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The Next Gen consoles


Major Britten
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That is only his initial reactions to the spec, we'll have to see how Microsoft are going to play it out, the last bit is just his own theory, but these comments might be an indicator of the thinking from Microsoft going forward:

Originally Posted by Inquisitive_Idiot viewpost.gif

I said it in another thread, but it sounds to me like Microsoft has a case of Apple / Nintendo fever. What made them successful was a strong understanding of the fundamental aspects of a video game console. They produced powerful hardware, backed by great developer support and wrapped it in an excellent online package. From there, they built on additional features to meet the markets growing demand for Apps, and the rising popularity of services like NetFlix. That seemed like a very easy formula to follow, "build it, and they will come"! This console to me sounds like a series of compromises based around the notion that they can drastically increase their mass appeal by including Kinect, and... I don't really know what else, because they don't have anything that can do that! In an age when so many device are competing for the consumers attention, this sounds like a me too device that simply tries to appeal to everybody and ends up appealing to nobody.

And you've hit one of the reasons I left. Almost all of the core gamers that created the Xbox that were in management have been forced out or left, and what's left over is MBAs with dollar signs in their eyes. I just found I could no longer believe in and agree with the direction the execs were taking the Xbox org.

You are correct. They just set the direction, required features, and budget. Then the folks who want to make it awesome have to fit their awesomeness into those limitations. This happens in every company, the PS3, for instance, does not have dual-HDMI out and a 2 port gigabit ethernet hub, despite those features actually being announced. Why not? Someone realized their awesomeness would not fit in the budget.

At the start of the XBox and XBox 360 projects, you had J Allard, Peter Moore, and Robbie Bach setting those features and budgets. Budgets that were considered "strategic" (Meaning losses were irrelevant as long as marketshare was gained). Now you have Mark Whitten, Ben Kilgore and David Treadwell. All good people, but none of them visionaries. Working with a company directive that IEB must now be, and remain, profitable. And _grow_ profit from year to year.

In meetings, I got a similar feel from them as I got from the Kin leadership at times. I'd ask a question and get a handwavey response. "What about the growing trend of data caps?" I'd ask. (Answer: "These are not the droids you're looking for, move along" - paraphrased by me). "What about the large percentage of xbox users who have never connected their XBox to a network?", I asked. Hand wave... (I'm changing the questions from what I actually asked so as not to give info I shouldn't, and the questions were not necessarily related to future platforms - some of them have launched.)

So sure, the engineering guys are going to do their damndest to give you the absolute best they can come up with given their budget and priorities, but those budgets and priorities are not the same as they used to be in the XBox division.

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And $60 software prices and no enlightened self interest. But as I have said multiple times, it is just Timothy Lotte's personal theory, until it becomes fact, just treat it as an interesting idea for a direction Microsoft could take their console division.

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Yearly upgrades doesn't sound plausible to me. Nor do I want it.

Is it really underpowered, on it's own terms, or is he just comparing it unfavourably to a more powerful PS4?

Because we had the same situation his gen and it made little difference to my overall opinion of the consoles, and obviously the Xbox could produce excellent graphics.

Anyone?

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And without the modular upgrades.

The very high end Steambox is the only one that looks to have those though, the others will likely be yearly upgrades or something because that's a nice balance between the modularity of a PC and the stable platform of consoles, plus there's precedent in mobile.

It's interesting, if Microsoft and Valve end up going for a similar Apple model, and Sony end up going for a traditional console model that looks to amortize its costs across a five or ten year plan then they could come out of this rather poorly - they'd fall behind the curve or have to come out with a new upgrade before the last one is profitable.

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And $60 software prices and no enlightened self interest. But as I have said multiple times, it is just Timothy Lotte's personal theory, until it becomes fact, just treat it as an interesting idea for a direction Microsoft could take their console division.

Oh absolutely, it's all speculation until we actually see games running on it.

The very high end Steambox is the only one that looks to have those though, the others will likely be yearly upgrades or something because that's a nice balance between the modularity of a PC and the solid platform of consoles. There's precedent in mobile too.

It's interesting, if Microsoft and Valve end up going for a similar Apple model, and Sony end up going for a traditional console model that looks to amortize its costs across a five or ten year plan then they could come out of this rather poorly - they'd fall behind the curve or have to come out with a new upgrade before the last one is profitable.

But we're expecting this to be priced somewhere north of a Wii U but less than the 'best' Steambox range. And that doesn't take into account the cost if you want to keep up with the best. Maybe this is where the contract comes in, pay for Gold and an updated Xbox for £10 a month over the lifespan of the console?

