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Console Manufacturers Want the Impossible? 316

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the also-known-as-a-computer dept.
Phopojijo writes "Consoles have not really been able to profitably scale over the last decade or so. Capital is sacrificed to gain control over their marketshare and, even with the excessive lifespan of this recent generation, cannot generate enough revenue with that control to be worth it. Have we surpassed the point where closed platforms can be profitable and will we need to settle on an industry body, such as W3C or Khronos, to fix a standard for companies to manage slices of and compete within?"
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Console Manufacturers Want the Impossible?

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  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:22AM (#43838543)

    Quite a bold statement that the console market isn't profitable, where is your source for this? MSFT posted Q1 2013 earning for the Entertainment and Devices Division:

    "generated revenues of $2.53 billion for the quarter, up 53 percent from the same period a year ago. The division includes the Xbox business and Microsoft said there is now 46 million people signed up to use its Xbox Live online service, up 18 percent from the same period a year ago."

    Seems pretty damn lucrative to me...

    • Quite a bold statement that the console market isn't profitable, where is your source for this? MSFT posted Q1 2013 earning for the Entertainment and Devices Division:

      You'd be surprised what products are reported as part of "Entertainment and Devices Division". Rumor is that all Macintosh software created by Microsoft is part of "Entertainment and Devices Division", most likely to make it look more profitable.

    • Re:Really? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @06:02AM (#43838803)

      You can't prove something is profitable by making a statement about its revenues. If you look at the divisional earnings over the last 5 years it hovers around the $0 mark - profits in some quarters, losses in others - and the console segment is the least reliable earner in that division.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gsslay (807818) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @06:36AM (#43838927)

      Article summary should be re-written;

      Console market isn't profitable in the way that some gamers would like.

      • Article summary should be re-written;

        Console market isn't profitable because there are few games being made gamers want.

        Fixed that. Seriously, Xbox one is being marketed not as a gaming console but a dvr.

        • by slim (1652)

          XBone marketing has barely started. There's been one press conference about PVR / social media / blah. There's been stuff about CoD. And that's it.

          Of course there will be games. Lots of them. Whether they're games worth buying an expensive new system for, we'll have to wait and see.

        • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

          by tgd (2822) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @07:30AM (#43839211)

          Article summary should be re-written;

          Console market isn't profitable because there are few games being made gamers want.

          Fixed that. Seriously, Xbox one is being marketed not as a gaming console but a dvr.

          Except that its:

          a) Not being marketed at all yet
          b) Explicitly described as not having DVR capabilities

          So you're wrong on both counts. Guess you've got a case of the Tuesdays.

          • Article summary should be re-written;

            Console market isn't profitable because there are few games being made gamers want.

            Fixed that. Seriously, Xbox one is being marketed not as a gaming console but a dvr.

            Except that its:

            a) Not being marketed at all yet

            You've heard of xbox one, therefore, it *is* being marketed. They haven't ramped it up to the launch level, but it's there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Parker Lewis (999165)
      And how about the loses from the beginning of this generation? The article talks about the entire generation, not only a specific quarter.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      That statement said absolutely nothing about profit.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @07:48AM (#43839339)

      Quite a bold statement that the console market isn't profitable, where is your source for this? MSFT posted Q1 2013 earning for the Entertainment and Devices Division:

      "generated revenues of $2.53 billion for the quarter, up 53 percent from the same period a year ago. The division includes the Xbox business and Microsoft said there is now 46 million people signed up to use its Xbox Live online service, up 18 percent from the same period a year ago."

      Seems pretty damn lucrative to me...

      That assumes that MSFT have not costs.

      It took MSFT 3 years for the Xbox360 to stop being a loss leader (each console sold for less than what it cost MSFT to make it), it took Sony 5 years for the PS3 to stop being a loss leader. Neither have paid back the initial R&D costs.

      Sure Sony and Microsoft have lots of nice shiny revenue, but anyone in business will say "Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity". The PS3 and Xbox360 have been huge money sinks for MS and Sony.

      But I feel we're forgetting someone.... Someone who made a lot of money...

      Oh hai NINTENDO.

      Nintendo made a metric buttload of cash, paid off their R&D very quickly and never sold the Wii as a loss leader. More than that, the Wii was hugely successful. Released last and outsold Microsoft and Sony's combined console sales for 3 years. Why, because they didn't pretend the console was a PC. They made a console that for the first time since the Super Nintendo was actually fun to play. That's how you make money in the console world. Sony and Microsoft need to learn it's not about how powerful your console is, it's about how fun and accessible it is. It seems the PS4 and Xbox One have given this generation to Nintendo by default (as the Wii-U is a mediocre console).

