I’ve been a bit of a gamer for a while and when I say a while, I mean from about 1985 from the age of four. I started with a “Dick Smith Wizzard” which was a rebadged VTech CreatiVision which was a second generation video game console. The games were very simple to say the least but my brother and I had a lot of fun playing it. We also had a very small collection of Game & Watch handheld games including Donkey Kong, Greenhouse, Lifeboat and Mario’s Cement Factory.
When that console went to heaven (and I can still remember like yesterday when I say the thin line of grey smoke coming out of a passive cooling vent and my subsequent horror) we had a Sega Master System for about a year before traversing over to the Nintendo Entertainment System and then owning every Nintendo console from there except the Game Boy and Virtual Boy (which probably doesn’t count since it was never released in Australia).
In amongst all of that, I still own an original Xbox that got a good work out with Burnout (a personal favourite) and Fight Night
This walk down memory lane got me thinking that we should be due for the current generation of consoles to bow out (gracefully or otherwise) and make way for the latest and greatest hardware. The Nintendo Wii has been on sale for three years, the PlayStation 3 for four years and the Xbox 360 has been around for just over five years (and I am sure Microsoft are wanting to cut the umbilical cord given the Red Ring of Death saga). At the very least, there should be some high level information on plans for the eighth generation of consoles.
Now if I were a sound effects guy, I’d be going for a brief silence followed by chirping crickets right about now.
Putting aside the GFC and the tough times that individuals and businesses alike endured, have we perhaps reached a stage where the generational cycle is slowing down? Certainly, there isn’t a requirement (at least for Microsoft and Sony) to exceed high definition graphics given that only high end computer monitors exceed the resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The Nintendo Wii (probably best described as GameCube 2.0) is in a league of its own by foregoing high definition altogether in favour of motion interactive game play and cartoony graphics and being quite successful in reclaiming its dominance in the video game arena.
Are consoles sufficiently powerful to handle the demands of modern gaming for another five years? Have graphics taken a back seat to interactivity and quality gaming?
Microsoft and Sony are starting to test the waters with their motion sensor technologies after taking a cue from Nintendo’s success with the Wii. Project Natal, Microsoft’s attempt at controller-free interaction has been in the making for at least a year with a release sometime this year which will be followed closely by Sony’s yet unnamed offering. This may be an attempt on their part to prolong the life of these consoles and to try and recoup hardware development costs on subsequent game sales.
If there is going to be any further advance in graphics, the dead ringer would have to be a step into the third dimension similar to an increasing number of films being released in the last year or two. Whether or not the current generation of consoles can handle this feat remains to be seen. There has been some talk of stereoscopic 3D being supported on the PlayStation 3 by means of firmware update for the PlayStation 3 but the target of 2009 has come and gone with little more than the initial proof of concept in 2008.
3D visual experiences are starting to catch on not only for improved cinematic experiences (if only for digital projection instead of grubby film projection) and could provide the required catalyst for eighth generation consoles to commence development ahead of the most immersive gaming to date (despite what someone might say about Metroid Prime and the fact that I still haven’t bought it).