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It's weak as far as he is currently concerned against Orbis, but not necessarily weak on its own, or compared to the only current Next Gen Box available to buy.

Phew. That's fine then. I never had much doubt that Sony would go for a crazy spec beast (they have plenty of form), but I do want to know that the next Xbox can produce amazing visuals.

A situation similiar to this gen where they are both producing different looking but gorgeous games would be fine with me.

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I think people hear "yearly updates" and think that you'd got to stay on the bleeding edge, but on phones most people upgrade every 2/3 years, and usually the same on PC. Those that upgrade every six months to a new Android or graphics card are not representative of most people, and they're not the groups that hardware manufacturers target.

Software developers similarly target the mass market, with respectable hardware rather than the bleeding edge too, because they want an install base that increases their chances of success.

I imagine most people will go for a low end Steambox and talk about upgrading to a newer model the way people talk about smartphones now.

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I really wouldn't want my consoles to be going down the upgrade route. Keep that madness to PCs, thanks.

So we have people that complain endlessly about a long generation, how games are being "held back" and thinking a stable platform is only useful once you max out the graphics (which people have been saying since year 2) and yet upgrading every few years is now suddenly undesirable?

You people are crazy!

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Constant hardware updates has the downside of not being able to push the hardware, which is the reason usually given for why consoles can always punch way above their spec, abstraction to allow code to run on multiple configs means you can't wring out 99% performance and you've just arrived in PC/Apple land, but with a bunch of pointless restrictions but cheaper hardware.

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So we have people that complain endlessly about a long generation, how games are being "held back"

Dude, it's been like 7 years or something. Wanting a new console after 5/6 is quite different from wanting upgrades on a 12/18/24 month basis.

What's hard to understand here? Consoles are fixed platforms, that's like the whole point and that's attractive to a lot of people. I have a kick arse PC now and that's great, and I can upgrade if I want to, but I really don't want that to be part of the console scene.

I want to know, always, that my console will last me 5 years (plus or whatever), that it's the same as everyone else's console, and that it will always work when I pop a disc in.

Keep upgrading to PCs.

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I really wouldn't want my consoles to be going down the upgrade route. Keep that madness to PCs, thanks.

There's a happy medium between "new graphics card released every six months" and "you only get new hardware every seven years" though. That's the line Apple walk with more-or-less annual updates to the iPad, and a unified software platform that means you don't feel left out until you're three or four revisions behind the current state of the art. That certainly does seem to be popular with people. I think it's interesting to hypothesis what a games console with, say, semi-annual hardware refresh might look like.

I agree that such a strategy could completely wrongfoot Sony -- just as devs are learning how to really wring the best out of some hypothetical beastmode PS4 (say, two years in), we could be getting an Xbox n+2 with another raft of performance boosts for all the games you already own.

Intriguing. I'm not necessarily in favour -- Smitty's arguments in the post above this one are very good ones -- but still, intriguing.

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Constant hardware updates has the downside of not being able to push the hardware, which is the reason usually given for why consoles can always punch way above their spec, abstraction to allow code to run on multiple configs means you can't wring out 99% performance and you've just arrived in PC/Apple land, but with a bunch of pointless restrictions but cheaper hardware.

Exactly! Technically it must be the central difference between consoles and PCs - it's a fixed platform. You can always be sure of that and it brings its own benefits.

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Constant hardware updates has the downside of not being able to push the hardware, which is the reason usually given for why consoles can always punch way above their spec, abstraction to allow code to run on multiple configs means you can't wring out 99% performance and you've just arrived in PC/Apple land, but with a bunch of pointless restrictions but cheaper hardware.

Sure, but it's not full modularity, and you only have one manufacturer. It's not Android in that you have to support a bazillion screen sizes and control schemes and processors with poor built in tools to do so, it's closer to Apple in that you have a 2013, 2013, 2014 model, with incremental improvements to the same families of components.

I'm sure people can tailor code to an A5 or A6 processor on iPhone, for example. It's not a single spec, but you've still got far more ability to code to the silicon with that than with Steamboxes variety of OEMs and modular top-end.

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Of course, on the other hand, an awful lot of this "it will be running some bloated software stack" is predicated on a line of reasoning that goes "it has 8 GB of RAM... why does it need 8 GB of RAM... it must be running Windows!"

If that 8 GB rumour is wrong, or if it's in the box for something else, and the 720 has a more traditional console-like realtime OS, then this line of discussion is mostly moot.

