The next console generation #1 Home consoles

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OK, now the following is all supposition and guesswork, so don’t hang me for it in three years time. Also if you have any thoughts on this please add them as comments. This could be a fun debate. What I will do is take each of the three main home consoles in the order that I think that they will be replaced. I will write a quick paragraph about where they are up to this generation. Then a paragraph about what they may possibly do next.

First a massive supposition. Let’s regard the ideal life of a console as ten years with a new generation every five years. Giving the manufacturer a two model range at any one time.

The Nintendo Wii is really just a GameCube 1.5. It has become the fastest selling console of all time because of a brilliant gesture interface, because of some very clever software and mostly because of amazing marketing that has broadened the game playing demographic. Hardware wise it is very much last generation with no hard drive, no HD TV support and the weakest online offering of the three consoles. It was launched to the public in November 2006, so it is just 16 months old. It has probably sold over 20 million units.

Of all three manufacturers Nintendo has the most evolutionary approach to design. So I see their next console as being Wii 1.5. They will probably need to add a hard drive as the industry moves to a downloaded content business model and they will have to support HD TV. It could be given a new model name or just be called Super Wii (very likely) and will be relatively inexpensive to manufacture. It will be backwards compatible with the Wii to take advantage of all those amazing games and it will be announced within 18 months. The existing Wii model may well remain in production to give a two model range. It would be left as a $199 or even $149 entry level model.

The Microsoft Xbox 360 is not part of a two model range because Microsoft did not own the rights to the CPU and GPU in the original Xbox so could not drive costs down. The 360 was first of this console generation to market in November 2005 and has sold over 16 million units. It was designed with great care to be economic to manufacture and undergoes a complete internal redesign every year. Microsoft has learned their lesson and own the rights to the main chips.  When they integrate the CPU and GPU they will be able to sell it very cheaply indeed. $199 or even $149 for the base model, and still make a profit on each one sold. In fact when you look at the 360 it was almost designed to be the cheaper model in a two model range. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was Microsoft’s strategy. This machine has by far the best online support with Xbox Live, it is impossible to overstate how important this will be in the future of gaming.

Using our 5/10 year model the Xbox 3 is due in the shops in November 2010. But I think it will be earlier. Firstly because there will be room for it in a two model range and secondly because first mover advantage worked so well for Microsoft last time. It will have a sophisticated gesture interface. With this machine Microsoft has to make a major philosophical decision. Do they want users to store their content on a hard drive on the machine itself or on a remote server as favoured by Google? The remote server has the massive advantage of potentially going to a business model where you pay for what you play, not for ownership of the game. And the added advantage that the consoles can be manufactured more cheaply, which is useful in a retail price war. But maybe broadband won’t be fast enough for Microsoft to make this move with this generation, it is expected to be an adequate 60 Mbit/s by 2012, but that may be too late.

The Sony Playstation PS3 was launched in November 2006, over six years after the launch of the PS2, delayed by technology problems with it’s Cell CPU and BluRay disk drive. It forms part of a two model range with the PS2, which still sells very well. About 10 million PS3s have been sold worldwide despite it’s predecessor being the dominant console of it’s generation. This poor performance was caused by the very high retail price which was a consequence of all the new technology it used. Also it is difficult to develop games on which has been a major stumbling block in giving the customers the games that they want. And Sony showed some less than optimum marketing behaviour.

Playstation 4 should come in 2011 according to our model. I think that this will be the earliest that it will appear and that 2012 is more likely. This because the PS3 is still so undeveloped as a product in the market, it has a long way to go. Also Sony doesn’t have a lot of money to go sooner, a console launch can cost billions. And the year or two (or even three) delay after Xbox 3 allows them to use Moore’s Law to create something very special indeed.

So (and remember that this is rampant speculation) it will be Super Wii first followed fairly closely by Xbox 3 then a gap till PS4. All three machines will be even more webcentric, will be backwards compatible (maybe going back more than one generation), will have sophisticated gesture interfaces and will almost certainly be integrated with hand held consoles. According to Moore’s Law they could have four times the power of the current generation.

21 comments ↓

#1 Tex Pine on 02.22.08 at 8:09 am

I believe that with online distribution of content like movies and music, consoles have the opportunity to become the most important gateway for people to get digital entertainment. Maybe the second-most, behind PC / Mac.

