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The 5-Year Console Cycle Is Dead 422

Posted by Soulskill
from the trading-increments-for-subscriptions dept.
Pickens writes "The Xbox 360 recently turned five years old, and with no known successor on the horizon for the 360, PlayStation 3 or Wii, Cnet reports on the death of the 5-year console cycle — one of the video game industry's most longstanding truisms. For example, the Nintendo Entertainment System came out in 1985, followed by the Super NES in 1991, the Nintendo 64 in 1996, the GameCube in 2001, and the Wii in 2006. But now, why should console makers upgrade their offerings? Consumers are still buying their machines by the hundreds of thousands each month, and ramped-up online initiatives are breathing new life into the systems. A lot of it has to do with the fact that with the current generation of consoles, each company found a way to maximize either the technology behind the devices, or the utility to a wide range of new gamers."
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The 5-Year Console Cycle Is Dead

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  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday November 29, 2010 @07:50PM (#34381876) Homepage Journal
    It was over 7 years between the famicom and the super famicom, the gap is shorter in the US because Nintendo waited 2 years to start selling the famicom(NES) in the US.
  • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Monday November 29, 2010 @07:51PM (#34381892)

    The business model has changed in a way which makes 5-year-console-cycles less important. It used to be turning out a new console would give you new capabilities AND would get people to buy lots of new games. Now you may get a little more power and may be able to upgrade the way a few things are done, but more of your revenue stream comes from subscriptions than from new game or new console sales. (New console sales are actually a net negative, at least for some of the major providers, because they keep the lost low to encourage sales of the games and recoup the loss on games + subscriptions.)

    Also, the technology of game platforms isn't advancing quickly enough any more to make a five-year-lag a competition killer.

    • by blair1q (305137) on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:04PM (#34382020) Journal

      I'd be willing to bet that in the past 5 years graphics technology has improved enough to make it worth replacing the whole guts of a console box with something newer.

      I'd also be willing to bet that the economy being shite has reduced the disposable income of the planet to the point where profits on such a development program wouldn't be worth the effort.

      But unemployed people have less money and more time, so selling them old technology still makes a pretty good incremental margin.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by aliquis (678370)

        Especially the Wii would of course benefit from an upgrade.

        Kinda haven't played it but was actually in an electronics store today which had it hooked up to a large HD screen and it looked like utter crap, sorta like if you used a non-RGB scart (maybe not in the US?) or JPEG encoded with low quality. Blurry and weird. Cable and TV may had sucked (composite cable?)

        Anyway, regardless of course it could had been better.

        Heck, the Gamecube could output DVI ..

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by jedidiah (1196)

          Well, it kind of all depends on whether or not you are focused on the gameplay or how pretty the backgrounds are and how anal you are.

          Playing a Wii on a 20 foot tall screen is really not the dire sort of thing you would like to make it out to be.

          Any new console is going to be about marginal benefit. As time goes by, it becomes harder and harder to achieve significant enough marginal benefit when weighed against all of the costs to the end users. This applies equally well to the "prettier" consoles too.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by BenoitRen (998927)

          Especially the Wii would of course benefit from an upgrade.

          Part of the Wii's success is that development on it is cheap thanks to not needing to adopt different development practices (necessary by multi-core CPUs) and invest in HD graphics.

      • Well, given that the 360, and PS3 both have released "slim" versions, with updated manufacturing (die shrink, improved thermals etc), I'd say they aren't exactly sticking to the same old technology, just new tech that's 100% backwards compatible.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        I'd be willing to bet that in the past 5 years graphics technology has improved enough to make it worth replacing the whole guts of a console box with something newer.

        Of course it has. But why should they have to put any effort or expense into it? It's not like consumers care or anything. We've proven that time and time again.

        This is the new model of business models: We shouldn't have to actually do anything to have consumers give us money. It's the entitlement mentality of big business circa 2010. Fr

    • Sorry you are wrong re: hardware.
      The hardware is still advancing but for a variety of reasons there is less incentive to utilise it given that revenues are fantastic using the old stuff. Of course over time this will lead to less impetus to drive hardware but for now hardware is still plowing ahead, thank god.

