After recently being introduced to the world of Steam, and PC gaming I find it difficult to get very excited about the next generation of video game consoles. That's not to say that I don't still enjoy playing console games, and I doubt that my steam library will ever grow to rival my current collection of console games. However, the popular consensus from most of the people that I have heard from on these forums or those of my friends who have been die hard console fans is that next generation consoles have some pretty big shoes to fill to justify all of the mysterious buzz that we have been hearing surrounding the next Microsoft and Sony console releases.
So what would it take to convince gamers that consoles are truly growing up, and that they can continue to persuade us to fork over out hard earned cash on what will most likely turn out to be another $300 to $400 gaming system? The following is a list that I have compiled of what it would take to persuade me that the next generation is worth prying myself away from PC gaming long enough to shell out a few clams. Keep in mind that these is my wish list, and that it may not reflect any speculation about the components or capabilities of the consoles still in development. This list is in no order of particular importance.
- Simultaneous digital release of new games along with retail releases: I understand that we are a long way off from having digital only copies of media, and I don't necessarily want that to happen any time in the near future. Still, I want the choice to be able to download a copy of my anticipated releases if I so choose rather than having to wait for a preordered copy, or without having to stand in line for a midnight sale. On several occasions, I have been disappointed by the fact that I preordered a game, and the disc was flawed (i.e. the famous Best Buy non-working disc copy of Halo 3) or scratched and I was forced to wait for more copies of my purchase to arrive since they sold out at the store and I was unable to exchange immediately. Furthermore, what is the deal with download speeds on the PSN? Why does it take me less than 2 hours to download a 4GB game, but 1.5 hours to download a 50MB game patch or update? Sony definitely needs to fix this with their next system, or I'm afraid I'm out of the market on that one.
- Give me the option to purchase a console with an SDD instead of an HDD: Hell, this could be a peripheral upgrade that is released along side the console and not necessarily the option that comes with it for all I care. If you want to see a huge reduction in loading time for games you install to your gaming system, try using a solid state drive instead of a standard hard disk drive, and you will be amazed. Not only does it reduce load times, but it also means that there are fewer moving parts on your system that can wear out or get damaged if the console should fall off of an entertainment stand. I know that SDD tech is still fairly expensive at the moment, but give consumers the option of upgrading and the things are bound to sell.
- Support larger lobby sizes for multiplayer games: I'm sure someone explained why consoles don't do this already to me at some point, but I still don't get it. Games like Battlefield 3 feel downright empty with lobby sizes limited to 24 players, and there are plenty of other PC titles out there that thrive on the fact that they have huge, chaotic player counts on their servers at all times. I don't have much hope for this one, but if Battlefield 4 is on the horizon, I really hope it is slated as a next gen release or that they have found a way to run 64 player servers. A boy can dream...
- Forget about this all in one media system mentality: This is perhaps the biggest stretch of all, but I really miss the days of the original Xbox360 blades that were free of advertisements and annoying user un-friendly icons and navigation controls. It's true that I like the fact that I can play my Netflix streaming movies on my PS3 and Xbox360, but it's secondary when it comes to playing games. It's just....a perk, not something that I want to have shoved down my throat every time I boot my console. It's one of the many reasons that I love the fact that the Playstation crossbar has basically stayed the same for the past 7 years. I know where everything is, and I don't have to adjust my routine just to accommodate the way that some nebulous development company says I should interact with my console.
- Do away with virtual currency systems: This one is a biggie for me. I have struggled for years to understand Microsofts "dollars to points" purchasing system, and I just don't want to deal with it anymore. I don't want to spend my time calculating how much a 500 MP package costs so that I can purchase some downloadable content package. On top of that, I hate seeing that I have 300 MP left over in my wallet balance when I know full well that there is nothing worth purchasing aside from some ridiculous avatar outfit that I'm not going to purchase. I could add more points to purchase something else, but there is always some strange balance that I can't get rid of for the life of me. I just want to purchase content for dollars, and nothing else. No tokens, no points, just good old fashioned, digital dollars.
Now I could have spent all of this time ranting about the fact that I want better graphics or MMO support, and I do. However, I know that consoles will never be able to stay current with their hardware if they expect to turn a profit. Instead, I would settle for a happy middle ground where developers can push the boundaries of their creativity and consumers can say that they see the value in purchasing a system that they may be stuck with for another 5+ years. At any rate, what would you say we can realistically expect from the next generation of consoles? Only time will tell.