      To say that "consoles" are unprofitable is really to say "Microsoft and Sony consoles" are unprofitable. Nintendo consoles were very profitable.

      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        Yeah, except there were just two problems with the Wii, no one bought games for it and no one is buying its successor.

        I myself have a Wii sitting in my closet (the only time I bring it out is for parties, and even rarely for those). I bought 3-4 games for it, and that was it. Contrast that with the 100+ 360 and PS3 games I own, an Xbox Live subscription that goes back to to the Xbox1, and tons of peripherals and other crap I've bought for those systems--and you start to see that making money on the initial

        • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @12:11PM (#43842323)

          I myself have a Wii sitting in my closet (the only time I bring it out is for parties, and even rarely for those). I bought 3-4 games for it, and that was it.

          I myself have a Wii sitting under my TV. It still gets played multiple times per week, even though there's a WiiU next to it. I bought a binder full of games for it over the years.

          I don't own an xbox / xbox 360 at all. I do have an HTPC hooked up to my TV though, and another 100 games there via steam / gog.com / humble bundle.

          The kids play the Wii & WiiU far more than the HTPC.

          Nintendo, by contrast, hasn't made jack-shit off me since my initial purchase

          And the only thing I've purchased from Microsofts Xbox division is an xbox controller for the HTPC.

          I doubt I'll buy a WiiU

          I don't regret mine; and the kids love it. They're getting a ton of mileage out of Nintendo Land. Netflix works particularly well with the tablet controller.

          We only have a few WiiU titles though, there is still a real dearth of good games for it, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend the WiiU to everyone at this point.

          But as the titles come out, its value proposition will continue to improve. I'm looking forward to Pikman 3.

          I have absolutely zero interest in putting up with the Xbox One; although there have been some games I'd have considered over the years that were exclusives, I have plenty enough to occupy my time and don't really miss them.

          I guess we represent different demographics. I won't pretend you don't exist if you'll return the favor.

  • by dicobalt (1536225) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:23AM (#43838545)
    *blink* *blink* No... I'm pretty sure Sony and Microsoft are making lots of money off licensing, game sales, and content distribution. The point is that the hardware itself doesn't need to be profitable.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      *blink* *blink* No... I'm pretty sure Sony and Microsoft are making lots of money off licensing, game sales, and content distribution. The point is that the hardware itself doesn't need to be profitable.

      "even with the excessive lifespan of this recent generation, cannot generate enough revenue with that control to be worth it."

      personally though I wold think the hw to be profitable on it's own at least few months from launch at least.. or they're buying their stuff wrong. the next gen, knowing how x86 chip prices go, should be dirt cheap to them one year from now.

    • by citizenr (871508) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:59AM (#43838653) Homepage

      *blink* *blink* No... I'm pretty sure Sony and Microsoft are making lots of money off licensing, game sales, and content distribution. The point is that the hardware itself doesn't need to be profitable.

      Microsoft spend >6 billion dollars building Xbox brand. They barely started making profit last year? (or maybe in 2011). It will take them ~6 more years to recoup this investment.

      • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @06:34AM (#43838919) Journal

        So an American corporation takes a long view on a business proposition rather than playing the short con quarterly filing scams, and this is a bad thing?

        Remember when that's the way business worked? Microsoft (at least, this division) is actually doing it right, and not bending to the whims of shareholders and 10Q filings with the SEC.

        • by citizenr (871508)

          Xbox was introduced in 2001. M$ will be lucky to turn a profit on the overall investment in 2019. Nuclear power plants take ~20 years to amortize.
          This is not a long investment, this is an eternity.

          • by Luckyo (1726890)

            It's sad how modern stock market and economy made people actually believe that ~20 years is "eternity".

            • by citizenr (871508)

              Give me a loan that I will have to start paying back in 20 years.

            • by ceoyoyo (59147)

              20 years is kind of a long time to start making profit on an entertainment device. A nuclear power plant, sure, but a video game console brand?

              • by dingen (958134)

                So what? As long as there is enough money to keep the company afloat (and clearly both Sony and Microsoft have this kind of money), what's the problem with investing in your own products?

                • by gl4ss (559668)

                  So what? As long as there is enough money to keep the company afloat (and clearly both Sony and Microsoft have this kind of money), what's the problem with investing in your own products?

                  what you invest in are "your" products.

                  the problem is that in the home consoles industry it doesn't matter for marketshare one stinking it what your marketshare was 10 years ago and what it was 20 years ago matters even less. MS is under the impression that this would change though and we would be usin xbox one for 20 years... yeah they've lost it.

                  • by dingen (958134)

                    Of course past marketshare matters. Do you think the Playstation 2 would have been the same success if there hadn't been a Playstation 1? Same goes for the every console. It's called building a fan base.