      The proof in the pudding is how a 100 dollar mainstream PC video card can pretty much max out any console port (i.e. most PC titles) on 720p or even 1080p. Five years ago your 100 dollar card would str

  • "A lot of it has to do with the fact that with the current generation of consoles, each company found a way to maximize either the technology behind the devices, or the utility to a wide range of new gamers"

    That and because most PC games are crippled so they can also run on consoles (or are ports of comparitively cripppled console games), thereby leaving most of their computing power idle.

    • The vast majority of a game's level of fun has little to do with hardware. About the only two times where hardware becomes an issue is when the hardware isn't adequate to show you all the information you need or with loading times which completely screw up immersion. I'd rather Fable II look worse and have no loading screens than it to have the terrible amount of loading it has.

      I know that some people obsess over pixel count and want their games to look better, but the fact is, it doesn't make the game
  • Game Studios (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrQuacker (1938262) on Monday November 29, 2010 @07:53PM (#34381908)
    Game studios and developers probably put some pressure too. Having to program for yet another console gets expensive and complicated. Instead of having to learn new hardware, they can continue expanding the tech behind the software.
  • People aren't as willing to buy and dispose of consoles, just to get the "latest and greatest". I think the success of the Wii has also shown that there is a market for just "fun" games, rather than just relying on graphical eye candy. In addition, with the Sony Move and Microsoft Kinect, in some ways these consoles are new enough.

    • by ZosX (517789)

      The Wii just appealed to the casual gamer grandmas who would have never considered console before. The only reason it sold so much is because it opened a new market that consoles could previously never break into. It was also relatively cheap, further lowering the bar to its entry into the market. The 360 appealed more to the traditional console crowd. Most serious gamers I know have 360s. Not many have a Wii.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        I am a fairly serious gamer, I play PC games via wine, if they don't work with wine/crossover I just don't play them that way. I have a PS3 and am getting a red Wii. I have an NES, a N64, a gamecube, and a PS2. The PC is not getting upgraded since I can't find games that really warrant it.

        The only people who makes these claims about the wii are children. They are afraid if they like something "Childish" people will realize what children they really are.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          am getting a red Wii.

          You might want to have that looked at by a doctor.

      • by Sancho (17056) *

        The 360 appealed more to the traditional console crowd.

        Well, for varying definitions of "traditional." I prefer the Wii because I like fun games, and FPS with horrible controls are not (imo) fun. I was pleasantly surprised to find that many Wii games feel very much like the classics I remember--sometimes because they are 2D (NSMBW, the new Donkey Kong) and sometimes because they capture the spirit of those games (Super Mario Bros Galaxy, Zelda.) No, I think that the Wii is more traditional, and that the Xbox (and later the 360) really broke out and found new

      • by AnonGCB (1398517)

        Most of the "serious gamers" I know play games on a PC. Though at this point I doubt most of us PC gamers want to be associated with the frat boy stereotype that perpetuates on consoles.

      • by thule (9041)
        New Super Mario Bros Wii has sold almost 17 million copies. According to VGChartz, it sold over 250,000 copies last week. Are you saying that grandma is a huge fan of Mario? I don't think so.
  • Actually (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aerorae (1941752) on Monday November 29, 2010 @07:59PM (#34381980)
    I think it could simply be that people realized that they didn't need to buy new systems to play (more) decent games. The manufacturers saw that they were certainly not making ANY significant amounts of profit of the hardware, and the existing hardware (PS2 for example) just wouldn't DIE, as developers just kept pumping out games for them. Why waste money in bringing new systems when no revitalization is needed in the industry? These are businesses after all. They won't try to fix what 'aint broke.
    • by ZosX (517789)

      I still like the PS2....there were some pretty good games for it and the graphics are not all that bad, even today. In fact, I keep meaning to pick another one up so I can keep playing Dragon Quest VIII.

