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Why I hope Sony and Microsoft realise specs don't matter in the next generation of hardware

Digitally Downloaded writes: "If the current rumours and "leaks" are proven true then it looks like the next generation of PlayStation and Xbox hardware will indeed be a substantial boost in power compared to the previous generations. But here is the thing – as I look at those specs I find myself struggling to care. Not because I do not look forward to new toys to play with, but because I personally don’t think better specs will do all that much to enhance the gameplay experience any longer when it comes to console gaming, and I do hope both platform holders spend the time to promote features, rather than hardware, as we move into the "next gen."

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Intentions1246d ago

It does matter...

It determines how big and the scale of the game is etc.

MattS1246d ago (Edited 1246d ago )

Hi Intentions,

Could you please read the piece again. I discuss that exact point. It's quite a dense piece, it's over 1,000 words.

But in short, if games keep getting bigger and more epic it's going to destroy the industry. Developers can't afford to develop these "bigger" games that you're talking about.

Thanks!

Theyellowflash301246d ago

Totally agree with the piece. The PS3 and Xbox 360 nearly killed the Japanese game market with their inflated development costs and pricey hardware. Capcom moved Monster Hunter from the PS3 to the Wii because of it.

Thats why you see a majority of Japanese developers moving to handhelds and the Wii U. Yeah we'll still get Square Enix, Crytek, and other big third party developers making games for the PS4 and Xbox 720, but smaller developers might get swept under the rug.

decrypt1246d ago

@MattS

I think MS and Sony need to give it a rest with all the royalties and advertisement costs they charge on their platforms.

Game development itself isnt so expensive. Crysis 1 which is arguably the best looking game even today, hardly cost 20million usd to make back in 2007. Difference is it was made for a platform that didnt charge for any royalties what so ever and barely had any advertisement costs.

These days to launch a game on consoles publishers have to end up paying more on adverts than the actual game cost it self.

There is nothing on console even today that can challenge crysis 1, yet games development cost on console is so much higher? I think its pure console makers charging too much and some mismanaged devs crying.

Check out Witcher 2 Metro 2033 both of them didnt cost much to make, yet put anything on console to shame. Development costs being high are a myth.

bicfitness1246d ago (Edited 1246d ago )

I disagree, MattS. The technology, middleware and where most of the development is going on (China/ Korea - the West is no longer the centre of the gaming world) have all shifted. We are now seeing projects catered toward mid range rigs and run quite well on low end systems.
The middleware and engines determine the box needed run them. Software dictates hardware. You can't use last gen as a comparative, because it was such a leap from SD to HD that the costs were astronomical. Also, mobile wasn't on the scene, and that's a huge segment that technologies and engines are being catered toward now. The benefit there, is that they are efficient engines made for efficient machines.

So I don't think that its unrealistic to expect a decent jump in power over last gen's hardware; it would be quite easy for MS or Sony to build a mid>high range closed system PC for a decent MRSP with the production deals that they get from component manufacturers. If you follow the industry, you'd clearly see that software development budgets will not be ballooning like they did in the previous generation. This will be a generation about refinement not reinvention. I agree with decrypt's assertion that game development itself isn't that expensive. While I am not a personal fan of mobile games, we have UE3 iPad/ Android games running in native 1080p or higher, made by 5 man development teams in like 6 months.

We need more of a shift in console manufacturer ideology. More acceptance toward different models and a mobility like attitude in opening up their platform for developers, while still maintaining the AAA goodness that console fans have come to expect.

That, is my biggest expectation from this upcoming gen. Less walled garden, more freedom and creativity. Yet again, still keeping that quality factor. I don't want PSN to turn into the jumbled mess that the App Store is. But more to the point, there is no reason for the hardware not to be powerful, otherwise at the rate of growth happening, it will be outdated by 2014's round of tablets, which won't be good for anyone.

Edit: yellowfish, you are incorrect. Capcom moved MH from PS3 to Wii so that they could reuse the same assets that they've been using since the PS2 era - it was also a larger install base at the time. Capcom haven't made an actual HD Monster Hunter asset yet, even the Wii U version is just upscaled. Again, this is a cost decision and ties into what I was saying earlier about the cost of HD. A cost that no longer exists.

Maybe 4K gaming will start the bleeding again, but we're a long way from that. At least half a decade and not realistically for this round of consoles.

MattS1246d ago

@bicfitness but what you're saying there largely fits in with the line of argument in my piece.

If next gen is about refinement, then Sony and Microsoft don't need to go about promoting the next consoles as the most powerful things ever (like they did at the start of the PS3/ Xbox 360 era), would they? The marketing line, rather than being about specs, should be about the experience that these consoles can offer.

Game development in the big-budget console side of things (and I don't believe for a second that budgets are going down. You might be able to make a nice looking game on the iPad, but if you're planning on rivaling the visual spectacle of a Square Enix or Crysis game you're going to need to make serious development investments) needs to shift beyond merely making things better looking. It's a losing battle - eventually enough consumers will be content with what they have now that they'll stop buying into the next 5 per cent incremental improvement.

