October 27, 2009 | By: Chris Buffa
Just because the PS3 has a supposed ten-year life cycle doesn't prevent us from dreaming about the next generation of consoles, the ones that will probably display lifelike graphics, connect us to millions of other gamers and make breakfast at 60 frames a second. It's certainly not too early to fantasize about the next batch of machines, especially with Microsoft's desire to beat Sony to the punch and the Nintendo Wii looking more outdated with each passing year. That's why it wouldn't surprise us to, at the very least, hear some rumblings (if only rumors) from the big three manufacturers and third parties designing the technology; we heard about Sony's Cell processor, for example, long before seeing the PlayStation 3. With that, here's a look at what you'll probably see from these future consoles.
True 3-D graphics
These days, it seems like every children's movie runs in 3-D. Disney even re-released both Toy Story movies as a double feature, just so the kiddies could experience Pixar's gems the way the film gods intended. And with 3-D capable HDTVs just hitting shelves, we expect the demand for the technology to slowly build.
This, of course, will have a dramatic effect on video games. There's already been a small push to experiment with the tech, with G-Force and James Cameron's Avatar: The Game. Expect more companies to jump on the bandwagon, with the real test coming from a publisher that adds a 3-D option to a triple-A game, such as Halo, Gears of War or Gran Turismo.
Even bigger emphasis on digital downloads
At this point, the thought of a digital only console sounds bizarre, but don't rule it out. All three publishers experiment with downloadable content, as players gobble up games and other goodies via Virtual Console/WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. We also have PSP go, which is Sony's way of sticking it to retail stores that make a killing off used games.
Then we have Shadow Complex, a game so big and polished that it could have appeared in stores instead of Xbox Live Arcade. In addition, Microsoft sells Xbox 360 games previously found in stores on Xbox Live, courtesy of its Games On Demand service. That's just a small sample of what's to come. Publishers will eventually release higher profile games both at retail and online, possibly shortening the supply of physical copies to encourage downloads. This switch also comes with bigger hard drives.
More lifelike characters
Uncharted 2 features lifelike characters, but they won't hold a candle to the next generation of action stars.
Naturally, advances in technology will allow for more realistic monsters, aliens and most importantly, people. Whether or not that's a good thing, however, remains to be seen. It's one thing to make friends with a little boy, as Lionhead Studios hopes to achieve with Milo on Xbox 360. It's another to shoot someone in the head and watch his or her brains splatter against the nearest wall. Torturing and eventually killing computer characters may have negative affects on players, especially younger ones who somehow come in contact with these presumably M-rated games.
Motion control comes standard
Whether you like it or not, motion controls will re-appear with the next generation of consoles. All machines will feature waggle of some sort right out of the box, perhaps in combination with those true 3-D graphics. Thankfully, we'll do less shaking and make more intelligent movements using 1:1 ratios.
Here's what you'll see from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft:
Nintendo: Now that Microsoft and Sony entered the motion control scene, expect Nintendo to once again disrupt the market with a console that does something different from the competition (holograms, perhaps). It'll play DVDs, but not high definition movies. You'll still need to exchange friend codes to play most online games, and the new Virtual Console will expand to include GameCube games. And yes, everyone will make fun of the controller, though it wouldn't surprise us if Nintendo stuck with the Wii remote, making small refinements to an already successful peripheral.
Sony: After stumbling out of the gate with PS3 (bizarre marketing campaign, numerous game delays, no rumble in its controllers), Sony will build on those mistakes and successes to release a console that satisfies everyone's demand on day one. Trophies, an improved online service (ala Xbox Live) and revamped PlayStation Store will be available, as well as Blu-ray support (or whatever we use in the future) and movie downloads.
Microsoft: In a move that angers at least 75 percent of its user base, Microsoft will not allow gamers to transfer their Xbox Live profiles to the new console, thereby causing everyone to lose their precious gamer scores (Sony may follow suit, since trophies are nowhere near as popular). Xbox Live will sport plenty of new improvements, the console will not play Blu-ray movies and if Natal takes off, will come standard in every machine (Microsoft will also stick with the standard Xbox 360 controller design, at least for the most part). Peripherals will still sell for ridiculous prices, but the new Xbox will at least have internal wireless networking.
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