        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @07:14AM (#43839125)

          It is bad on Slashdot. People here love to hate MS, so if MS takes the long view on something, that's bad. If they take the short view on something else, that's also bad. It is a matter of zealotry, not fact.

          In fact MS has been good at the long view idea for quite some time. When they get in to a market, often their first showing isn't that impressive. Many companies who do that say "Oh well, guess we can't compete," and fold. MS sticks with it, keeps improving, keeps trying. They don't always do that, and when they do they don't always succeed, but they've done it a lot.

        • by JDG1980 (2438906)

          So an American corporation takes a long view on a business proposition rather than playing the short con quarterly filing scams, and this is a bad thing?

          It's bad when they are a convicted monopolist dumping products below cost in order to extend their monopoly to another sector.

          • by stymy (1223496)
            How are they using a monopoly in one sector to acquire one in another? They don't seem to be pushing the Xbox through Windows. Moreover, there's a difference between loss leaders and dumping. Their Xbox division is now profitable, as instead of making money on the consoles they get it from games and Xbox Live, which is a perfectly valid model.
        • What kind of revisionist history white washing is this? I bet you that MS and Sony neither had 10 year plans for pay back of investment for consoles. For your theory to be correct, MS would have planned to write off at least $1B to fix the Xbox 360 RROD issue alone. Not bloodly likely. Both Sony and MS probably thought they would have won the market by now and the other folded. Neither of them probably thought Nintendo would still be in the game especially when Nintendo went with a completely different
      • by berashith (222128)

        So I see some people breaking the Xbox division up and saying that the "games" portion of the device isnt making money, then we have this post where now the entire branding ( using a marketing department that is a company wide expense ) trying to show every dime that has ever been spent on xbox. Of course, using this logic, the xbox is a failed platform.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        How much of that 6 billion was pissed away on replacing faulty hardware though?

        • by citizenr (871508)

          That probably wasnt even in this number. 6B was posted around 2010. It was cost of development both consoles, marketing and exclusives(those can cost crazy money).
          Kinect alone cost ~1Billion. M$ bought three companies just to fail at the end and license Primesense in panic mode because they couldnt make anything work.

      • by bloodhawk (813939)
        The Xbox started making a profit back in late 2008/2009 and has been ever since. Overall they are still in the whole but not to anywhere near the levels your post makes out. Impossible to get any completely accurate picture though as Xbox division includes lots of other heavy loss makers.
    • by RogueyWon (735973) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @05:04AM (#43838665) Journal

      That's the theory. Indeed, since Nintendo abandoned the "hardware at significant profit" philosophy as a form of emergency resuscitation for the 3DS (and hasn't gone back to it for the Wii-U) it's been the only theory in town as far as console developers go. Of course, most consoles achieve per-unit profitability after the first year or two (I got sick to death of being told that every PS2 was sold at a loss years after this ceased to be the case), but the general gist of it is that the hardware is a loss-leader and licensing is where the cash comes from. As manufacturer, other people invest to make games for your system and you cream off part of the revenue from every copy they sell.

      Unfortunately, even that model (which did very nicely for Sony through many of the PS2 years - look at the chart in TFA) is coming unstuck a bit these days. Sony are flat, Nintendo's nominal profit or loss seems entirely dependent upon what the yen has done recently (but strip that out and they seem to be losing money right now in a way that's unprecedented in the company's history) and MS's gaming income is mostly from stuff that's very marginal to... well... gaming.

      The whole console gaming industry in general is going through an odd round of self-cannibalism at the moment. There's just not enough money in the system. Console manufacturers are sinking (or have recently sunk) huge sums into R&D. At the same time, console game sales are actually falling quite sharply this year. They're caught between ultra-cheap (but mostly crap) mobile offerings and slightly-cheaper, more technically impressive PC releases of the same games (with even a basic home PC now easily able to outperform the consoles and the level of tech-savvy required lower than ever). Almost all of the big franchises which have released an installment this year - God of War, Gears of War, Dead Space etc - have seen a fall in sales on the consoles since the previous installments.

      At the same time, development costs for games have risen and are rising still further. Early in this console cycle, the rule of thumb was that an "AAA" console game needed to sell 1 million copies to break even. That figure is closer to 3 million now.

      Forget all the talk about corporate greed; barring the occasional mobile developer who gets (very) lucky, nobody in the gaming industry is raking in profits hand over fist at the moment. Stuff like online passes, day-one DLC and used-game controls aren't being implemented so that executives can have a bigger pile of gold to roll around on top of; they're fairly desperate survival strategies.