XBOX has the best chance among others due to the advanced stage of its network system and, being a Microsoft beast, a possible wireless integration with Windows Vista and Zune.

#2 Redh3lix on 02.22.08 at 9:42 am

I would go as far to say consoles could easily overtake PC/Mac for digital entertainment. It’s sat there next to your TV as apposed to a clumsy PC/Mac setup. It’s offers music, web browsing, hi-definition media, gaming, fitness (Wii), social networking etc etc.

I’ve always been the PC gaming type, but this current generation of consoles are so much more powerfull and flexible than those in the past, I’m finding I can pretty much do whatever I can on a PC, sat on a sofa with a HD TV and wireless internet connection (without having to pay for hardware updates every month to play the latest games).

#3 Thom Primer on 02.22.08 at 12:16 pm

I think whether Microsoft or Nintendo brings out their next generation first depends on how far Nintendo goes with the next iteration.

If the changes are small, largely aesthetic things like with DS -> DS Lite they could bring it out within a year. If they make any significant hardware changes (a ‘Super Wii’) I wouldn’t expect it until at least holidays 09 and if they go to a whole new console without Wii in the name I wouldn’t expect it until 2010. At the moment they are selling so well that there is just no need for them to make any changes. They should at least wait until their sales are no longer supply constrained before they make any changes.

MS could bring out their next machine in 2009 but I think with Sony so far behind in PS3′s development they can afford to wait till 2010 and let the 360 build momentum for their next console by selling at a budget price.

#4 God on 02.22.08 at 1:52 pm

I dont get it when ppl say Live is better than PSN?
PSN is basically the same service without annoying ads and its free, has less lagging and technical issues.

#5 Evan on 02.22.08 at 4:35 pm

Bruce, your predictions seem reasonable. As I think through what you wrote, it seems to me that Sony, ironically, finds itself in a potentially powerful position. If the current Sony surge continues to build, then Microsoft and Nintendo might find that they are forced to come up with a new console sooner rather than later. While no system is truly “future-proof”, the PS3 has a feature set that should make it a compelling platform for many years. Sony has all but closed the online gap with Microsoft, and with webcentricity likely to be more critical than CPU/GPU improvements over the next generation, it is questionable that hoards of gamers will leap on a new platform in 2010 just for incrementally better graphics.

If the PS3 is delivering top-notch games and services in 2010 (which is essentially a certainty), then it is doubtful that Microsoft or Nintendo will convert the Sony customer base to a new console at that early date. Without some truly compelling new services, it seems likely that Microsoft and Nintendo would be fighting simply to upgrade their existing customers while competing with Sony to bring new customers into the market. In short, if Microsoft and Nintendo are forced to bring new consoles to the market in 2010, then they will need to be extremely creative on the software and services side in order to beat the PS3, which will likely be sailing smoothly at that time.

#6 Todd on 02.22.08 at 9:56 pm

I think that all you said dounded reasonable except the very last…”According to Moore’s Law they could have four times the power of the current generation.” The PS3 was roughly 40 xs more powerfull than the PS3, if it costs a Billion + dollars to R&D and launch a new console, then it would have to have significant advancment in technology to make it worth the consumers dollar. Other than this small flaw, your reasoning is sound.

#7 Mac on 02.22.08 at 9:59 pm

I agree with Evan.
I think that by the end of 2008 the PS3 and 360 will have very similar total console. Not only do they have an excellent game lineup this year, they have the virtual world HOME (which should compete very will with XBL) and Sony has won the format war. I understand not everyone buys a game console for movies, but when comparing the two consoles (PS3 360) it will be hard to choose 360.

#8 Boot on 02.22.08 at 10:13 pm

The reason both the Wii and 360 will require new revisions first is simple.

Wii – No Storage, online gameplay and media capabilities

360 – Bag of shite that breaks all the time and a live service you have to pay for for which the main content is broken due to the DRM failure.

PS3 is the only console i see lasting its 10 year life cycle because of its capabilities.

Im no fanboy trust me. I own all 3 and use them all but 80% of my time is spent on PS3 now. The last generation was alot closer if you ask me.

