Too Much Pressure on the Next Generation?
Oh look, some vague rumors about the technical specs of the next Xbox console.
As expected, the internets are now all a-twitter (or a-plussing, if that’s your thing) about what this could all possibly mean for the fate of Microsoft’s next big hope. Technophiles have been quick to point out how laughably underpowered the new console’s proposed video card is, at least compared to what’s currently available for desktop PC gamers. Naturally, they’re overlooking the fact that the Xbox 360′s Xenos video card was comparably underpowered back in 2005, but we don’t want that to get in the way of a good whine.
The level of negativity this rumor is attracting does beg one question though: what was everyone expecting?
Ever since the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn arrived on the scene — long enough ago to make me feel depressed about how old I’m getting — console manufacturers have been playing a never-ending game of catch-up with PC hardware manufacturers. As each new console rolled off the production line, PC gamers would be there waiting to point, laugh, and compare tech spec e-peens. But in recent years that gap has been closing, at least where visuals are concerned. And, let’s face it, that’s the only yardstick most people use when it comes to assessing just how “advanced” a console is. What’s its maximum resolution? What shaders does it have? How many magical video card things does it do per second? Will the next Final Fantasy game finally look like the FMV of my dreams, dammit?
Not that many PC gamers are in a position to claim a significant technical advantage. The average PC gamer isn’t even playing games in 1080p right now. In fact, fewer than 10% of gamers who use Steam are playing in 1920 x 1080 or above. When the next generation Wii, Xbox and PlayStation arrive on the scene, every console gamer will be playing in 1080p. Now who’s playing catch-up?
Relax, guys. It all boils down to this: PC gamers and console gamers are going to be on pretty level footing when it comes to how pretty everything looks. Sure, those ten percenters will have insane resolutions and enough anti-aliasing to turn a rough day around — and they’ll remind us of this fact every damn opportunity they get — but we’re all one big happy family now.
So now we can stop worrying about how many polygons the neighbors are throwing around every second, let’s turn our attention to some of the things we’ve been neglecting lately, such as AI, physics, sound propagation, narrative/mechanical cohesion, etc. Working on those areas is going to deliver more interesting gaming experiences, not the ability to count a space marine’s bountiful supply of nasal hairs.