Nintendo announced one last year, Microsoft will probably announce one this year, Sony have said they won’t announce one yet. I’m talking about next generations of home console hardware.
Nintendo fired their first salvo at E3 last year, with their announcement of the Wii U; a 1080p ready console with a unique tablet controller. We’ve yet to see what Microsoft and Sony will retaliate with, but what if their efforts were the ultimate console. What would this console be like?
What if we could design the best console ever?
Wonder no more readers, for in this two-part feature I would like to to suggest what would constitute as being the supreme gaming system for the next generation (or to give it a name, the Super PlayBox – If you have any better ideas for a name, let us know in the comments).
In the first part of this feature, I’d like to concentrate on the console itself:
The PlayStation 3 was a unique system in that it’s Cell processor wasn’t an off-the-shelf part, but a specially designed CPU. However, this came at a cost to all parties as the price of the CPU itself affected the final retail cost to the consumer, and developers found it difficult to program for. Therefore, it makes sense to pick a CPU partner (either Intel or AMD) and go for something readily available. Rumours suggest that Sony are looking to be moving away from the Cell architecture, so this approach sounds about right for our Super PlayBox.
While graphical quality is almost at a bottleneck in terms of where it can go, as long as our system can run everything at 1080p with 60 frames per second, then we’re OK.
However, it would make sense for the Super PlayBox to support 3D technology, the PlayStation 3 has made excellent strides in this area, and while the concept of 3D gaming is still in its infancy, supporting the technology would do wonders for validating the existence of 3D television hardware.
Optical Media (Or Not?)
Cloud gaming and digital distribution are taking off, but we’re still a long way off before physical media is obsolete. So that’s why I believe our console should have a Blu-Ray drive. The format’s adoption rate has increased dramatically, thanks to the PlayStation 3, and there is no reason other consoles shouldn’t follow suit. DVD & Blu-Ray movie playback is a must, even with the rise of streaming movies with services such as Netflix and LoveFilm.
Then of course, there is storage for games. Admittedly, the huge amount of space on a Blu-Ray disk is rarely used to it’s full capacity on PlayStation 3 titles, but with games getting bigger and better looking, storage space will be important. Using a proprietary method of optical storage (like the Wii U will be using) is a nice way of avoiding licensing costs, but for optimum compatibility, it has to be Blu-Ray.
Although cloud gaming (ala Gaikai & OnLive) has the potential of being a big deal in the future, I think the technology is too young to be adopted by consoles yet (plus I don’t believe the majority of homes have suitable broadband speeds for a satisfactory cloud gaming experience). The rise of digital distribution will continue, with more games released both digitally and physically, simultaneously (and at a competitive price!)
Internal storage is now a must for all consoles, as we have already seen with the PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360. The Super PlayBox should feature not only a reasonably sized internal drive (250GB at least), but also USB storage support, and even a little bit of cloud storage (for a small subscription fee, of course).
Games should have the ability to be installed onto the hard drive, but it should be a choice; not mandatory, like some PS3 games.
It sounds daft, but the actual size of the console can be a big deal. Just compare the original model of PlayStation 3, to the Wii! We’re looking into making the Super PlayBox a true component of the living room, so we wouldn’t want the system to be any bigger than the original Xbox 360 model, if we can get that down to the form factor of a Blu-Ray/PVR then that would be even better, but not at the risk of creating a system that will easily overheat.
A feature for the original Xbox 360 model, that was horrendously underutilised, was the idea of interchangeable faceplates. People love the ability to customise their things, so let’s give them a variety of faceplates and shells of different colours and designs. Why not even give away some of these shells with Special Editions of games/consoles?
Human Interface Devices (Controllers)
I’ll probably get a lot of flak for saying this, but let’s forget about motion control. Nothing I have seen over the past generation has indicated that this concept is anything more than a fad. Let’s keep it simple, and provide a comfortable standard wireless joypad (two analogs, one D-Pad, four face buttons, four shoulder buttons and two buttons in the middle).
That’s it for Part 1 of my look into the future. Keep an eye out for part 2, where I’ll be looking at the software and features side of things.
What would you put in your ultimate console? Let us know in the comments below!