With the Wii U so close at hand, there's all sorts of talk about the next console generation. It's got people whispering (and sometimes even shouting) about the Xbox 720 (which we're not sure will actually be the real name of the thing) and the PS4 (which we're slightly more confident will be the real name, though we're still not entirely sure.)
What do we know about the next generation for sure? Well, if you cross the Wii U off that list, then it's safe to say we know very little. Sure, we can extrapolate and say that the new generation of hardware will be more powerful than the last, but that's pretty much obvious at this point.
I have some theories, though. For instance, I think the next Xbox will come with the Kinect 2 packed right in the box. With the amount of effort Microsoft is putting into making that thing seem awesome (when it's really not), it would only be fitting that they'd pack the thing in with the console. That way, every next-gen Xbox owner would have one, and the consumer base for Kinect-based titles would be much larger.
Also, I think that Sony's going to come back out on top in the next generation. Sure, they were the bottom of the barrel in this generation, but I'm willing to bet they've learned from their mistakes. In fact, one thing I couldn't ignore at E3 this year was that Sony is exponentially better at communicating with their consumers than either Microsoft or Nintendo. Also, the PlayStation brand is building this massive library of extremely intriguing exclusives, like The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls. (Oddly enough, one of the aforementioned titles features a character that looks very similar to Ellen Page, the other actually stars Ellen Page.) If they can keep that up, they should have no problem taking back their "King of the Console Generation" throne. And crown. And scepter. You get the idea.
But I also have a theory that might sound kind of far out there at first. Just bear with me for a second.
I have a feeling that how we define the term "console generation" is about to change. This has to do with the way console-makers have approached this current gen. You see, Nintendo came into this generation with a short-term plan. Their console, the Wii, ended up being approximately a five-year console. While the Wii U feels a tad bit early when we have so little information about Sony and Microsoft's competing consoles, the Wii lived its glorious five-year lifespan; now that it's over, it's time for Nintendo to move on.
Sony, on the other hand, planned the PS3 as a ten-year console. Of that anticipated decade, I have a feeling the PS3 will last about eight years before the next Sony console comes out. And PlayStation's VP of marketing, John Koller, recently told Gamespot in an interview that the PS3 will continue to be supported for at least the next three years. Though, it is quite possible that he's talking about supporting the PS3 in a post-PS4 market.
And what of Microsoft? Well, I feel like they latched onto Sony's ten-year idea as soon as they heard about it, but were a bit scared when Nintendo started making plans for the Wii U. I'm guessing the next major console we'll see after the Wii U will be the next Xbox, landing in-between the Wii U and the PS4.
Now, when you consider the fact that the typical console generation has been about five years in the past, Nintendo's approach makes sense. But when you consider the fact that the console lifespan is beginning to stretch beyond that, it starts to look like Sony had a great plan from the start.
Now, regardless of who was "right" here, what's happening is that there's a bit of lag in the console generation cycle. Sony's console will most likely not drop for another couple years. Additionally, with the Wii U boasting very little in terms of hardware increase over the PS3, the next Xbox and PlayStation are most likely going to blow it away in terms of raw power.
But that's okay. You see, Nintendo is most likely planning the Wii U as another five-year console. Sony is most likely planning another eight-to-ten-year console. Microsoft is likely waiting to see what happens with their competitors before they're committing to a console lifespan.
What could end up happening is that Nintendo's competitors will fall out of the traditional console cycle while it maintains the five-year mentality. This would lead to a very pronounced lag in the console cycle, in which Nintendo winds up being a full generation ahead of its competitors. (Or behind, depending on how you look at it.) What I guess I'm trying to say is that Nintendo's next console after the Wii U might actually be a PS4/Xbox 720 competitor, rather than a competitor against the following generation. For those of us who like to divide the console timeline into neat little five-year cycles, this is going to become problematic.
But that's fine. As gaming technology advances, so should the way we think about and categorize the medium. Still, you might want to start getting used to the idea of the "console generation" ultimately becoming something different than what you're familiar with.
My prediction: It's quite possible that we're going to have to rethink exactly what the term "console generation" means, or even abandon the idea completely.
Either way, that's not a bad thing. We can sit back and grouch and mutter incoherently about the good old days, or we can adapt to the evolution of the technology we love. And really, that's what this is all about: the technology we love. We should welcome the evolution of such technology, even celebrate it. I guarantee those of us who do will be much happier than the grumpy old men in rocking chairs who fight against that technology while the things they are familiar with become outdated.
Editor / News Director
Date: September 27, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*