  • I'm sorry, but I can't handle 8800GT-era graphics anymore. The 360 used to look nice, but it's definitely aging, and Microsoft seems intent on going down the casual-gamer road. I started buying more titles on PC than console last year, and I've only purchased a handful this year. I know that I'm in the minority, but this supposed "10-year cycle" is just not for me.

    • by javakah (932230) on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:15PM (#34382110)

      Indeed. Slashdot has a very, very short memory. Just a few days ago there was an article featured on the consoles being too slow.

      http://games.slashdot.org/story/10/11/25/2126215/PC-Gaming-a-Generation-Ahead-of-Consoles-Says-Crytek-Boss [slashdot.org]

      Although honestly, I think the larger danger to the consoles is not the PC market, but the mobile market with the iPad and such. I've been surprised at how much the iPad can actually pull off for not being just a gaming device (N.O.V.A., etc).

      This article reminds me a bit of some of the early predictions where the people couldn't see the need for more than a few computers in the world. It reeks of something that will come around and bite them in the ass for not progressing quick enough.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Every time a new, high-profile FPS comes out, I ask myself, "is this game better than Deus Ex?" And the answer is inevitably "no". When a PC developer uses all the superior hardware they like to circlejerk over to make a game that's more fun to play, then maybe they'll have a point. As it is, PC gaming is still generations behind PC gaming.

  • [Full disclosure: The only modern system I own is the Wii.]

    Nintendo seems to be the only one that needs to upgrade the capabilities of their current console. There's lots of games coming out for PS3 or XBox360 that I'd like to play, but these games are not coming out on the Wii because it's simply not powerful enough. I may pick up one of the other ones used after Christmas - not because I can't afford them new, but because I don't want my money going to the prop up companies that approve of DRM laden sof

    • There isn't really anything limiting the Wii other than developers are reluctant to spent more time developing quality games for it. Other than graphics, the Wii can certainly handle most of the stuff that a PS3 or Xbox can do, it just might take a bit more time developing. There is no technical reason why Final Fantasy XIII couldn't have been ported to the Wii simply running at 480p rather than 1080p.

      The biggest technical barrier in the past 3 generations of consoles have been load times. I don't care
      • by SpeZek (970136) on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:27PM (#34382240) Homepage Journal

        Um, what?

        The Wii has only one processor core. The Wii has a GPU capable of only ~15 million polygons/second max, and incapable of plain old bumpmapping, nevermind more complex shaders. It has a pitiful amount of memory available. Reducing the resolution of a 360 or PS3 game doesn't reduce the massive amount of shaders and effects the Wii simply could not handle. That's why games need to be completely independently developed for the Wii, it's nearly impossible to do a straight port and downgrade, simply because the limitations are so vastly different. It's a Gamecube. Surely you're not suggesting that a PS2 could play PS3 games easily at 480p as well?

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Take a look at god of war 2 in 480p, looks great. I say this as someone who owns a PS2 and a PS3. Also the gamecube was a good system, the wii is not the same beast. Much faster, still weaker than a ps3 but no gamecube.

    • by sqlrob (173498)

      but because I don't want my money going to the prop up companies that approve of DRM laden software and sue people for modding the hardware they sell.

      Then why do you have a Wii? Nintendo is who taught Sony and MS' what they know about that.

    • Bust as someone else mentioned, current gen consoles can max out the resolution of most HDTVs that are out there...

      How to max out the resolution of a hdtv.

      Step 1: Buy a good, high resolution camera. (Red One comes to mind, but there are others)
      Step 2: Take it out into the natural world. Find something visually interesting,
      Step 3. Focus, and attend to lighting.
      Step 4: Press Record...

    • by nxtw (866177)

      But as someone else mentioned, current-gen consoles can max out the resolution of most (HD)TVs that are out there, so why put a bunch of money into R&D that isn't going to affect the end experience that much?