      A significant portion of the Japanese games industry has already given up (or is in the process of giving up) the ghost and pulling out of any meaningful participation in the international market, in favour of their more forgiving (and heavily kids-and-otaku-driven) domestic market. There are a couple of developers that still try to be international players (Capcom, Sega, Sony and the publishing, but not the development arm of Square-Enix), but many others have now retreated into the handheld/mobile/moe-game comfort zone that's still profitable in Japan on the basis of low development costs. Even Nintendo seems to be hiving off from the rest of the world a bit; the 3DS's much-hyped reinvigoration is overwhelmingly driven by Japanese sales; it's still underwhelming in the rest of the world.

      Western developers - and any console manufacturer who wants to be an international player - don't have that option. So manufacturers, game developers and retailers are all pretty much locked in a fight to the death with each other for the few shreds of profit left; with the irony being that they all need each other to survive.

      I think game pricing is at the heart of the problem. Games are cheaper than they used to be - a lot cheaper. In the mid-1990s, a new PC game would be 45-50GBP, with console games being more expensive still in some cases. Today, a new PC game will be 30-35GBP and most console games launch at 40GBP but are discount

      • by Mabhatter (126906) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @05:29AM (#43838715)

        The truth is that Microsoft forced $6 billion into the system to try to takeover... When there was NEVER $6 billion in profit to make back without knocking Sony or Nontendo out and gaining back control.

        Basically nobody LOST which means in a good capitalist system there isn't that much profit to go around... Even though Microsoft was trying hard make it a non-free market which is where they were pulling all their numbers for investors from.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rockoon (1252108)

          When there was NEVER $6 billion in profit to make back without knocking Sony or Nontendo out and gaining back control.

          As far as gamers are concerned, Nintendo *DID* get knocked out of the console market. While they had considerable success with the Wii, it wasn't at their competitors expense. Nintendo had to create a new far more casual market in order to continue doing business.

          • by JDG1980 (2438906)

            As far as gamers are concerned, Nintendo *DID* get knocked out of the console market. While they had considerable success with the Wii, it wasn't at their competitors expense. Nintendo had to create a new far more casual market in order to continue doing business.

            Just because you aren't a hardcore FPS or MMORPG junkie doesn't mean you aren't a "gamer". That stuff is actually a small part of the gaming market these days.

      • On the other hand, the software development industry has moved on significantly since the early 1990's:

        .
        - development tools are more reliable, languages more fool-proof
        - there are extensive frameworks available - graphics, communication, logging - myriads of well tested libraries for pretty much anything
        - development processes are better understood and are readily supported by various development tools
        - automated testing and building software is much better
        - operating systems are much more robust

        • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @08:00AM (#43839445) Journal

          On the other hand, the software development industry has moved on significantly since the early 1990's:

          These are all things that make development much cheaper and more stable.

          True, but the bar has also been raised greatly.

          I mean, all of those things mean that I can single handedly, and quite easily write a game that vastly outperforms Doom I in terms of graphics, etc (ignore artwork...) single handed. It's obviously not because I'm a better programmer than John Carmack, or even that great, it's because I can just do it with much more powerful tools.

          The thing is that expectations moved on. If anything the top end games are vastly more expensive to develop than they ever were because the expectations have moved faster than the technology. If nothing else, now vast teams of artists are required.

        • by SirGarlon (845873)

          All that you say is true. If I were to venture a guess, I would say a lot of the money today goes into graphics. Gamers' expectations of visual quality keep going up: a game that was cutting-edge in the late 1990s would be ridiculed and rejected today. If you read the credits to a game like Skyrim or Mass Effect 3, you'll see a very long list of modelers and animators and so on. A staff that big can't be cheap.

          • by RogueyWon (735973)

            Indeed - artists and sound-people don't come cheap, particularly if you want something that's going to stand out from the run of the mill. The core programming team isn't really that large a portion of the staff costs; not least because in the video-games industry, you can generally get away with paying your coders peanuts and treating them like monkeys.

      • by Xest (935314)

        "Western developers - and any console manufacturer who wants to be an international player - don't have that option. So manufacturers, game developers and retailers are all pretty much locked in a fight to the death with each other for the few shreds of profit left"

        It seems a bit meaningless to say they're scrapping over "shreds of profit" given that even Europe overtook Japan in terms of net spending on video games some years back meaning that the US, followed by Europe, followed by Japan are the largest m

        • by RogueyWon (735973)

          You're confusing revenues with profits. You can in theory have a game that sells 3 million games in the US and Europe (and 0 in Japan) but which took 2.8 million to break even because of its production costs. Then you can have a game which sells 400,000 in Japan (and none in the rest of the world), but only needed 200,000 sales to break even. On a simple calculation, they've made the same profit. In fact, because Japanese game prices do tend to be significantly higher, the Japanese game has probably made mo

          • by Xest (935314)

            They're really two different markets though, you can't compare the casual focussed markets in Japan to the hardcore markets in the West - more sensible would be comparison of the casual markets of Japan with the casual markets of the West - the likes of Rovio, Zynga and so forth being the obvious Western examples.

