Recently IGN published a list that supposedly “predicts 12 innovations for Microsoft and Sony’s next generation of games consoles”.
After rightfully rejecting Nintendo from the discussion, IGN quickly gets on with the list.
First item on the list, first sentence.
“We don’t need a hard drive.”
Stop laughing, it can’t be as silly as it sounds.
“Let’s enter a future where all our games and all our saves live somewhere else, instantly accessible on our next-gen console as well as on associated mobile devices.”
Okay, maybe it is. I was sort of thinking it was the usual silliness of saying everything should stream off the disk and nothing should install to the hard drive. Or maybe even that flash storage should be used instead of hard drive technology due to its low latency. Which is of course, the biggest problem with what he’s saying; latency. There is some. For certain types of game, this kinda ruins the experience. Don’t get me wrong, OnLive is a great service, and they have executed the idea of cloud gaming beautifully.
There are fundamental problems with cloud gaming though, things like physical distance away from the player, bandwidth, consistency, infrastructure (lack of). Yes, there are still people who don’t have 2-5Mbps consistently. I get about 6Mbps myself on a BT connection. I’m quite typical. Typical Virgin users get higher average speed, until they use their internet a bit, then for the rest of the day they suffer crippled bandwidth. Not to mention the QoS (lack of) in a lot of wireless devices which means lack of prioritisation of traffic, which means, well, jittering. I’m not the only gamer in the house, I have a partner and a child, so that 6Mbps is shared between three. Even then, physical distance means high latency, which means a delay between something happening in a game, and you experiencing it, then another delay as your input then has to travel back to where the game is physically running. Fast action games where reactions are important? For most people, forget about it.
Maybe the mainstream of the gaming industry will move to cloud gaming when every household that has had a PS2 in it has fast fibre-optic connections to a speedy internet, and 20+Mbps (per person) connections with almost zero ping so we get similar fidelity and latency to what we get out of locally connected consoles. It seems doubtful that this will happen next generation when, chances are, most of the specifications are already set and very probably don’t include taking out most of the hardware and making a tiny OnLive box, as cool as those things are.
I suspect the author doesn’t really understand the technology anyway since they say, “Before long, we could be streaming games straight from our consoles.” We already do that, it’s called an HDMI cable and gamepad. Or perhaps he meant streaming game content from a home console to other devices over the internet? Ever checked how fast your upload connection is?
I’m of course, not against having access to cloud-based content, and backing up data online is a great feature too. Let’s not go too far and pretend that the next gen can be replaced by it.
Both Sony’s and Microsoft’s next consoles will have hard drives as standard, if not, as I suspect, mandatory features. Why? Hard drives are faster than DVD and blu-ray. By a lot.
Let’s be generous and look at the maximum speeds, a 12x DVD going at the full speed it generally doesn’t: 132Mbps.
A hard drive? Just a normal laptop hard drive, the sort you’d get when you buy a budget laptop, nothing fancy: 700Mbps.
That’s being very generous.
“We don’t want to have to go to a store and pick up a plastic box.”
No, you want to download the game to your console that doesn’t have a hard drive.
Okay, reading it more generously, they want you to be able to stream it from a cloud service. I’m sure all the publishers who’ve been crowing about not making money off of used sales don’t care how it’s done, they just want to used market to go away. Not realising that people very probably won’t want to risk $60 for a game when they can’t recover any of that money via the used market.
Let’s look at another of the problems with online-only content as a replacement for boxed. Waiting. Don’t want to go to a store to pick up a game, huh? Not interested in waiting for a game to install, even?. Welcome to downloading 16Gb of Mass Effect 2 when the smallest BT package for internet gives you 10Gb a month. That’ll take several hours, so long as no-one does anything else with the internet, and you don’t hit a daily limit. Oh, and the servers aren’t crowded that day. And no, Mass Effect 2 isn’t the biggest game I could have picked. Even a slim ‘n’ trim Skryrim is 6Gb.
Moving beyond that – if you don’t want a physical disk and you don’t want a hard drive, what happens if your Internet goes down? If the service you’re using to stream goes down? You can’t play any games – for however long it takes to get online access again. What about all those parents who buy their kids games? The advantage of having an offline physical system is you (as a parent) can control fully what your kids play, and they aren’t subjected to the Internet in all its racist, homophobic, yelling glory. Finally (and while it may be hard to imagine) things aren’t guaranteed to last forever. It’s one of my long held hopes that Facebook – just like MySpace before it, will die. And so could the online cloud streaming service you’ve invested money in – what happens then?
Besides, people like owning physical objects as the not-death of blu-ray and books show.
Optional online content, and same-day (or even early) online retail releases would be great though.
After having a heading that talks about Retroactive Platform Parity over a paragraph that has nothing to do with Retroactive Platform Parity followed by an argument about unifying video services as a platform exclusive thereby making it not unified, the article does become more sensible, with things that are much more likely to be feasible this coming generation.
“In the future, we don’t want the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live to keep us offline when we don’t update. We want to talk to our friends while firmware version 2.0 downloads in the background, and automatically.”
I’m slightly torn on the issue of automatic updates, but I feel that the right approach with automatic updates is to have it as an option you can turn on and off, although, we shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege. Talking to your friends whilst you update is a nice idea, but allowing a compromised or outdated connection to a service that you pay money into? One that can be exploited by hackers? No.
“The PS3 played nice with UT3’s mods, but beyond that we haven’t seen much in the way of console cooperation with add-on content. (At least not the stuff that isn’t for sale.) These things are practically PCs at this point. Let modders publish their stuff on Xbox Live and PSN next time, and let us enjoy and get the most out of our favorite games.”
The fact that Unreal Tournament allowed it should clue you in as to how feasible having mods for the PS3 and XBox 360 is – let alone the next gen. Whilst some of it is a policy issue, most of it is down to game developers and publishers. Skyrim’s console is disabled when not on the PC, mouse and keyboard support is disabled, and splitscreen options are disabled on the PC version of Left 4 Dead when it works just fine on the XBox 360. Why? Certainly not because they can’t or are not allowed.
“Now more than ever, though, the idea of not being able to play older games on a new console really sucks.”
It does, although they miss the reason. DLC. I want my songs from Rock Band to carry on to the next generation’s Rock Band and all those games I bought from the Playstation network, not the Playstation 3 Network to work next console. Disk-based content would be only a part of that.
PSN lets us add the exact funds necessary to buy the items in our cart — this is a great system because it’s how we buy stuff everywhere else.
Really? As far as I recall the PSN requires you to add money in 5 pound or dollar chunks – rather than allowing you to pay the exact price for a game either via Pay Pal or a card (like Steam does). The PlayStation, the Xbox and the Wii all have their respective extra systems for money, the PlayStation just doesn’t translate it into a different word to help you think of it as money less. It’s better sure, but let’s be honest here – you’re still left with extra, annoying amounts of change.
The upshot of all of us is that it encouraged us to finish off our own attempt.