      Actually, current gen console games frequently render at less than 720p:
      GTA IV runs at 640p on the PS3 [joystiq.com]
      Halo 3 renders at 640p on the Xbox 360 [joystiq.com]

      We are getting close to the point (if we haven't passed it already) where low-end ($50) PC GPUs outperform current consoles.

    • There's lots of games coming out for PS3 or XBox360 that I'd like to play, but these games are not coming out on the Wii because it's simply not powerful enough

      The Wii is actually a reasonably powerful system in terms of CPU/GUP/ etc, in spite of the fact that it outputs at 480p. I suspect a bigger part of why a lot of games don't come out for the Wii comes down to the most distinctive element of the system - the controller itself. PS3/Xbox360 controllers have what, 40 buttons on them? The Wii controller has about 7 buttons (not including the D pad). Even if you include the nunchuck the total button count just isn't there and the programmers find that a signi

  • It's more likely that the reason is profitability on these consoles. Other than Nintendo who released a comparatively less powerful device that was largely an evolution of the technology used in their previous generation console, Sony and Microsoft sunk a lot of money into developing the consoles and then heavily subsidized the initial costs of the devices in order to sell more of them. Microsoft also took a big hit due to quality issues with the initial version of the console which had a high failure rate
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aztracker1 (702135)
      I have to agree on most of your points, and would like to add that $400+ for a console (at initial release), and even more for a modest sized HDD for said system kept people away for a while. Many of the PS3 purchases were for the blue ray functionality as much as gaming. And the 360 limited to DVD discs (since the crash and burn of HD-DVD) has held it back some. I just bought my kid a 360 this last year, waited for the RROD issues to be squared away first. I won't buy a Sony product, so PS3 isn't an op
  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:13PM (#34382090)

    Just one more generation and we'll finally have a true HD console (one rendering at 1920x1080, not scaling up from a much lower rez). I don't want to build another gaming computer. Give me a console that can do what my current rig can do and I'll be set.

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Though the fact is, even though the majority of the population may now have "HD TVs", most of them wouldn't notice any difference between 720p and 1080p.

      Small screens ( 50" 1080p just isn't really that useful from normal living room distances), crappy budget TVs (that $499 "1080p" LCD TV you get at Walmart looks nowhere near as good as a decent 720p Panasonic plasma), and just plain viewer inability to discern it (you'd be amazed at how many people set up their new HDTV in 480i and take months to figure tha

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        Argh, /. killed my less than sign... was supposed to be "less than 50" 1080p isn't really that useful"... oh well.

  • Reason is games... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blahplusplus (757119) on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:14PM (#34382098)

    ... take too long to make today because hardware power has increased asset production time exponentially. So it's obvious why console generations are no longer 5 years, its pretty much approaching 3+ years between a game and its sequel.

    Doing a modern AAA game takes at lest 3 or more years to do it right, and games that are developed in 2 years often show it in lack of quality and the use of rehashed concepts ad-nauseum.

    Not to mention all the money and years spent wasted in failed attempts and false starts that is hidden from view.

    • "take too long to make today because hardware power has increased asset production time exponentially. So it's obvious why console generations are no longer 5 years, its pretty much approaching 3+ years between a game and its sequel."

      Unless its Half Life 3 then the wait is at least three presidents

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Yep - everything you said, plus the fact that after they have just spent 3 years on an entirely new engine for their AAA game, they would really like to be able to reuse that engine as many times as possible rather than toss it out and develop one for the next generation system. As many probably know, the basic GTA4 engine was first developed for Rock Star Table Tennis, of all games, and then was later reused in Red Dead Redemption.

      Not to mention with the online play, patching systems, and DLC of the lat

  • ....will end the current cycle and release new consoles with 3-D television support once those become widely adopted. Until then there is no reason to release new hardware while current systems can be updated (software and/or firmware) by the user. Once this occurs a new cycle of content will be released including all of your old favorites (read same old shit) now in 3-D.

    Disclaimer: I'm not actually from the future. This my best guess

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Or, if 3D television ends up being a short-lived fad, they won't.

