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The 5-Year Console Cycle Is Dead 422

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 linzeal ( 197905 ) on Monday November 29, 2010 @07:50PM (#34381872) Homepage Journal

    When even the latest and greatest 3D TVs [] only go up to 1080p and the vast majority of people playing games at 720p max who is going to buy a next gen console for a screen size that does not exist.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2010 @07:56PM (#34381942)

    that makes no sense. the first how many genereations of consoles were all stuck on NTSC or PAL resolutions. Theres no reason why the PS4 wouldn't just stick with 1080p but add things like tesselation and 8x FSAA to make everything look better.

  • 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.
  • Re:Say again? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:00PM (#34381982)

    And the Kinect is just a new controller for the 360.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:18PM (#34382142)

    you guys all got trolled... so sad...

  • by Formalin ( 1945560 ) on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:20PM (#34382164)

    The early consoles couldn't even take care of the available resolution. NES was 256x240. Not to mention the 16 colour limitation on NES. SNES then looked better with the same (NTSC) display, as did N64. They were all major improvements on their predecessor.

    I don't think you can improve that much on the existing consoles, definitely not the leaps and bounds they had in the early days.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:23PM (#34382186)

    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.

  • by SpeZek ( 970136 ) on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:27PM (#34382240) 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 jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:43PM (#34382452) Homepage

    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.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday November 29, 2010 @08:48PM (#34382522) 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.

    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. From banksters on down.

  • by camperslo ( 704715 ) on Monday November 29, 2010 @09:23PM (#34382832)

    While the Wii uses a mere 18 Watts or so, the PS 3 and Xbox 360 use well over 100, (earlier models can be closer to 200). If one wants to use the device for watching video, it's certainly worth comparing the Apple TV which uses less than 6 Watts. Streaming from a PC, particularly one with a power hungry GPU card, adds considerably to the consumption. []

    In areas where power costs about $.13 per kw/h, every 10 Watts used full time runs about $1/month.
    Do the math, it really adds up. (Of course more consumption affects the environment more too)

    The savings from using an energy efficient setup could cover the cost of new hardware or some paid content.

    Power used becomes heat which was a major factor in the 360s' (especially early units) being very unreliable. Monitors/TVs use significant power too, especially with larger screens. Plasma is generally much worse than LCD.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2010 @09:39PM (#34382978)

    Not only is it not right, but the example they represent doesn't show a 5 year run. 1991 - 1985 is 6. Maybe next year the Xbox Next will be announced and released. Doubtful, but wow.

  • by FreonTrip ( 694097 ) <.freontrip. .at.> on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @09:57AM (#34387616)

    There are non-trivial ways new hardware could improve the experience on existing HDTVs. Very few games can consistently output to 1080p on the current generation of hardware. It could also be interesting to see what improvements can be leveraged for 720p - maybe 2x antialiasing guaranteed for 1080p, and 4x (or higher?) at 720p. Bumped-up levels of anisotropic filtering at all resolutions would be a big, noticeable across-the-board change. Texture resolution is also still an issue for certain titles, though >512 MB total system RAM would go a long way toward fixing that. That doesn't even go into 3D HDTVs, though I know little about them because my level of interest is low.

    That said, we're certainly a long way from the NES' 256x240, 16 colors onscreen / 56 color palette output, or even the 640x480x16 the Voodoo Graphics board could manage on its flagship titles.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"