            It's no coincidence that the Japanese firms you cited that are still somewhat focussed internationally like Sega and Capcom are the only development studios that produce hardcore games from Japan n

      • by discord5 (798235)

        They're caught between ultra-cheap (but mostly crap) mobile offerings and slightly-cheaper, more technically impressive PC releases of the same games (with even a basic home PC now easily able to outperform the consoles and the level of tech-savvy required lower than ever)

        The problem is that releasing new hardware isn't going to change anything. Sure, the first few months the consoles will have that edge over the PC in the price point, but as new CPUs and GPUs are released the point for a PC to be competitive in price quickly arrives. Look at the XBox One specs: 8 cores and 8GB of RAM with 500G of HDD. I can get an 8-core Bulldozer for a decent price. Finding 8GB of RAM is not all that uncommon with the average PC gamer. What's left is the resolution (4K) and 7.1 surround, w

    • by Nyder (754090)

      *blink* *blink* No... I'm pretty sure Sony and Microsoft are making lots of money off licensing, game sales, and content distribution. The point is that the hardware itself doesn't need to be profitable.

      Well, the Wii made Nintendo a ton of money. Mainly since they didn't take a loss with the 99 million consoles they sold. As for MS & Sony, I don't care. They choose the path they took, and if it didn't pay off, good. Not my fault.

  • What They Want (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:23AM (#43838547)

    They want:
    - top dollar for their hardware (even if it is lacking in horsepower or hard drive space)
    - high game prices (of which they want a higher percentage)
    - high monthly fees for the privilege of playing those games
    - lots of DLC that they get a piece of
    - draconian DRM & no used game sales
    - customers who won't complain about the shitty service and performance of their oversold networks

    Not to mention that they want none of this for their competition.

  • About to change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neokushan (932374) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:25AM (#43838555)

    It's probably not a coincidence that the PS4 and Xbox One are both running x86 chips inside them. Aside from a few choice bits, developing on each machine should be incredibly similar to the point where it's just a different API for either.

    The best part is that this should translate equally well to the PC industry. If Valve does the SteamBox right, we might just have that "standard" the article is clamouring for. If Valve mandates that a certain level of Steambox has at least an 8-core x86 CPU with a GPU of equivalent power and 8GB of RAM (or better yet, convinces AMD to release an SoC similar to what's inside the PS4), we'll have 3 very different platforms that are easy to develop for, even easier to port to and a golden age of gaming where your platform of choice won't massively impact the games you can play.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      golden age of gaming where your platform of choice won't massively impact the games you can play.

      There will still likely be developers that exclusively release for one console; mainly the console makers themselves -- i'm thinking Nintendo

      • by neokushan (932374)

        Hence the "massively" part. There will always be exclusives, hell there are games on PC that are "exclusive" to Steam or Origin. That will never change but I think we'll see a LOT more multiplatform games because it's so easy (i.e. less costly) to port between them.

      • I rather think, and hope, that the smarter route would be a trend toward universal cross-platform functionality while coping with the inherent strengths and weaknesses of hardware based on customer preference.

        Granted, there are currently some hellish obstacles. Low-latency ISP connections for the console crowd to support intense server-side processing is just one that comes to mind. Better native PC OS support for analog controllers and other input devices for PC's is another. There are more, of course.

        If

        • by mysidia (191772)

          If the gaming industry's goal is to maximize profit, doesn't it make sense to include the widest possible player base?

          Yes... console oligopolys benefit the device manufacturers though. They enable them to extort per-unit licensing fees out of developers for the capability to develop for their platform; which funds the development of the platform in the first place.

          I'm sure the publishers would like their games on as many platforms as possible; but it costs money to develop for multiple platforms -

      • Even Nintendo might be able to get over their NIH gimmick crap if the alternative is going hungry, and I say that as one whose money (or whose parents' money) they got for nearly 30 years. It's not surprising that they're feeling the pinch now, though. They're learning the hard way what I, and others, said years ago when Reggie basically told all the old-school fans "The Wii isn't for you": The "casual gamer" is fickle, cheap, and has a truckload of options. They're not a "niche" market.

    • Re:About to change (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slim (1652) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:43AM (#43838613) Homepage

      It's probably not a coincidence that the PS4 and Xbox One are both running x86 chips inside them. Aside from a few choice bits, developing on each machine should be incredibly similar to the point where it's just a different API for either.