#9 Matt on 02.22.08 at 11:16 pm

I think that all 3 companies are currently going over ideas for thier next consoles , my thing is i hope they make huge advancements. Sony since it included its blu-ray player in the ps3 and since the firmware is upgradeable , I think its great that the Blu-ray won the format war so sony can continue to sell ps3′s at a competitive rate and cheaper by the time the next gen MS and Nintendo consoles hit the market. Seeing as how the cell processor is so advanced I think if sony is watching their competitors moves as they should be then they just might pull a surprise timed release with MS while having a “Moores Law” implementation in a new Cell type processor. Lets just hope they use more memory lol this time around. Nintendo is in its own category since it goes after a completely different croud in a sense and does not directly affect the outcome of the other 2 systems … again “in a sense”.

#10 some guy on 02.23.08 at 1:31 am

the wii has mostly been succesful on the “wow, i can move this stick and the game reacts!” but not anywhere else. this is not a bad point as it has made the wii a top seller but i dont see this lasting. nintendo will probably release a wii lite in 2008/9 and this will boost sales a bit but then they will have to move on. xbox 360s are kind of stuck, they can’t be fixed without millions of people all demanding their console be fixed, this would possibly bankrupt microsoft, and they cannot be left as they are with the numerous problems. there will be a new xbox, it probably wont be much better than the 360 but it will fix the problems suffered by it. the ps3 will last a long time and it has been futureproofed as much as possible, the only change we might see before a ps4 (which will be a long way away) is the ps3 slim, lite or something meaning smaller and lighter than the original. this new version should be about the size of a ps2 slimline (compare a ps3 to an old ps2 and they are about the same size). whatever console you chose you are still going to get a lot of fun out if it, and so you know, i own a ps3 and use it daily. the only issue i have had with it not working or being bad was replacing the harddrive (the screws got stuck and i messed them up trying to unscrew them, i got sent a new harddrive caddy for free and also got offered an entirely new console) and 1 time when the new 160GB harddrive wasn’t recognised (switched it off and on again and it has been been fine ever since). i can see the ps3s being bought now lasting for at least 6 years, hopefully longer like the ibook clamshell i own, that celebrates it’s 10th birthday next year. it still works.

#11 Bryan Barletta on 02.23.08 at 3:37 am

Bruce,
You mention that all three of these hypothetical new systems “will be backwards compatible (maybe going back more than one generation)” but I’m confused why you would make that assumption.

PS3 has essentially called it quits on all their systems besides the 40GB which doesn’t have the Graphics Synthesizer GPU to handle PS2 games. Sony has made it clear recently that you can purchase a 40GB PS3 and a PS2 for cheaper then the soon to be disappearing completely 80GB PS3. What would inspire them to go back two generations on their next system, when their current system can’t handle one?

Xbox 360 still can’t play every Xbox title correctly. They’ve also made several Xbox titles available for purchase through Xbox Live.

Nintendo Wii can play Gamecube games, but it makes a profit off of their previous systems through Nintendo’s virtual arcade. Besides, as you stated, it’s just Gamecube 1.5.

With the reduction in price of SSD and services like Steam becoming more popular; it would be more realistic to see the last gen and even current gen systems games available for digital distribution through the next wave of consoles.

Besides that, good point :-p.

In response to Boot’s comment:
*Nintendo Wii
- It has built in storage and a SD expansion slot.
- It’s weird that it doesn’t have online gameplay. I should tell my buddy in Japan who just kicked my butt in brawl that it wasn’t real :-p.
*Xbox 360
- Microsoft offers a warranty.
- I’ve only had XBL issues this past December/January, which they addressed.
*Playstation 3
- It may last 10 years…..as a first gen Blu-ray player.
If you want to avoid fanboy status, you may want to discuss the system you supports weaknesses. It’ll make it less obvious.

#12 Harmonic on 02.23.08 at 3:49 am

I still think the quality and design of the games is the most important thing. I’m a very visual person and enjoy beautiful graphics, but my all-time favortie games are still Super NES games. I don’t care if a new console has graphics that look better than big-budget movie FX, if there’s nothing in the gameplay/story/characters that interests me, I’ll stick with what I have from the 90s. That said, I do like where some game designers are headed, and I think all three current consoles have a ways to go yet before they’re “last gen.”

