Consoles: gaming vs multimedia


There’s more and more uproar on the side of consoles since Microsoft’s presentation of the Xbox One, the recent launch of Nintendo WiiU and the upcoming Sony Playstation 4. Also the upcoming E3 event will bring changes to the discussions going on currently in both press and the gaming community. Today I’d like to talk a bit about consoles, their role previously, their role currently and what it means what people are referring to.


Console gaming started basicly as a special made PC connected to a TV with controllers to play games upon. So consoles were about gaming. Period.We are talking about a time of the first Nintendo consoles I guess. Although some of the early once had perhaps also a form of online, the attention wasn’t as big as it is now.

It wasn’t until much later that these consoles were having extra features such as a DVD player that people started to use them for more than only gaming. And the true gamer stayed true to the gaming part and didn’t do the DVD part.To be honest, the console’s DVD player had easier problems with the main gaming (playing the DVD’s to play the games) by the time people started to use the players for things other than playing games, simply because suddenly the players were being ‘used up’ quicker. Xbox, PS2, NGC.

Than came the possibility ofcourse of playing online, browsing the internet and downloading games and apps. Apart from browsing the internet, this were still tasks for a gaming console. Playing online can be fun, as long as it isn’t a requirement for using the console. Not everybody has internet and not everybody wants to play with others and be online all the time. But on the background of the change of the consoles and their functionality is also the change of the usage of internet. The way we communicate with eachother nowadays is different from let’s say 10-20 years ago. And it is still undergoing change. Currently people have mobile phones with apps, special tablet pc’s and mini laptops that have nearly always connectivity and thousands of apps are being downloaded to them. And in every way possible we stay connected with the internet, connected with each other.

So we got used to use the internet and the communication between each other in a different way. So the consoles had to go with in time and with in this change of communication. So the newer generation had to have the option to download apps. To create accounts with which you could download the bought software whenever you wanted, to be online all the time and stay connected with each other, to discuss, to chat, to play together as well. We got used to the trendy ‘apps’ on our telephones and tablet pc’s and had to have apps as well on our gaming console and on our TV. Xbox360 and Wii and PS3 are the examples for this.

With better games, more advanced graphics and more apps that can run in the same time we also had the need for more powerful consoles. The attention from good games went towards less advanced games and more apps in the background.

Even though that generation of consoles still didn’t need to be online all the time, you would though get the most out of them when you were connected. No chance you would get the newest updates, the best features and the constant communication with other gamers without the connection to the internet.

A lot of the changes to the consoles has also to do with the demand. When people expect things from their console or TV that they are used to from their mobile phones or tablets, than the consoles will have to have that type of functionality.

Now comes my question: When we were able to make fantastic games in functionality and graphics back in the years of the first consoles, than why would we need the most advanced and fastest consoles for making good games now? A good game isn’t defined by graphics. A good game is defined by the gameplay, the storyline and the replayability. Ofcourse the graphics should be eyecandy too, and I am really sure that on every console produced sofar, this can be achieved. Every console for itself on its own level and grade.

Next gen? Every console that is a new one in the line of the producer is a next generation console. Please don’t call it next generation when you are actually talking about the technical details between consoles.

I will not do comparisons between the consoles. It is simply not possible. Every architecture has a reasoning behind it. Some make it with more cores at lower speeds where they would divide the calculations over several processors. Others make it with one or two cores and have them at higher speeds. Every console producer produces their own hardware configurations and build the software towards this. So it is optimized for their own operating systems and game engine code.

As long as software makers can build fantastic code towards these engines and this architecture, this technology, the games will work great, look great, feel right etc.

But that what game producers do nowadays is that they make a game for all consoles. They for example make a game for the Xbox360 and then afterwards recompile and convert the code towards the PS3 and the Wii or WiiU. This code will NEVER be optimized for this completely different architecture. It will never work as well as a game made from the ground up with compatible code for the console you are writing a game for.

So when somebody says that this game looks fantastic on console X and a little laggy and less graphically advanced on console Y, they don’t tell you that they simply downgraded or converted their code from code X to code Y. Nothing was especially written or optimized for console Y. I can assure you, would they have done their job properly, it would have been looking at least as great if not better.

I won’t side with anyone, but I can tell you for sure that every next generation console will be better than its predecessor and will be able to compete with other consoles in the same ‘generation’ without any problem. It is just about the code.

Everyone remembers the difficult launch of the PS3 for example. This mega advanced console had much more cores and people really needed to learn how to program towards the full capacity of the console. Not something you learn in a matter of days. It took also a while before good or better games came out for it.

Now Playstation is talking about a new console. I bet that most games haven’t used half the capacity that this console can perform at. This goes probably aswell for the Xbox360 and the Wii. So I do not see much in why they need to make new consoles. Generally this has to do with the ongoing development of the internetmarket and the change how we consumers use it. And not to forget: expect from it.

WiiU was nonetheless a great upgrade from the Wii.

On Xbox One vs their Xbox360 and the PS4 vs the PS3 I do not see that difference all that well. Perhaps they could have saved their money and rather have put this money into explaining developers how to properly program games for the full capacity of their very powerful consoles.

I will leave it to this for today.

Game on!


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