Why Next-Gen May Not Be The Worst

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There’s a lot of bad business going around regarding our next-gen of consoles and the future that the headlines and tweets paint today looks mighty bleak. I’ve thrown my own complaints and concerns into the raucous shit-storm of the Internet but I’m here right now in this post to try and look at things in a brighter light.

That doesn’t mean I’ve seen the future and know everything’s going to be swell and it doesn’t mean I really believe what I’m about to say. But even I, the increasingly cynical type, can’t handle much more negativity without trying to shove a daisy down the barrels of the Internet’s loaded rifles. So, here we go, some actual good thoughts (with no caveats or backpedaling) about the encroaching generation.

GAMES!

Above all else, video games. We’re gonna get more games! Sony is courting more indie developers than ever before and the Wii and 3DS continue their slow crawl into the hearts of smaller studios. All of the platforms feature refined motion controls and quirky hardware gimmicks that are rife for developers to experiment with; all they need is a chance. Even if you rule out the experimental stuff we’re liable to see more from smaller teams with wilder ideas as production costs continue to rise on “AAA” games.

Sharing: The parts that aren’t lame

PlayStation 4 will enable live game streaming with voice and video chat while the Xbox One may allow friends to watch you play a game via Skype. Should games get stupid expensive in the coming years you can rest assured that there will be an even bigger and more accessible ‘Let’s Play’ community than ever before. The idea of chatting with friends while one of them plays the group through a scary game or a punishing platformer sounds fantastic. Even the simple act of posting random tomfoolery and glitches from our games will be astonishingly easier than it is right now.

“Get Me Through This: Online” or “Play My Game for Free!?”

I’m not as surprised by instant game recordings as I am by both PS4 and Xbox One featuring remote play functionality. Expanding on the sharing stuff, now you’ll be able to remotely hand off control of your game to a friend. There’s a lot we don’t know about how this will work or how well it’ll work but the possibility is there to hang out with a friend and let them play through an entire game. Even with strict time limits it could let us try out parts of a game that aren’t available in official demos. There’s also a chance with all this sharing stuff that the conversation between developer and gamer will get faster, better and more insightful. Imagine a developer friending you so they can watch you play through their recently released game.

Multitasking

We’ll finally have consoles that were designed after the advent of iOS and Android where we all became accustomed to swiping between a dozen things at once. Even if it’s not as snappy as Microsoft’s stage demo it’ll still be so much faster than doing anything on the current Xbox 360. Sony’s take on this is still a little mysterious but both consoles have plenty of power to enable jumping in and out of games, media, chats and storefronts. Nevermind Microsoft’s push for television, think about jumping from a game to YouTube for help find that last hidden tchotchke without pulling out your phone or running to a computer.

There’s a tired turn-of-phrase for that

Microsoft is painfully hot for TV right now but there are a lot of other services and apps that could (and should) come to our new consoles. Netflix and YouTube will certainly be there. So will Twitch and Ustream. Functional web browsers will hopefully be there. With consoles designed with apps in mind I’d love to see all the useful iOS and Android apps make the leap to the TV.

Sales, glorious saaaales

Thanks to Steam and the iOS app store it’s become commonplace to see products put on sale at deep discounts for short periods of time. It’s been happening on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U for a while and I only hope it gets better and crazier on these new consoles. If publishers do get a cut of used game sales I’d like to think it would give them a chance to play with new price points without as much risk. Ben Kuchera’s piece is a little outdated now but he makes some similar hopeful wishes for the future.

Happy little clouds

Microsoft has 300,000+ servers behind Xbox One and Sony has Gaikai. There’s already the promise of off-loading lighting and physics calculations to the cloud and streaming the entire PlayStation back catalog through the PS4. That’s cool but it’s my hope that these massive cloud networks can enable some really special, really crazy things that make consoles the hottest tech in town again.

Yes, all of these possibilities hinge on a truckload of good will from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo but I think this new generation holds more potential for good than bad. This may just be optimistic daydreaming but at this point doesn’t it make for better reading than all the hate and scorn? 

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