      It could be that they're waiting to see if 3D TV takes off, but I suspect the real reason is they're waiting for the economy to improve.

  • It really sucks, and is not getting much better anytime soon. New consoles are very expensive, and a $150 - $200 controller + game combo is a much easier investment than $400 + games + misc crap you end up buying with a new console (e.x: they rarely come with the cables you want). Don't forget that retailers love to throw mandatory bundles at early adopters. So a new console can easily cost between $500 - $600 after all is said and done.

    Then you've got to consider the economics of the hardware itself. Both

  • .... to make certain components of those systems upgradeable. say, like cpu. say, memory. say, maybe gpu. even if the upgrades would be limited, they would still allow more wiggle room for the console owners, and also help progress of both gaming and consoles with new generation upgradeable items. because the items would only bring processing power/memory/whatever, it wouldnt require any significant changes.

    they could use oem parts, they could do their chips themselves. in any case, they would be able to
  • Is it possible that a down economy won't support a new offering in the numbers necessary to be defined a success? Why put out a console in the middle of a recession? You'd just have to deal with all the slashdot articles saying it didn't sell as well as the last model, which was introduced in boom times.

  • I have no citation, but I remember when the PS3 first came out, Sony admitted to having a 10 year cycle. I was skeptical at the time, but it looks like they'll blow past 5 years at least.

  • Take a look at how long games are taking to make nowadays, a couple of examples being GT5 and FFXIII.

    They probably needed to slow down the release of new consoles to prevent "Duke Nukem Forever Syndrome" where nobody would release their games because there'd always be new technology just around the corner.

  • Brilliant. Why do I need a console hooked to my television when the cloud can magically render high performance 3D graphics on my television?

  • An upgrade to a PS4 now would cost huge amounts to develop, would have to be sold at a loss, wouldn't offer an immediate and significant improvement in graphics or gameplay, and would be followed by a new offering from Microsoft and Nintendo fairly quickly. And most of all, the success of the Wii showed that you don't need the biggest processor to make money.

    Personally I see two paths to the next generation. One is a game that can't be made 3D without either a hardware upgrade or a graphics downgrade, com
  • The real reason is probably that the PS3 and Xbox360 were a bit ahead of their time -- they both cost too much (except for early adopters), and were HD at a time where the installed base of HDTV was pretty much limited to early adopters. As the consumer space has caught up, and the manufacturers have cut costs, they are now taking over the Wii-dominated market. In other words, the next generation is already here.

  • 3DS, iPhone, Android (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:56PM (#34382572)
    I think most of the innovation is in the hand held arena these days. New markets often get the focus of developers and manufacturers for awhile, but I think in time we'll circle back to consoles as graphics, processing, and sensing technologies improve.
  • What the Wii showed Microsoft, Sony, and everyone else is that polygons per second and screen resolution are not the major determinants of success. The Wii succeeded by having an innovative controller, and well-designed casual games. Equating platform competitiveness with fast hardware is an incorrect association, at least right now.

    So Microsoft and Sony are doing the rational thing and investing their R&D into new controllers and good games, rather than a new platform rev. Given the risks they'll pr

  • I feel abused and mistreated by Sony. Sony demonstrated to me a solid record of not admitting to any hardware defects and not standing behind just-out-of-warranty hardware that died multiple deaths. Customer contact policy is beyond condescending. Their next console could be the best in the universe, the aggravation will never be worth it.

    Not there's a snowball's chance I would buy from Microsoft either. As far as I'm concerned this is the end of the line for consoles in my home, period. I fondly hope

  • Premature (Score:4, Interesting)

    by guspasho (941623) on Monday November 29, 2010 @09:20PM (#34382796)

    Let me check the date. Yep, still 2010, four years after the Wii came out. Wikipedia says the Playstation came out in 1994, PS2 in 2000, and PS3 in 2006, so we shouldn't expect a PS4 until 2012. Doesn't the summary contradict itself?

    But wait, the Xbox came out in 2001 and Xbox 360 in 2005. Where is my Xbox 720???

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