The point is that the console industry as a whole needs to start selling innovation and give developers freedom to play with features. In my personal opinion, the "winner" between Sony and Microsoft will be the one that offers the best feature set, not the one that has the best specs.

Thank you for the great counter-argument, I really enjoy discussions like these :)

nukeitall1246d ago (Edited 1246d ago )

All I ask for is a little foresight, so we don't get specs like the PS3 being way overpriced, and no cross game chat because of specs.

The consoles don't need to be super powerful, but I would prefer a faster cycle around 4-years.

If it costs too much too develop, developers will come up with creative ways to lower the cost. No worries.

Ezz20131246d ago (Edited 1246d ago )

it's really simple
both are needed

what i care about most is ....games
that will always be my #1
and after that the specs
but you can't only have one

matter of fact
the dev will always need the specs to make the games bigger and better
so you can't have only one of those

it's like saying i want amazing story but i don't want gameplay

bicfitness1246d ago (Edited 1246d ago )

MattS,

Let me begin with a disclaimer that I am not a mobile fanboy. I am a technology enthusiast and gamer. I follow the software (games, in this case), I do not believe in brand loyalty. While I have many fond memories of Nintendo and Sony (a few of MS too - Lost Odyssey was brilliant), I never forget that these are businesses providing a product, and we are consumers, with an expectation to be serviced.

So, to the issue at hand. Here we have a catch 22. If the console makers don't offer decently specced hardware, they will continue lose ground to phablets and tablets. As ridiculous a number as it may seem, Samsung is aiming for about 100 million high end phones/ phablets for 2013 (only Galaxy S IVs and Note IIs). That's more than any console this generation has done in their lifetimes, in a year. And there is a humoungous shift toward gaming on these devices. With the leaps in technology, in two years, we will have mobile devices as strong as today's high end PCs.

Now onto the engines themselves. Square Enix's engine is proprietary, and they won't be selling it. So the cost there is a non-issue for the development community. Regarding UE 4, if Epic prices/ specs it too high, they'll isolate themselves right out of the market. In technology, we've seen how past success rarely indicates future relevance, so I'm not too worried about Epic's hold on the next-gen marketplace (but I imagine that they are). Already Unity and other low cost engines are eating away their market share. But more to the point, Sony and MS need to offer decent hardware or they'll look as outdated as the Wii was in a volatile, ever-shifting marketplace that isn't likely to settle for at least a decade.

That is (and bear with my postulating), until someone invents the "omni-device", which is what we're headed toward. That one THING that makes calls, plays console quality games, wirelessly hooks up to your HD tv (or will it be 4K at that time? :P ), bluethooth controller and has all your tablet, streaming and lifestyle needs met too. We are heading toward a convergence of devices and services, anyone can see that. Not separate boxes with their specific uses.

I'm not sure who will make it. But if I had to bet, I'd say Samsung, given their ability to so ruthlessly adapt to the marketplace. Until that device (and its competitor's inevitable iterations) arrive, everything else is just a stopgap. I honestly believe that this is a stopgap generation for all the console makers until they figure out which way the winds are blowing. So, to that end, I don't see an explosion in development dollars. I see experimentation and successful and failed gambles galore. But still, we need decent hardware to stretch for 5 years or so (this will be a shorter gen than last for sure) or these devices - consoles - will lose relevance entirely.

That might be an unpopular opinion here on N4G, but it is a likely outcome.

SuperM1246d ago

Actually more powerfull hardware will in alot of cases simplify game production. A good example is global lightning which means developers wont have to spend alot of time prebaking lightning into the scenes. It all happens dynamically. Then you have stuff like physics based animations that we are already seeing in some games and will improve alot nextgen. I think a key word for nextgen would be making things dynamic. Its going to make things alot easier for developers but it also requires a significant jump in power. The more the better. So to conclude, i dont agree with you, power will matter alot for next gen.

Ghoul1246d ago (Edited 1246d ago )

i wont discuss this point entirelly but,

there is one major factor everyone seems to ignore (at least the gamers).
im a developer myself working in realtime and game environments for 10+ years now.

processing power isnt just about massive scales and content.

- current state in the games industry is that almost everything is handcrafted and therfore the industry and manpower exploded over the years

- possible state would be to finally use procedurally generated assets, that off course is very demanding, we need more processsing power to use such methods.

- complete Realtime Light solutions for example if pushed to new limits can raise the quality extremly without having the need to produce more and more complex assets, but we are limited to sometimes very time consuming production pipelines to enable todays quality seen in games.

- Physics is a complete other story, if we would finally see liquids particles all over the scene and game (wich is calculated dynamicly, would bring a world to a complete new level in realism.

- Animations are all prerecorded or handcraftet, we simply lack processing power these days to come up with procedually generated and or physically based systems, (behaviours joints muscles etc.), if we could finally build realworld orientated animation systems we wouldnt need to handcraft every fu....g animation

to put it short.

more processing power means higher quality effects, lighting, camera effect (depth of field) post process effects etc. its NOT allways about Content.