      The faster CPUs get, and the better optimising compilers get, the less likely anyone is to code directly in assembly. I think APIs are probably much more significant to games developers than the underlying chips.

      • Re:About to change (Score:5, Interesting)

        by neokushan (932374) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:56AM (#43838643)

        That is true, but there's always been more to it with consoles. While people don't necessarily drop down to assembler as much these days, it's still worth getting to grips with each console's underlying design in order to get the most from it. Take the PS3, its well known that it has CELL chips but writing code for it can't really be left up to the compiler to sort out, you have to know when to use the CELL over the PPC chip, you have to know the best way to package that data and send it, when it's optimal to do so versus when it's going to hinder performance. It has two different types of RAM and it's worth knowing which is best to use and when.

        Even the Xbox 360, although much "simpler" to develop for, has a few exotic bits you don't find on the PC - like the ED-RAM on the GPU that can boost performance considerably as long as you know how to use it effectively. I believe both the PS4 and the Xbox One have a few subtle differences that'll be worth paying attention to, but they're a lot closer to the design of a regular PC than previous consoles (with the possible exception of the Xbox).

        • by slim (1652)

          Yes absolutely. But

          - these are concerns for a handful of engine developers
          - that PS4 and Xbox One both have the same CPU family, doesn't mean there won't be other architectural foibles the more bit-twiddly developers can exploit. Even differences in the various levels of CPU cache are interesting to those guys.

          The point has been made before, that even direct ASM programming isn't writing "to the metal" any more; all the branch prediction (etc.) that's actually happening on the metal is abstr

          • by Lumpy (12016)

            "in the same way as an optimising C programmer has half an eye on what he imagines the resulting ASM will look like."

            I havent seen a programmer that had a clue as to what the ASM output will look like in 2 decades. Where are you finding these Uber level programmers because they are not coming out of American Universities.

            • by slim (1652)

              I haven't any direct contact with that kind of programmer either, because they are not relevant to my particular field of programming. But they do exist, and they're sought after in certain niches.

              Niches including:
                - fine-tuning the inner loops of gaming engines
                - software for high speed financial transactions (where a microsecond could mean the difference between profit and loss)

              • We are in the embedded sector as well. With the added constraints on these systems its always good to have what will be generated in mind. We aren't all procedural dinosaurs either, Knowing the assembler generated for OO and functional patterns is important too. I find knowing how to read assembler for your platform can still be important just for debugging purposes. Writing it not so much, as the optimizers have gotten so good. Those same optimizers are kind of screwy at times though, I've heard of c

              • by zaibazu (976612)
                Maybe the people competing in demo competitions ? Or do they go directly for Assembler, especially in contests with like 2KB or 64KB executable size.
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        It's probably not a coincidence that the PS4 and Xbox One are both running x86 chips inside them. Aside from a few choice bits, developing on each machine should be incredibly similar to the point where it's just a different API for either.

        The faster CPUs get, and the better optimising compilers get, the less likely anyone is to code directly in assembly. I think APIs are probably much more significant to games developers than the underlying chips.

        with 360 and ps3 good api's probably were pretty different to program for. whereas game engines are probably going to be much simpler to tweak for either system now. both systems have about the same memory as well and ps4 just being a bit faster.

      • Re:About to change (Score:4, Informative)

        by DeathToBill (601486) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @06:53AM (#43839017) Journal

        This. Having spent quite a lot of the last month trying to beat compiler output with hand-crafted assembly for vector math operations, I think I can confidently say that it is possible but almost certainly not worth it. The possible gains are minimal, even with the (fairly mediocre) VC++ 2010 compiler, and the effort required to get there is astronomical. Face it: the compiler knows, much better than you ever will, which instructions are faster, which combinations of instructions are faster, which ordering of instructions will be faster...

      • Just an anecdote, but I've found that Civilization Revolutions crashes much more often on PS3 than on XBox. Porting between systems takes effort and a lot of testing, even if you can target their CPU and compile the code. There could be different race conditions triggered, a bug in a piece of hardware uncovered, etc..
  • No.

    Why wouldn't 'we' let the free market decide?

    • by Meneth (872868)
      We are doing that. This is just a recommendation of what the big companies should decide.
    • by cbope (130292)

      Because the free market decided that selling console hardware as a loss-leader and trying to make up for it in game licenses and market share was a good business model. The problem is, it was a horrible business model and was doomed from the start.

