'll completely bugger up the backwards compatibility, like they did last time, and that'll be another generation of games, classics and space-fillers alike, thrown to the furnace.

They will and they will bugger up the backwards compatibility. It will take a massive paradigm shift to change this and we're not quite there yet. The current generation of consoles did very, very well. If the next generation sells poorly, then maybe we'll see something better. Right now it's going to be same old, same old.

P.S. The Wii U sucks and has no real reason for being. Nintendo needs to do what Sega did, I've actually bought some of their games like Sonic Generations multiple times to have them on different systems.

Disregarding handheld systems, what was the first backwards compatible system? As far as I know, it was the PS2, wasn't it? The Wii was the first Nintendo backwards compatible console, and as far as I remember, none of Sega's systems were, though I might be wrong on that point. If it was the PS2, doesn't that mean that backwards compatibility is a relatively new thing, found on only a handful of systems(the PS2+3, Wii, and 360)?

wintercoat:
Disregarding handheld systems, what was the first backwards compatible system? As far as I know, it was the PS2, wasn't it? The Wii was the first Nintendo backwards compatible console, and as far as I remember, none of Sega's systems were, though I might be wrong on that point. If it was the PS2, doesn't that mean that backwards compatibility is a relatively new thing, found on only a handful of systems(the PS2+3, Wii, and 360)?

the first backward compatible console (without an adapter) was the Atari 7800.

You just don't get it.

Technology has to advance. Marketing has to advance. Monetization has to advance.
Society has to advance.

Everything has to move forward, so we can one day finally arrive at our final destination: The shitty singularity

That is why there's meaningless new consoles which have better graphics, so they still look good in ridiculous resolutions, which our TVs have because people spend more money on new stimulation than on old stimulation and are conditioned to generalize this to everything old and new and I don't really want to continue this sentence.

There's so much to rant about, but it's not really worth it.

It's unstoppable, so we might as well add some fuel

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