Games these days have alot of content (if intended by the devs - take sykrim for example) what we need is a higher quality not more content

and higher quality can only be achieved at this point with more processing power.

better assets will be achived by higher quality rendering techniques
we will be able to rais the bar in image quality by a great factor if we get more calculations on the hardware.

Ghoul1246d ago (Edited 1246d ago )

"But in short, if games keep getting bigger and more epic it's going to destroy the industry. Developers can't afford to develop these "bigger" games that you're talking about.

Thanks!"

sorry i dont wanna sound like an ass or something

but you obviously do not have the insight you would need to make such a statement, its simply NOT TRUE.

saying that bigger or better is more expensive is very shortminded and you whould think further before making such a statement.

most of todays costs in produciton are NOT only the game and content (gameplay wise),

- Multiplatform development
- Design development
- Motion captures and cutscenes
- Campaigns adverts etc.
- Global launch events
- Global rollouts
- Translations in every language
- scaleability over the months (content packs)
- Rights and trademarks
- etc. etc.

the extrem difference in ps3 and xbox hardware for example exploded the costs by an extreme factor, because we had to rebuild almost everything (except assets) from the ground to get a game on both platforms. means alsmost every step was done twice....

the games industry gets more adult and thus needs to spend the same amount of cash to produce global blockbusters as the movie industry

MikeMyers1246d ago

Specs are not the defining point but all the rumors so far point to Microsoft focusing a lot of their attention of the next Xbox being a media hub with lots of RAM dedicated to the OS and the next Kinect. So will Microsoft continue this drift towards a system that does more than just gaming while still pushing some form of motion controls?

This generation was kind of a mixed bag for both the PS3 and Xbox 360 and they both were going after the same consumer early on. The Wii of course disrupted that kind of as they each released their own form of motion controls mid-cycle. I think if Microsoft continues to go in that direction it could leave Sony more alone at going after the hardcore gamer.

I'm not sure if we need so many platforms that essentially play the same games in the same way.

phantomexe1245d ago

@ matt you are right. Cost will keep going up. Another THQ anyone?

dcbronco1245d ago

I don't think more power will kill small developers. In the past I don't think console makers cared as much about how hard their machines were. Microsoft has changed that. They focused on tools as a way to give themselves a foothold. So I think better tools will make a difference as time goes on and that will keep the mid-range companies in the game.

What is killing developers is the inability to come up with new ideas. But I believe that new, more powerful system will help there to a point. The specs don't say everything. Nothing leaked so far has mentioned much about the design of the chips inside. Nintendo aside, the other console makers have innovated on CPUs. Though the Cell wasn't what Sony thought it would be, it gives us an idea of the direction CPU design is going. Larrabee was another attempt at the same type of thing.

And that is where AMD comes in. And Microsoft. APU using HSA are the future. A lot of experts believe that is the next direction for computing. At least for now. I think that's why MS and Sony chose AMD. HSA will add a lot more power than the expectations of the basic parts.

Hopefully that added power will allow developers to push new ideas. And allow for enough power to spare and better tools that will allow the smaller guys to stay in the game with more creative gameplay. And while I understand that the number of phones released does hurt the home gaming business as they get more and more powerful. Home gaming will just move on to bigger ideas that smartphones won't have the power for.

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abzdine1246d ago (Edited 1246d ago )

lots of devs haven't maxed out the PS3 yet cause upcoming exclusives are way above what we have seen until now. I think power is important to measure the progress, but for me creativity and new experiences are the most important and keep the excitment. If next gen is once again all about COD then i dont see the point of having a next gen of consoles cause COD has been looking the same since 07.

4 massive exclusives confirm what i'm saying:
-Ni No Kuni
-God of War
-Beyond
-The Last of Us

Real gamers should understand what i'm saying.

fermcr1246d ago

"Why I hope Sony and Microsoft realize specs don't matter in the next generation of hardware"

If specs don't matter, then why release a new console ?

That's the dumbest thing i heard today.

Thatguy-3101246d ago

Exactly. If it weren't for specs we wouldn't have no GOW3 or Uncharted 2/3 playing the way they were played with ps3 specs. Heck I rather have quality games come out for that console over it having mediocre games and selling more consoles.

Gamer19821245d ago

But if ones not more powerful than the others how will the fanboys get there kicks by the multiplatform screenshot comparison sites? We can't have games looking the same on both consoles :p.

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DigitalSmoke1246d ago BadLanguageShow
Fishy Fingers1246d ago

They matter to me, at least to a point. They have to provide adequate hardware to justify the purchase over they're current offerings and of course that new hefty RRP they'll probably demand.

EvilFluff911246d ago

I totally agree with what decrypt said, AAA games wouldn't be that much to make if big publishers didn't insist that their games have ridiculous marketing costs, paying Hollywood actors for voice acting or hiring big shot orchestras for the soundtrack.

rustyspoon801246d ago

Once we're able to get games a large and diverse as Skyrim, with the character models from a Beat-em-up (or Heavy Rain), with vehicles from Gran Turismo/Forza, and the AI from Killzone, then we wont need better specs.
Indie developers will still be able to develop smaller games which get advertised on PSN/LIVE marketplaces.

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