If reports are anything to go by it seems as if this year's E3 will be beset with reveals for Sony and Microsoft's brand new versions of their current consoles, nicknamed "NEO" and "Scorpio" respectively.
The consoles are reported to be considerably more powerful than the current PS4 and Xbox One, and will seek to bridge the gap between the gathering steam of the 4K revolution and everyone else still wondering what the point in 4K is.
But whilst this heralds an interesting new model for the gaming giants, it also does away with the current model of one console architecture per gen. Which was working pretty well with the odd release of a slimmer version mixed in to squeeze the last few bucks out of the late or the previously non-converted.
So that got me to thinking whether there was anything positive to glean from console gaming having a smaller cycle and adopting a smart device-esque turn around? Or are these giants of gaming crazy to think that we're going to give into their expensive flights of fancy when we've a "perfectly good console" sat underneath our TVs?
Why Say 'NO' To Neo & Scorpio?
The PlayStation 4 was released in both Europe and North America in November 2013, which is the same date the Xbox One saw its release. This fact states that the two consoles have been around for under 3 years, which is an absurd amount of time for a full turn around, and makes me question whether my consoles will become obsolete in their relative infancy?
Back in April, Giant Bomb reported that the PS 4.5K NEO, or what ever it is colloquially designated, will require all games from October to release with two modes included. The "base" mode will allow games to work on any old PS4, but "NEO" mode will work only with the new PS4.
"NEO's" advantages come from upgrades to the console's GPU (graphics card), CPU (processor) and RAM, meaning frame rates and the graphical quality of titles will be upgraded significantly.
This could lead to worries of elitism within PlayStation's ranks. Imagine playing one of the many competitive online shooters on your vanilla PS4 which suffers from terrible frame rates and the like, then you go on to have your ass handed to you time and time again by a player using a "NEO". Will the graphical quality and boost in frame rates give your competitors more of a chance against you, you lowly, vanilla PS4 using, has-been?
Over at Microsoft’s headquarters, the software giants are working towards a new dawn for their beleaguered console. Under the flag of “Project Helix”, which is seeking to merge Windows 10 & Xbox gaming, Xbox One should be seeing two new consoles announced at E3. One will be a smaller, cheaper, 4K ready version that is reported to carry a 2TB HDD, and the other, the “Scorpio”, will be an utter beast upgraded in a similar vein to the “NEO.”
And, apparently, “Scorpio” will also support Oculus Rift, which leads into more speculation over whether Microsoft have teamed up with the Facebook-funded company, and whether or not that will spell the end for the Hololens.
Who can say, but for me, the magic of consoles came from knowing that by the end of the current generation the devs would have mastered how to push the console to its very limits and create a game akin to, say, the likes of The Last of Us. Then come next generation, games would be even more mind-blowing and generation-defining than before like, say, Uncharted 4. Now, if all of these rumors come to be true, it seems as if a little bit of magic is fading from console gaming.
We are bombarded with shiny, new smartphones and tablet computers every year. Every year, isn't that mad? And the devices don't even offer mind-blowing increments. A few more megapixels in the front facing camera, or a little increase in processing power making Facebook scrolling that little more swift. And now consoles are looking to ape that model?
Recent games releases on console have been stunning, there can be no denying that. One look at DOOM or Uncharted 4 would be enough to have you running to the nearest game store. Are these games pushing the consoles to their very limits in order to maximize their potential? No, because they’re fairly powerful enough already and have so much more space to be filled.
Couldn’t we give these bad boys a little more time to breathe before opening our pockets to drop serious cash on a newer, faster, stronger iteration? The PS2 was around for 13 years, for Pete’s sake!
Why Say 'Let’s GO!' To Neo & Scorpio?
Technology today is evolving at an exponential rate. We’re feasibly staring into a future of self driving cars, smart devices with 10-core processors, 4K gaming and kettles that connect to WiFi. And with these constant advancements, especially in the worlds of computing and audio-visual entertainment, Sony and Microsoft will have to remain vigilant, lest they get left behind by PC gaming which is at an all time high of badassery right now.
GPUs like Nvidia’s GeForce GTX Titan X and the recently released GTX 1070/80 have dragged gaming visuals screaming into the new tomorrow and have pretty much left consoles in the dirt, fighting over their little mound of dust. “Scorpio” and “NEO” will be, as discussed earlier, significantly more powerful than their current iterations, and they’ll need the extra boost to keep up and keep delivering the kick-ass content we expect them to deliver.
Imagine gaming at 200FPS on your console, granted you would have to necessary TV to display it. That could be a feasible reality with the two new queens of console gaming at our disposal. And imagine the prospect of VR gaming! That may render PlayStation VR’s little black box redundant, and pave the way for “Scorpio’s” Oculus shaped revolution.
Here's a snippet of DOOM running at 200 FPS:
As I said earlier, technology today is evolving at an exponential rate and consoles will have to do something drastic in order to stay relevant. And now is the time for consoles to forego their 6+ year lifespans. If PCs can be continuously upgraded, then why can’t consoles do the same thing? That’s why we all buy consoles, ease of use. PCs are difficult to upgrade for those not in the know, so let’s go full steam ahead into smaller cycles and better bytes!
Or Sony and Microsoft could release modular consoles that we can upgrade on the fly with branded tech from both parties. Could you see that happening? Buy an Xbox or PlayStation shell from the companies and then kit it out over differing tiers of easily slottable tech. Ultra mode is 4theplayers, as it were and the lowest and cheapest builds could be for little, fledgling gamers just setting out on their journeys into consoles.
What do you think?
Whichever side you stand on, we can agree that right now is a pretty bad time to buy consoles what with all the rumors and E3 peeking its forehead around the corner. But it as sure as hell is a great time to be a gamer. Or is it?