Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Editorial: Predictions Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo

You can quote me. I wouldn't say what I say if I didn't believe it on some level. Some of these are already known, some are possibilities I think likely and some are more dead cert in my eyes. I stick by what I say but prove me wrong if you like and discuss.


*PS3 will be around for the next 7 years. [2007-2014]

*There will be hardware revisions along the way to make it cheaper. [2 or 3 in that time].

*Blu Ray will dominate. There will be a black market in second hand games. [this year/next year].

*Your PS3 will connect to your PC, the PSP (now or later) will connect to the PS3 or wifi hotspots being able to access your home content on PS3 and PC. [this year or next].

*There will be a second lighter PSP with out a USD drive, the games will be digitally downloaded from the net or PS3. [2 years time].

*Possibly before that games will be stored and sold on high-density memory cards for PSP. [1-2 years]. Although a revision of PSP tech seems likely.

*Cell chip network processing power will be huge [over 3-4 years time it will grow exponentially], and interconnect with PCs.

*We will move away from game media formats to digital distribution. [Between now and 2014].

This will happen in steps:

[Possibly 1#] PS3 will come with a rewriter Blu Ray - 50gig games will be downloaded to the hard drive and immediately burnt by the user onto Blu Ray. It will be a digitally distributed network a 'bit like' BitTorrent. The further huge expansion of broadband width and cell chip interconnectivity will make this possible.

[Alternative 2#] Via cell chip and connectivity we will simply log in to a Sony central server and play the game from there without downloading any games, or minimal files at least. The core of the game would be downloaded (or bought on Blu Ray) and extras fed when needed.

[Alternative 3#] Possibly if the same game is being played simultaneous on different PS3s and the players are in different parts of the game, the Cell will simply call the already cached data from what ever part of the game the other player is at when the current player reaches that part of the game. With enough players online at the same time, every part of the game would be cached ready to load at any point. This would be the most efficient [3-4 years time]and what Sony would also aim for in the next PS. This would also tie in with 2#, with a core download of the game, then if there are not enough players at one time Sony server would provide.

I will write the reason why Blu Ray will win over HD-DVD in another post. But lets just say Sony put all their eggs in one basket and Microsoft can change external drives if it wants and is more interested in digital downloads anyway.

*I've only given PS3 7 years because although the Cell is advanced, the common rule of processing power doubling every 18months comes in. So in 3 years time we'll have something 4 times as powerful as the now PS3. Who knows we may get a Cell2, but broadband, distributed networks, and a different way of distributing and processing games as they are played will affect this too.

Summary: We do not live in the age of 3DO anymore. We live in an age where PS2 dominated for 10 years, and Xbox raised the processing power expectations for the last 5 years. Today’s kids expect a totally different gaming experience than say if you were a kid born in 1980. Yes Sony fucked up on the launch, but please READ about the Cell chip, it's the first thing I did, it's built from the ground up on interconnectivity, distributed processing power, and security. It shows they are really looking at the future, which is maybe why they don't or didn't care so much about now. PS3s not even passed it's first year, so there is not much good comparing the Xbox 360 game types with current PS3 game types. Give it a year.

*Microsoft will bring out a Blu Ray add on drive for the Xbox 360 [mid next year]

-This is because while 50gig Blu Ray discs probably will be full of crap for the first couple of years EVENTAULLY it will be necessary. Also market forces conspire.

*Microsoft will also have it's own digital distributed network. It already has a year or mores head start. Already we are seeing the integration of Xbox360 and Windows, although total crap at the moment, it will grow. Makes sense what with Microsoft making Xbox360 AND the biggest PC platform on the planet Windows.

[The only thing Microsoft lacks is a hand held to access that Xbox/Windows network from anywhere..]

*However I doubt they will really do it with Xbox360. They will build the service with Xbox360, then switch to newer hardware [Xbox Home system anybody?] so processors are more integrated around the world. This is similar to how the first Xbox got everyone use to the idea of Microsoft being a console manufacturer, before the Xbox360 proper was delivered. It was bit like battering down the door first and then waltzing in second.

*Microsoft will bring out an Xbox360 successor sooner than thought [5-6years]. This [above] is also perhaps why Microsoft killed Xbox 1 so shockingly. Where as PS2 is still around and strong for 10 years, it makes sense for Sony to keep it that way while people adopt the higher cost PS3, eventually people will just lose interest in buying the PS2 and it will phase itself out. Where as the price point of the Xbox360 is much closer to the original Xbox when it arrived so MS had to kill the original. This prompts me to believe they may do the same in another 4 years time, especially when Sony's distributed network comes in force, and why one year in they're already doing a hardware revision with the Xbox360Elite 120gig drive and HDMI support. Though they may drag it out a bit longer to 5-6 years. Xbox360 is very much the current top games system and service combined but it is a very NOW kind of tech and I wasn't that impressed with it over the Xbox1 especially if you already have a modded Xbox, this is perhaps the reason why I don't like it as much, because it doesn't look to the future but to now, this is not to say it's not a good machine and having great gaming experiences, but I know another will come along.

*I seriously doubt they'll integrate a HD-DVD drive for reasons above of Blu Ray coming through on top, but I'll laugh a lot if they integrate a Blu Ray one. I can't see that happening though for pride reasons.