      You can't base a whole business on a bad model and expect it to be successful. The console manufacturers should have settled on a small but reasonable profit on the hardware and lowered game prices. The problem is, "people" want a cheap console and don't appear to

      • Re:Simple answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by slim (1652) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @06:07AM (#43838825) Homepage

        Because the free market decided that selling console hardware as a loss-leader and trying to make up for it in game licenses and market share was a good business model. The problem is, it was a horrible business model and was doomed from the start.

        ...

        The problem is, "people" want a cheap console and don't appear to be fazed by rip-off game prices. This has been proven over the years.

        Don't those two statements contradict each other? As long as people want a cheap console, and don't mind paying big money for games, then selling hardware as a loss-leader is a very sound business model. It worked for at least three generations of hardware.

        It may cease to work in the current climate, but I think that's because people's desires have changed, and gaming has become cheap and practical on ubiquitous general-purpose hardware. That is, people buy an iPad or an Android tablet for other reasons, and find they can buy adequate games for less than $2 a pop.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The only story here is that Apple's closed i-device ecosytem is outcompeting Sony's Playstation and Microsoft's Xbox closed ecosystems.

    The death of closed platforms is a nice fantasy, but it won't happen as long as typical consumers continue to be lazy asshats who would rather buy an app from an app-store than write one themselves.

    • by Yosho (135835) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @11:38AM (#43841905) Homepage

      The funny thing here is that consoles nowadays are more open than they've ever been. Prior to the PS3/360/Wii generation, if you wanted to develop for a console, the manufacturers would usually require that you be an actual business, have a physical office, and pay tens of thousands of dollars for special development kits. Even if you could do that, publishing a game was even harder, because you had to secure a contract with one of the big publishers and then pay even more money to cover the costs of a physical production & distribution run.

      Nowadays, all of the big console companies are pretty friendly for indie developers. Development kits are cheap enough that a couple of guys in a garage can afford them, and digital distribution makes self-publishing your game cheap and almost risk-free.

  • From what MSFT is pulling with the Xbox One all I see is the end of console gaming.

    Game prices are already out of control, $80.00 for a new release is criminal. $60.00 is borderline criminal. Couple with that the new "no used, no borrowing" stance the game companies desperately want to put in place and all I see is consoles coming to an end.

    I will Tolerate no loaning and no used if the games cost $20.00 to me, but I guarantee that the next games for the new consoles will start at $100.00 for new releases

    • by slim (1652)

      From what MSFT is pulling with the Xbox One all I see is the end of console gaming.

      Game prices are already out of control, $80.00 for a new release is criminal. $60.00 is borderline criminal. Couple with that the new "no used, no borrowing" stance the game companies desperately want to put in place and all I see is consoles coming to an end.

      I will Tolerate no loaning and no used if the games cost $20.00 to me, but I guarantee that the next games for the new consoles will start at $100.00 for new releases.

      If they go through with the "no used, no borrowing" stance, and the "fee to enable a used game" thing, then the price of new games must come down.

      That $80 price point must surely reflect the fact that in many cases it's not money from one gamer but from a chain of buyers (whoever buys it new, whoever he sells it to, and so on). Prevent that chain from happening, and you must bring the new price down accordingly. Also, the people at the back of that chain are people who can't/won't pay for full price games,

    • You do realize that if you adjust for inflation, Pitfall! for the Atari 2600 was a $90 game, right?

      And Secret of Mana for the SNES would be about $130 in today's dollars?

      Ridge Racer for the Playstation would be about $75 today.

      Game prices are lower now than ever before, which is why you're seeing so much DLC and the like trying to eke out a few more bucks on the same engine/game.

    • Games now are cheaper than they were when they were on the SNES. $50 in 1993 dollars is like $78 today. Also budgets for games have gone WAY up.

      Also I'm not sure where you are getting $80 for new releases (presuming we are talking US dollars). $60 is what games seem to be going for checking stores currently.

      I do agree the no used games thing is bullshit, and I'm hoping someone takes them to task on that (sounds like the EU may) however the pricing is not out of line. Making a game isn't cheap, and they tend

  • by Millennium (2451) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @06:37AM (#43838939) Homepage

    The problem is not a lack of standards: even in the last generation, game makers managed to paper over that with cross-platform engines. The problem is that HD has made games inherently too expensive to produce. Even shovelware on the Wii turned out to be more profitable than even most of the blockbusters, which is why companies (most notoriously Ubisoft, but others as well) used it to fund their unprofitable HD development.

    No amount of standardization will fix this, because while standards do fix a problem, it's not the right problem domain. The art department is incurring the big costs nowadays, not the code. This is like performing micro-optimizations in the wrong loops.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      The same thing happened to special effects on TV shows and in movies, and the solution was to rely heavily on stock objects, textures and scenes combined with procedural effects that took the work out of hand-animating stuff. Combine that with excessive use of the shaky/blurry camera to hide the imperfections.