#13 Bruce on 02.23.08 at 8:41 am

I keep hearing people say that the PS3 is future proof. It is no more future proof than the 360. You cannot change the CPU, GPU or increase the memory on either of them, they are very un future proof.
If anything the 360 is slightly more future proof because you may be able to change the HD DVD drive for a Blu-ray one.

#14 Baney on 02.23.08 at 12:55 pm

Bruce you can change the memory on ps3 and if you read the article you would have heard his speculation of using memory based through the internet, which PS3 is defeniately able to do.

#15 Mac on 02.23.08 at 2:55 pm

Come on Bruce, do you really think thats what they mean by future proof? Just because i can update most of those things in my computer doesn’t mean that it’s future proof. I think Sony is saying that since every PS3 comes with HDD, WiFi, can output 1080p, has Bluray and can be updated it can last 10 years as a game/movie player.

#16 derseb on 02.23.08 at 4:23 pm

just because you can update your PC with a Graphic Card that costs as much as an entire console in order to play recent games, doesnt make that platform future proof.

in fact i feel consoles are more future proof than PCs, because development is more on the software side!

#17 noneofyourbusiness on 02.23.08 at 9:32 pm

Why do you say that the format war is fought? I’m still using DVD’s…

#18 indysurfn on 03.02.08 at 4:05 pm

Each and every manufacturer has said that graphics has diminishing returns. Meaning that people will not see as big a difference in graphics the more we advance. Example, say I have a 2 million polygon machine and I’m comparing it to a 1 million polygon machine(all other things being equal). The difference will be significant, but comparing a 2 billion polygon machine to a 1 billion polygon machine will not be anywhere as big a difference. With this in mind all three consoles are likely to launch at the same time. Because Sony knows that waiting
And then not looking better (once again) is not the way to go. The same holds true with Microsoft.
Funny thing is Nintendo knows this! They may use that as a reason to once again not put the latest in the machine and launch at the same time, this time incorporating a controller that has a small touch screen on the regular controller. Yes I see them keeping the motion controller, and adding a screen to their regular controller. Thus making it fun to those that are casual that don’t like swinging their arms.
Things are looking bright! Also I see Microsoft and Sony relearning the lesson that they should have already known from 3DO, and Saturn. Price matters….A LOT!

#19 VERY IMPORTANT on 04.09.09 at 6:13 am

READ FIRST READ FIRST READ FIRST IMPORTANT TO KNOW

the size of the blu-ray goes up to 50GB(dual layer) so the more space the BR has, the more better the game is because of increased features, 15% graphics improved in game. when ps2 was released most games size were 1GB(hotwheels world race for example) and then now 2009 some are between 4GB and 5GB. so ps3 will probably go up to 40GB and 50GB…or if new blu-ray go higher.

FACT-killzone 2 graphics only possible on ps3
my opinion is that it killzone 2 can be on xbx360 but graphics will be decreased by 40%(that is alot). this is why ps3 blu-ray can hold heaps of data/features and graphics. and can last very long untill ps4.

http://www.gamedaily.com/articles/news/killzone-2-graphics-only-possible-on-ps3-says-steinburg/?biz=1

i would write more but i have too much to say and i already know ps3 will be a great quality console.

#20 srgtserious on 06.22.09 at 2:57 am

I know Im a year late to the party, but its interesting to see how the manufacturers are discussing much longer lifespans than earlier predicted. Also Baney, you’re an idiot. Bruce wrote the article, of course he read it. On top of that, no you cannot increase ps3 memory. You can increase its hard drive size, but no more Ram can be added to the system. Now Mr. Very Important (fanboy) can you cite where you found the 40% decrease in graphical capabilities? I sure cant. So dont pull figures out of your ass! Just because you can have many more textures on the disc does not mean a graphical improvement. The limiting factor is the processor and ram, and the processor definitely cannot handle much more than they are already doing. That extra space on the bluray can definitely be used for more levels, characters, content in general, but I dont think a 40 gig game would look better than a 10 gig game. On top of that, a 40 gig game? Can you imagine the amount of coding needed to fill a bluray disc? I doubt games in this generation will be able to fill that much, it would simply take too long and it would be so much more expensive to produce.

#21 Larz on 11.03.10 at 2:41 am

Interesting to see how its november 2010 and still not a sign of the next gen consoles. By this time i think that we are looking into a 2011-2012 super wii and maybe even a 2014 ps4. If any of you guys are still out there, what do you think?

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