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There's a happy medium between "new graphics card released every six months" and "you only get new hardware every seven years" though. That's the line Apple walk with more-or-less annual updates to the iPad, and a unified software platform that means you don't feel left out until you're three or four revisions behind the current state of the art. That certainly does seem to be popular with people. I think it's interesting to hypothesis what a games console with, say, semi-annual hardware refresh might look like..

I think it's madness, personally. The Apple cycle (well it manifests most strongly with them because of the insane brand devotion they inspire, but obviously it's all consumer electronics) is all about telling you that you behind the current state of the art. As soon as you get your new iDevice it's already behind the current state of the art.

I really don't want this kind of thinking to infect consoles. If they really want to give it longer legs, just overspec the thing so devs can pull more and more out of it over time.

I just don't want to see it and I think a lot of people would agree. Just give me a powerful machine that can give devs a lot to play with, a lot of long term potential, and give me five years with it.

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If they really want to give it longer legs, just overspec the thing so devs can pull more and more out of it over time. ... Just give me a powerful machine that can give devs a lot to play with, a lot of long term potential, and give me five years with it.

Those things don't come for free though. Given the pace of change in tech, even a £1000 box today will be shagged out in five years, which makes designing them very tricky balancing acts. Traditionally, platform manufacturers have dealt with this by having subsidised overpowered hardware and long cycles, making the money back at the tail end; this is required by the fact that each new console has been largely disconnected from the one that came before it (barring some BC stuff), but there's a lot of risk in that strategy. If you make the software platform homogeneous across multiple hardware generations, though, then you can decouple the hardware and software from each other, and rev the hardware on some shorter cycle that makes more sense.

I see your counter arguments, and I don't necessarily disagree; I'm not arguing the consumer wins here (although we might, I think, if it's done well). But I do think this is exactly the kind of thing that would make sense to Microsoft on a commercial level. I can imagine an anonymous meeting room in Redmond, big screen showing a Powerpoint containing this plan, with a lot of important people in suits sat around nodding sagely.

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Of course if it's true, Sega must be crying into their 32X duvet covers at their mistiming. Only 15 years off, guys.

...fucking hell, the 32X is over 15 years old.

Where did the time go?

If they updated the 32X yearly, imagine how high it would be within five years. You’d have to stand on a chair to put a new cartridge into the top of the teetering stack of hardware plug-ins.

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If they updated the 32X yearly, imagine how high it would be within five years. You’d have to stand on a chair to put a new cartridge into the top of the teetering stack of hardware plug-ins.

Nah, Sega learnt from that when they put the controller cable at the bottom for the Dreamcast.

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I think it's madness, personally. The Apple cycle (well it manifests most strongly with them because of the insane brand devotion they inspire, but obviously it's all consumer electronics) is all about telling you that you behind the current state of the art. As soon as you get your new iDevice it's already behind the current state of the art.

It isn't really though is it? iPhones hardware doesn't get upgraded particularly quickly (at least not compared to the six or four month upgrade cycles of some of the Android OEMs).

And when you have an iPhone that's a year or two (or three if it's a 3GS) out of date, you'll find that most stuff runs perfectly fine, because guess what? Developers want to sell their stuff to a wide audience and so aim at the middleground where a lot of people are rather than making something solely for the device that launched a month ago and not many people (relatively) have bought yet. A few might make something that aims hard to push the top-end hardware (usually Epic trying to sell their engine), but not much. You can be a mental and buy the new one as soon as it comes out, just as you can buy the latest graphics card, but it's for little benefit.

Android is even more like this - most people are still on an OS that's three coming up four years old, although there it's due to open source, OEMs making bargain basement devices for the developing world and so on. Steambox might end up going this way depending how the model plays out.

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From what I've heard on the grapevine the PS4 specs on eurogamer are the most accurate out there. I can't comment on the next Xbox as I'm NDA-ed and the guy over at neogaf would be as well remembering NDAs last years beyond the end of your employment and having dealt with MS's LCA department, they're a humourless bunch.

One thing to remember is the specs of the box aren't necessarily the whole story, on paper the PS3 is more powerful that the 360 but the PS3 architecture and MS's toolset for the 360 made it far easier to get performance out of the 360, especially in the early days. From Sony's statements in the early days of the PS3 they wanted improvements in software to come from developers learning how to use the architecture rather than the standard fixed platform method of utilising everything to your advantage and learning new tricks to get the most out of it (there is a subtle difference). Sony's big advantage is the ICE team, these guys exist just to invent ways to get the most out the hardware and show off the machine, e.g. they work closely with Naughty Dog on their games (they're in the same building). MS have never created a group like that.

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