Nov 252009

In my opinion, I would say no. I don’t believe we need an entirely different console configuration at this time. But, if current generation console features could be improved upon, I think that would be a move in the right direction. We are at a place, technologically, where the graphics capabilities in video games have the same effect in entertainment that movies do. We can tell a story and we can tell it well. We can, perhaps, tell a story even better than movies can because video games, by nature, are much more immersive than a movie can be.

With the advent of new technology also comes an awkward period for developers at the very beginning of a platform’s release. Developers are forced to learn, most of the time, an entirely new SDK (Software Development Kit) tailored specifically for the new hardware and the new technology used by the hardware. Aside from the obvious negative aspects that exist for developers, what does this mean for the consumer? This means that for the first few months or even a year or more after a console’s release there is going to be a dry period for game releases. There are going to be very few games released and the quality of each title will more than likely be under par. These are the costs of acceptance of emerging technologies. But, at this point and time are the costs of a new platform worth the benefits? That is the question that must be addressed. It is inevitable that new technology will be developed. I only wonder if we’re ready for it now.

It would seem that most console developers tend to adhere pretty rigidly to the release of some new console over a specified interval:

Nintendo Releases over 6 year intervals (approx.):

Sony Releases over 5 year intervals (approx.):

  • [1995] – PSX
  • [2000] – PS2
  • [2006] – PS3

Given current trends Microsoft is due for another console release. So far, Microsoft has consistently released a console every four years (Xbox in 2001, Xbox 360 in 2005). Now approaching the end of the 2009 year, one can only wonder what Microsoft has in store for us. I can only assume it to be their current R&D focus; Project Natal.

Project Natal might serve as a new and innovative platform (really no more than a peripheral for the current gen platform) capable of pushing both participation and immersion in video games to a previously inconceivable level. Will everyone jump on the band wagon and wait in line to get it on release day? From what we’ve seen so far, the platform seems to be targeted toward the casual gamer, or the “family” gamer. But with the introduction of this new input format or others like it, will the old input format, the controller, be supported still? Or will it instead become obsolete? What will become of competitive gaming if controllers that we’ve been accustomed to using for decades are phased out? These kinds of questions are important to a less represented demographic; the hardcore or competitive gamer.

Regardless of any of my previously mentioned opinions I actually believe that improvement of the Xbox 360 through development of Project Natal is a good move for Microsoft. As described previously Microsoft will avoid the overhead of a completely new platform while directing their current console iteration to a much larger demographic; the casual gamer.

Project Natal is also good for consumers for a couple of reasons. The new console “dry spot” will be avoided since the core hardware hasn’t changed much. While the influx of Project Natal titles might be limited at first, there will still be constant releases of Xbox 360 core titles (titles not utilizing Project Natal technology). The cost of new hardware will be reduced considerably as well since the price of a peripheral will always be less costly than an entirely new console.

Well, despite all of my opinions expressed here, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. I’ll probably end up purchasing Natal eventually, but I’m in no hurry to get it on release day.

Thanks for reading!