What a Next Generation Gaming Means

It’s been 4 months since Sony release the Playstation 4 (PS4) in USA, 2 months in Indonesia, and a month in Japan. The Microsoft Xbox One (X1) has been released in December 2013, but not worldwide yet. Since then, we know about the so-called “Next-Generation Console”, which is the eighth generation ever since.

Let’s talk about current situation. Admit it, even though both Sony and Microsoft has released their own so-called “Next-Gen” consoles, we’re still being surrounded by the “Current-Gen” consoles, which are Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 (I’m sorry Wii-U, you should be considered as Next-Gen, unfortunately, you are not competing in the same battlefield as with PS4 and X1). The similarity between the current-gen and the next-gen is both of them support the High-Definition (HD) video output, which is only available in digital TV (CRT TV is history). The HD support makes games run in both platforms have beautiful graphics. In turns, the need for better CPU, GPU, higher RAM keep increasing.

What does an generation advancement in gaming console means? To answer it, let’s take a look at the history of the fifth generation console until the eight generation console. For this post, I exclude the Nintendo consoles because Nintendo stand in the different battlefield than the Sony vs Microsoft battlefield.

The 5th Gen: Sony Playstation (PSX, PS One)

The 5th gen key advancement from the previous generation is the departure of cartridge-base game (used by Nintendo) to a thinner, but bigger capacity CD-ROM games. CD has the capacity of 700 MB, thus CD capable of storing many beautifully pre-rendered FMV rather than just simple, low-poly, low texture graphics. The Playstation is capable of drawing 3D geometry items via the AV-cable. The game saves are stored in memory card.

4th – 5th gen transition summary:

  1. Better graphics (3D support)
  2. Cartridge to CD
  3. Multimedia Playback: VCD

The 6th Gen: Sony PS 2, Microsoft X-box

The 6th gen key advancement from the 5th was the improved graphics and the laying foundation of internet playing in console. The first to start 6th gen was the Dreamcast, using their own propietary disc GD-ROM, disc with 1 GB capacity, dreamcast able to render better graphics compared to PSX.

The throne of domination, however, was still in the hand of PSX until the release of “the most-successful console ever” Sony Playstation 2. PS2 ran DVD game, which has 4 GB capacity, and with better graphic card. The graphics of PS2 was much, much better compared to the PSX/PS One. In PS2, game saves are stored in the memory card. What’s interesting was the PS2 offer the online play, using somekind of network adaptor extension behind the body PS2.

Then Xbox arrived, as the first console which solely rely on it’s harddisk drive (HDD) to store the game saves. Xbox has similar graphic capability with the PS2 and somehow it’s quite hard to compare those two. Xbox was stronger in the term of online play due to the service offered by Microsoft via Xbox Live. For some time, the PS2 also offer the HDD support via the expansion bay, but it’s reception is not worldwide (mostly used in Japan)

5th – 6th gen transition summary:

  1. Better graphics
  2. CD to DVD
  3. Foundation of online play
  4. Storage: add HDD support
  5. Multimedia Playback: DVD

The 7th Gen “Current-Gen”: Sony PS3, Microsoft Xbox 360

Not long after the release of the original Xbox, Microsoft released another powerful machine called Xbox 360 (X360 for short). This is the first time in the console history where the console can output to both analog TV (CRT) and the digital, high-definition TV. The digital TV has different aspect ratio, which is 16:9 widescreen compared to the common analog TV with 4:3 ratio. Microsoft also strongly encouraged people to use their own Xbox Live Gold online service which online offer payment/transaction via console and multimedia services such as movies and music. X360 uses HD-DVD (16GB capacity) as the primary disc format.

A year later, Sony release Playstation 3, fully support the HD TV, offer the online services too in its OS, use HDD to store data, play the Blu-Ray Disc Format (32GB capacity). As the result of BD capacity, PS3 can contain much more content compared to its main competitor. Unfortunately, several PS3 games suffer game-breaking bugs (i.e.: Skyrim) related to the CPU/GPU problem due to a different CPU/GPU architecture: Cell Architecture. For games which released on both platforms, most of them usually packaged in similar manner, except Final Fantasy XIII (PS3 version has higher resolution texture) and GTA V (in X360, GTA V comes in 2 disc, the first one for system installation to HDD, the second one for play disc run in conjunction with the data installed in HDD).

