After being caught in the current generation of video game consoles for the better part of a decade, it’s no surprise that the next gen is finally right around the corner. The longest run of video game systems is destined to end soon, and with an unveiling of something big coming February 20 from Sony (which has to be next gen related), there’s no better time to start saving up for what Microsoft and Sony have coming next. But what will come with the new hardware (besides the obvious improved graphics, memory, and framerate)? Here are my predictions—good and bad—for the next gen.
A popular trend in PC gaming (especially EA titles), always-on internet is a distinct possibility in the future of consoles. In an effort to combat pirated and non-DMR games, it would make sense for Sony and Microsoft to require an internet connection to play their games. This would also prevent hackers from modding their consoles and cheating online. While some may cry foul at requiring an internet connection to play strictly single-player games, I can see this always-on internet in consoles’ futures.
Say what you will about the Kinect; despite the fact that, arguably, no truly great title has come out requiring Microsoft’s peripheral, the technology itself is still incredibly innovative and unique. Ask anyone who’s used the Kinect while watching Netflix or conversing in Mass Effect 3 and they’ll tell you it has plenty of potential. Considering how much Microsoft wants people to purchase Kinects simply so they can also get more customers buying Kinect games, perhaps it’s plausible that the device will come boxed with the next Xbox. Doing so would up the cost of the console, and it may be a bit of a gamble on Microsoft’s part, but it could pay off. Microsoft would have a whole new field of customers to cater to with family-friendly Kinect games should the peripheral come boxed in.
I don’t think this is likely, but it would definitely be awesome. The ability to rotate discs from the comfort of your couch to play different games would be amazing. While trying to balance playing multiple playthroughs of different titles at the same time, nothing is more annoying than having to leave the comfort of my couch to switch discs. Multiple disc trays would fix all this, but I don’t think it’s going to happen because of…
Digital Download on Release Day
Digital download has always been a pretty consistent option long after a game becomes a Platinum Hit or sells well enough to earn the digital download option. Popular games like Halo 3, Gears of War, and Assassin’s Creed can all be downloaded instead of bought from a retailer, but this isn’t available until long after the games’ respective releases. As more and more shopping goes online, it’s feasible that digitally downloading blockbuster games will become an option straight from day one. This isn’t going to happen overnight, however. As digital sales increase, slowly we’ll see titles become more and more readily available via download until they’re the only media format you can purchase.
Blu-Ray on Xbox
This one is nearly guaranteed. It sucks that for the past eight or so years the Xbox hasn’t been able to play Blu-Rays like the PS3 has. That alone has given Sony a significant leg up. However, Microsoft is certain to play catch-up and include Blu-Ray playback with their next system.
Something that’s slowly been garnering speed is the social media integration available to gamers. It’s pretty easy to take a screenshot of Minecraft on your Xbox and instantly upload photos of your creations to Facebook. These are tame gimmicks that allow players to share their gaming lives with their friends. I predict that before long you’ll be able to set up your Twitter and Facebook (and even Google+, if you have one) accounts to your console of choice and have them automatically update when you pass certain milestones, such as beating a game on its hardest difficulty or getting to a certain Gamerscore.
Hybrid Entertainment Machines
Microsoft and Sony are slowly trying to become the only name you need in your home for entertainment. It’s a popular joke to call the 360 a “Netflix Machine” considering the stigma that people use the Xbox more for movie-watching than gaming, but there’s some truth to this tale. With Smartglass, an Internet browser, YouTube apps, and even WiiTV, consoles are trying to become the only technology you need in your home besides a TV to entertain yourself. Gaming systems are only going to become more hybrid as the next generation emerges.
The Next Step for Achievements and Trophies
No one could predict the idea of achievements and trophies before the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 were released. However, it’s now hard to imagine games without them. It’s amazing how much certain players are attached to these arbitrary numbers and pointless digital awards, but they are, so these features are here to stay. But gamers want more. They need something more tangible than a random number or colored trophies. I don’t know what Microsoft and Sony will do to give players more incentive to play games to completion, but I have some ideas. What if you could decorate your Gamercard or profile with badges you obtain after earning every achievement or trophy in a game, showing all your friends and online opponents what a BAMF you are? What if achievements rewarded players with Microsoft Points to spend on more games or DLC? I can’t say for certain what’s next for achievements and trophies, but I know something significant is lurking out there.
No Backwards Compatibility
This one sucks to admit, but it’s probably going to happen. Sony revoked the PS3’s backwards compatibility after discovering that the PS2 would sell better without it, and they haven’t looked back since. It’s highly unlikely they would change this for the next gen, and Microsoft is likely to follow suit. It’s disappointing, but that’s business.
As you can see, there’s a lot of speculation as to what’s next for home video game consoles. What do you think is coming with the next gen?