*Eventually what with Microsoft having a digital game distribution service and Sony having one, and processors all over the world connected and sharing information and power, and no one using media types, it's possible that either a) Sony games may play against Microsoft ones or b) the entire planet will blow up. I'm still hoping for third option on that one.

Summary: I think that's pretty much already enough of a summary on Microsoft.
Foreword: I found myself writing an article before I could get to predictions for Nintendo.

Wii, ah the Wii. What happened? I was routing for you all the way, innovation v graphics, new game types and methods of play, revolution of games - what happened? Or maybe it just hasn't happened yet. Like the DS it took time for people and developers to get use to it perhaps we just haven't seen what it can do yet.

Yes I'm well aware it's outselling both Xbox360 and PS3, but it' not what it should be at the moment. This lays firmly at the developers feet as far as I'm concerned, it has to be as they make the games after all. COME ON USE YOUR HEADS.

Okay look, I've not played the Wii yet, I've seen it and I've seen it being played, I've had the controller in my hands. But I 've not played it. And why is that.

Yes I'm immensely sure it's very fun to play, and it's great with friends, and good for parties. And it appeals to a very large audience of people who weren't gamers before. No wonder it's selling well. Selling loads doesn't make something critically great in my eyes though.

There's a couple of reasons:

1) Graphics - yes I know they said they would only be as powerful as two Gamecubes, and I was all for that innovation over graphics argument, but come on. There's two choices here, Either a) Match the graphics of games on Xbox and PS3 or b) If it doesn't match Xbox360 and PS3 games why bother bringing the same games to the system? Don't do it, invent something COMPLETLY different. By showing up the Wii for compassion GRAPHICALLY with advanced processors you're doing it no favours.

MOST people will HAVE an XBOX360 or PS3 at some point and still buy a Wii for really out their concepts. I would. Most people would. I don't really need Call of Duty on the Wii if I've got it for PS3 - although to be honest I don't need it for PS3 if I have it on PC.

However maybe I'm wrong, maybe having the same game on three different systems some how gives you that ‘innovative gaming experience' that you lack on one of them.

[1a) oh another thing, it was prominantly admitted that the graphics are not as powerful as the current gen competition, but it was still two Gamecubes - what's that the power of xbox1?- yet what's up with the graphics? The developers appear to be getting sloppy, thinking they can get away with less work and developer time on graphics because 'it's not as powerful as Xbox360 and PS3'. Bull.]

2) Innovative games and uses for the controller. Okay, not exactly the 'tacked on controls' argument. It's the 'movement translated into standard code the same as pressing a button' argument. Maybe even if having the control works well enough in side to side, back and forth, and shaking assigned to moves in game etc it's still not...there. It's not one on one motion.

The system was HYPED as though it would be "doing these REAL actions in real life is the same as controlling actions in the game". A new Era Dawned etc etc

It’s not though is it.

I think I know what it is, the reason I'm annoyed so much is because I had all these ideas for games for the Wii before it came out and I was expecting hardcore games with advanced motion sensing SKILL games. Like it mattered EXACTLY where you stroked the controller down, or blocked with the numchuck, or exactly how you moved the vertical wii controller in a 3d space to control a craft.

So on to predictions:

* There will be a second Wii. Maybe in 3-4 years time. It was admitted the Wii was cut down on graphics. To keep the system cheap. However there may have been another reason. This cut on graphics probably drove expense down, and would allow the developers to experiment more with games types for the controller. So although I've been harsh above I think it's just we haven't discovered what we can do with it yet. It's a bit like Nintendo gave a ball to the developers to play with and their pushing it back and forth like a baby, but in a couple of years they'll go and play a game of football with it.

*I said there may be a second Wii (of course there will but I meant sooner than expected), because by the time developers learn how to make these games we want over the next 2-3 years, then they may as well ramp the graphics up at the end. WE ALREADY do graphics very well. So it wouldn't be hard to add it at the end in a second system now would it. The Wii is the developers’ toy they just started playing.

* Nintendo may need a controller category system on the packaging for each Wii game. This advanced motion game play I'm talking about is different from what we currently have. It should be intuitive what action to perform with the controllers in your hand, on screen prompts are all well and good but that's for the old style Wii games. We may also need a category system to show if this game is a get and throw your arms around widely type game requiring energy or a very subtle controlled method of delivery sitting down or standing up.

*Coach potatoes don't want to wave their arms about but button pressing is out. This control category system [above] would solve the whole argument most are going on about; coach potatoes not wanting to get up and wave their arms around with the current Wii generation of games or how holding our arm out straight for 20mins is going to kill your arm. Frankly if I sit down on my arse all day it's going to hurt my arse just as much as my arms. It may be possible to mix the two types, an energetic action sequence followed by a sit down and guide the avatar precisely period.

Summary: Nintendo is going in the right direction, Microsoft is also developing these camera controlled games for the future so I believe we will see more "Full Body" movement and controlled games. You may need to clear your garage out to do it but I think it will happen. And I have my own ideas for gaming beyond the current crop of consoles, Gaming is going to diversify and I believe there's room for all of us, but that's a subject of another post :)