Breaking it Down: Console Evolution

I am likely somewhat biased, but I thought the E3 Xbox briefing was well done. Not only was there a nice mix of hardware and software announcements (with launch dates!), but more clarity was provided on the vision and roadmap for console hardware.

But wait, that’s been the focal point of much hand-wringing and teeth gnashing. Here’s one from Engadget, speculating that Xbox One sales will dry up, because something better will appear next year.

At the macro level, here are the critical take-aways on where the industry is headed:

  1. Expect console hardware to iterate more rapidly.
  2. Expect great developers that make great games to tune for the few “click-stops” of consoles and their respective capabilities, not unlike supporting N and N-1 console generations or cross-platforms, today.
    1. Consoles and PCs are becoming more and more alike, so assets and content should be sharable, but with an extra layer of closer-to-metal API access and specific settings to be tuned for consoles.
    2. Over time, the top-of-line AAA games will raise the min-bar, but expect studios to support N, N-1 and possibly N-2 iterations, to hit the experience-install base sweet spot.
  3. And, like nearly all other industries (TVs, phones, even your toothbrush and home furnishings), potential customers will have a cost-benefit trade-off to make. A novel concept.

For the Xbox family, specifically, the One S is the natural cost and form-factor reduction version of the original One. This time, the deal has been sweetened with additional functionality and hardware (UHD Blu-Ray). The change for next year is that both the One S and Project Scorpio will exist, side-by-side, and unlike compatibility breaks of some previous generations, there won’t be one here.

Some may postpone purchases until next year, for Scorpio, but given the S is incremental and a year earlier than the typical mid-cycle refresh, I doubt there will be significant overall sales cannibalization due to the Scorpio announcement. Instead, the S maintains the new entry-$299 price-point and entices new users with a smaller, nicer-looking console, riding the wave of 4K marketing. There isn’t remotely close to 100% TAM overlap, as some allude to, nor the even more outlandish claim that someone eying an Xbox will now suddenly buy a PS4. Because, why?

Change is challenging for most to accept. So while one might question why console gaming is the anomoly in consumer electronics (recall all those bemoaning that smartphone GPUs were more capable then previous-generation consoles), the fact that it’s about to change is the most anxiety-inducing part.

Joining the Wii Sheep

The last game console I purchased was a Nintendo 64; in fact all the consoles I’ve ever owned have been made by Nintendo. This past weekend, on something of a whim, I picked up a Wii. I’m not one to camp out to get in that next shipment, so with the inventory shortage mostly sorted out (Futureshop has plenty of stock both in store and online) I walked into a local store and walked out with $500 worth of hardware and games. Hey, it’s been almost 10 years since my last purchase, so I figure there’s some reverse-amortization happening. 🙂 It’s really only like $4/month.

I loved the Mario Kart game for N64, so I just had to have the new version for the Wii. I picked that up along with an extra wheel. For another controller, I went with the Wii Play package, that includes some little games, but more importantly, the extra Wii-mote. I dropped in another Nunchuk to be safe and I was off to the cashier.


Now there’s a logo I haven’t seen in a while…

Right off the bat, I could tell why lots of people have fallen in love with the console. From the diminutive size to the slick interface, this could easily be something Apple conjured up. Also of note is the Wii-mote ‘jacket’ that comes equipped with all new controllers now. It’s this monstrous rubber/silicon protective wrapper, so that it doesn’t hurt so much to get hit by someone waving their Wii-motes around madly. I’ve been told by plenty of people that it’s not about the big arm movements in a game like tennis, but let’s be honest, it’s a bit hard not to get into it. I found myself swinging pretty hard on more than one occasion.

Without a doubt the games are fun; Mario Kart with a ‘wheel’ is just a whole other game compared to the N64’s controllers with little thumb-sticks. Golfing brings me back to those days on PEI. The motion sensitive controls take a lot of these games to another level. I’m not a hardcore gamer, so I really couldn’t care less about chainsawing people in Gears or War or slinking around in Metal Gear Solid. On the other hand, a large number of games for the Wii appeal to a wider audience, which is exactly what Nintendo intended. And looking at the sales numbers, I think they were right on the money (excuse the pun) by targeting this underserved market.

Yep, you can add another soul to the already countless Wii sheep. 😉

Taking a break from UT2004

I’ve been playing quite a lot of CTF in UT2004 recently. I used to play only Bombing Run, but with the community on the decline, I’ve found myself integrating into the CTF community. I’ve found it quite enjoyable up until the last couple days when I ran into some problems with a member of the clan that hosts the servers I play on. Long story short, I was kicked from the game and threatened with a ban for something I completely disagree with. Attempting diplomacy (as in talking about the issue) only seemed to fuel the fire. Let’s just say the other guy played loose and fast, shooting his mouth off at me – calling me names, cursing, and threatening me with a permanent ban.

The reason? Apparently I was camping and ‘spawn-raping’ him. Well whatever the hell that means. If shooting someone on the way to the flag constitutes camping of some sort, then color me guilty. But I’d disagree and with the sort of sportsmanship he demonstrated, I was put off to say the least. Attempting to find support on his clan forum led me nowhere (now that I think about it, what did I should I have expected eh?). Apparently I was in the wrong for complaining about being kicked from the server and subsequently being told-off when I tried to convey my point of view. They pointed out how badly I outplayed my opponent (apparently a match that is one-sided is pointless – even if it’s a 1 on 1) but didn’t have any problem overlooking the chat logs, where it would have clearly showed his threats and insults to my cool-headed debate.

Yeah, the little shits are quick to insult and abuse their powers in a game when things aren’t going well for them. Too bad (and fortunately for the rest of us) they don’t have admin privileges in the real life server. It looks like I’ll be taking a break until Unreal Tournament 3 comes out and the community revives itself. Perhaps I’ll waste less time this way.

UT2004…

I’ve installed Unreal Tournament 2004 again.

My life may be over.