      The equivalent for games to use an off-the-shelf engine like Unreal or Crytek and tools that take the high quality models developed for animation and degrade them to a level that can be used in a game.

      • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @03:19PM (#43844111) Homepage

        The same thing happened to special effects on TV shows and in movies

        True. Visual effects have become good, but not cheap. We no longer have movies with a "cast of thousands", we have animation staffs of thousands. Look at the credits.

        About a decade ago, I was talking to a Hollywood director about this. He'd done some films that had live and animated characters interacting. The cost of doing that was high. He was hoping that, in a few years, he'd be able to make $100 million movies for $20 million. It's not working out that way.

        There was hope for that in games. Procedural generation was going to make it possible to have huge cities without huge teams of artists building them. Didn't work out. SpeedTree can generate huge forests and outdoor scenes cheaply and well, so you can have a huge, mostly empty natural world like Red Dead Redemption. Cities, not so much. There was much interest in procedural city generation around 2009, but what comes out is usually only good enough to fly over.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      The problem is not a lack of standards: even in the last generation, game makers managed to paper over that with cross-platform engines. The problem is that HD has made games inherently too expensive to produce. Even shovelware on the Wii turned out to be more profitable than even most of the blockbusters, which is why companies (most notoriously Ubisoft, but others as well) used it to fund their unprofitable HD development.

      No amount of standardization will fix this, because while standards do fix a problem, it's not the right problem domain. The art department is incurring the big costs nowadays, not the code. This is like performing micro-optimizations in the wrong loops.

      Not really, high end graphics for the PC are cheap to produce. It should be cheaper on consoles. It's marketing budgets that have ballooned out of all proportion. Even in the back end of the western world (Perth, Western Australia) there is saturation marketing whenever a new COD or Halo is released. this costs millions. Add to this a per unit license fee, contractual obligations to produce DLC (paid for updates) and high costs of development kits and the art department isn't so bad.

  • The Playstation 3 was launched in 2006, the Playstation 2 was in 2000 playstation was launched in 1994. Xbox was 2001, xbox 360 was 2005. Similar time frames were with Nintendo about 6 years between consoles.

    So an extra 1-2 years between generations is excessive?

  • I think people have this all wrong.

    Everybody assumes that because a billion people have an iPhone or iPad and they play "games" on it, this means that game consoles are dead.

    However, these "open" gaming platforms have done one thing, they have gamified billions.

    What they have done is exposed billions to games that otherwise would never have bothered to buy a game console in the past to play a game.

    Gaming is like crack. You start off with a little taste, but eventually you want more and a stronger dose.

    Some

  • Remember Mechanical Games? Dedicated machines for implementing one game: Basketball, Hockey, Pinball, etc.
    Remember Arcade Cabinets? Dedicated Gaming Rigs in a Box. They were specialized to their task, but the hardware inside could run more than one game program. Their customizable form factor could provide better gaming experiences for many games. Even more general purpose hardware, consoles, which could run a gamut of games more cheaply came along. Then consoles met and surpassed the performance of Arcade cabinets. The arcade cabinets slow hardware cycle meant they couldn't take advantage of Moore's Law as easily, and the consoles were more accessible to play -- Being in your house.

    For a while personal computing devices were sub-par to consoles in terms of game performance. Now, however, the guts are nearly exactly the same. The glacial console cycle means that PCs can more effectively take advantage of Moore's Law. Also, you're not going to replace a PC with a Console -- Especially not a Mobile Personal Computer. PCs can be even more accessible -- Fitting in your purse, backpack or even pocket today. If you do try to compete with a PC then you need to do everything the PC can do, thus turning into a general purpose personal computer. Now, reference the features of the consoles over time -- Note that they are slowly becoming PCs...

    The main difference between a PC and a Console is that PCs provide a common API to a wide range of hardware. This allows programs to be cross platform. The main secondary difference is that a PC can be used to create new software on. For these reasons Smartphones, Tablets, and Consoles can not supplant the PC... If they do gain these features then they will actually become PCs.

    The main problem with consoles is that they are set exactly opposed to the progress of the Games Industry they purport to support. What is best for Game Developers and Game Players is if all games can run everywhere forever. What is best for Console Sales is if games only run on one platform for a limited amount of time. What was best for Arcade revenue was if the games could even be geographically exclusive.... Exclusivity didn't work out so well. Inclusivity and common software API -- More General Purpose -- has been winning the Game Wars since the first digital hardware that could run more than one game program. Consoles are holding back the game industry, they must, that is the nature of a closed platform that does not play nice with others.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.

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