Are we headed for a console gaming disaster?
By adopting a PC-like approach, the new iterative console cycle brings many boons to console gamers including enhanced hardware upgrades to dramatically boost game performance. But this new milestone could be dangerous as well, and it might even jeopardize the entire console gaming industry as a whole. Here's how.
The console hardware cycle is evolving. Instead of releasing new console generations every eight years or so, Microsoft and Sony are taking on a "family" ecosystem type of approach by releasing console refreshes every two to three years. In the past, these refreshes have just been small tweaks, but the iterative cycle sees the refreshes being major overhauls with hardware upgrades. Consoles are now becoming more modular, with a base system evolving every two to three years with new CPU and GPU tech to open doors that were previously reserved for PCs.
This new iterative console approach allows PlayStation and Xbox systems to evolve rapidly so they won't be left behind and obsolete right off the bat. When the Xbox One and PS4 launched in 2013, they were already obsolete. Now just three years later, Microsoft and Sony are designing ways to improve them. The iterative cycle means the disparity between the latest and greatest tech and consoles will become smaller - in short consoles will be able to "keep up" with evolving tech.
The new iterative cycle will manifest with Sony's new upscaled 4K PS4 Neo and Microsoft's 4K "monster" Project Scorpio, both of which are still technically PS4s and Xbox Ones, despite being more powerful and having new tech.
But the iterative cycle has its drawbacks, too. The cycle now sees the generation fractured into multiple tiers; in a way, it's kind of like a generation within a generation. The PS4 Neo is still technically a "PS4", but it's also not just a PS4 - it's something greater.
And how long will it take before PS4 and Xbox One are obsolete in relations to their newer, fancier relatives? Since consoles will evolve every two to three years with a new model, that means the rate at which older consoles become obsolete will be accelerated too. Plus gamers won't be too excited to spend $400-700 on new consoles so soon, even with a trade-up program.
Furthermore, what about the developers? Devs now have to make multiple versions of all their games to be compatible with all versions of the fractured generation. Looking at Sony's leaked PS4 Neo slides, this could be a huge mess.
BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuck even went so far to say that PS4 Neo upgrades are a "huge pain in the ass that flies in the face of the purpose of consoles":
"I'd say that'd be a gigantic pain in the ass that flies in the face of the purpose of consoles," BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk told GameSpot.
"It's funny, there's actually some stories behind that. For example, the original Xbox...Microsoft actually had multiple different DVD drives. They didn't tell anyone that, but as a developer, you discovered that you have different performance, and sometimes you'd have these boxes of refurbished drives and different brands and different equipment. It caused incredible variability."
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