Most of the games for the current gen runs above the console OS (the OS run in background during gameplay) with the common resolution of 720p. Both platform offer online services such as online digital game store, in-application purchases, multimedia streaming and subscription, and social interaction (such as chat, trophy achievement, or party invitation). The current gen also marks the start of the gameplay broadcasting. Using special devices connected to the HDMI port, it’s possible for us to capture and record the game footage and upload/broadcast it worldwide.

The major transition point in the current gen is the declining number of 2 player games. Yes, because of most games can play multiplayer via internet, developers’ interest in making 2 player games constantly diminishing. Many games include online multiplayer mode, even the 2 player game also include the online multiplayer mode. So far, most of current gen owners only have 1 controller (while most of the PSX and PS2 owners have 2 controllers).

The current gen also introduce gamepad-less gaming, which is via human movement (first introduced by Nintendo Wii: the Wiimote). Xbox Kinect was one of the groundbreaking innovation after the Wiimote. Player can use body gesture and voice to operate the Xbox. Here, Sony losing grounds even though they had Playstation Eye + Playstation Move. Kinect is simply too powerful, thus improving the X360 sales figure.

6th – current gen transition summary:

  1. Better graphics
  2. DVD to HD DVD/Blu-Ray
  3. Storage: SATA HDD (no more propietary memory card)
  4. Dedicated console OS run in background
  5. Wireless gamepad
  6. Motion-tracking camera
  7. Online service (almost is-a-must)
  8. Trophy collection
  9. Digital store
  10. Donwloadable Content and Patch (both games and system firmware)
  11. Integrated web browser
  12. 2 player games decreasing
  13. Most console owner only has 1 controller
  14. HD 720p become standard (1080p is still rarity)
  15. No more gameshark (bye bye gameshark)
  16. Game DVR (Digital Video Recorder) via HDMI
  17. Multimedia Playback: Streaming services

The 8th Gen  “Next-Gen”: Sony PS4, Microsoft Xbox One

Back then, X360 released first then PS3 released. In the Next-Gen warfare, PS4 was released before the Xbox One. Both consoles released in Q4 2013 with similar hardware specs. Technically, I won’t compare them, there’s too many articles and videos which compare the graphical capabilities of both consoles. I would compare the other features both have.

Let’s start from the similarities they have. Both PS4 and X1:

  • Play Blu-Ray Disc format
  • “Target” to run natively at 1080p
  • Have camera device with face recoginition and speech recognition support
  • Strongly encourage to register to their own premium online service (primarily to play online)
  • Dedicated OS run inc background and ready for fast-app switching
  • Trophy collection
  • Second screen experience and Companion Apps
  • Integrated Game DVR in the OS
  • Video editor
  • Screenshot capture tools
  • Cloud save
  • Integrated social media sharing
  • Live streaming (broadcast and watch)
  • Multimedia Playback: Streaming services

Considering only the games they run, the most noticable changes are the improved graphics thanks to Blu-Ray Disc drive, improved x86_64 AMD Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), and the huge RAM capacity (8GB). Each system has their own main characteristics. PS4 is true to its root: being a gaming platform for gamers. It is shown in the simplicity of its OS and the tech specs. X1, however, tries to be the entertainment hub for house. It is shown in how many entertainment media available inside the X1 such as Netflix, Skype, OneDrive (then: SkyDrive), etc.

In term of game DVR, both can be summed as below:

Playstation 4 Xbox One
Record 15 mins of gameplay Record 5 mins or 30 secs of gameplay
Simple trimming editor Rich video editor (integrated via Upload Studio app)
Save to local HDD or upload to FB/Twitter Automatically store to OneDrive for multipurpose

In term of live broadcast, both has Twitch for broadcasting. In term of camera, both have camera. The purpose? Enabling controller-free gaming. Face recognition, face log-in, and voice commands are just extras for convenience. In term of game collection? More developer provides multiple “limited/collector edition” game. Somehow, this kind of packaging give out impression that if you just buy the full game, you will not unlock everything in the game. To fully unlock the game, you should buy the extras.

However, considering the whole system, the major departure from the current-gen to the next-gen is how much effort both companies to encourage players to make account. Yes, gaming right now is not as simple as put the disc-on then play. No. They have to set up account, so that their activity will be pushed to the cloud. Then, they can invite other players to join the game or brag their own achievement in the social media. Yes, the next-gen is all about the social:

  • Brag achivement in news feed
  • Share screenshot/capture
  • Broadcast the gameplay

Long story short, the next-gen transition bring this:

  1. Better graphics
  2. Personalized gaming account (not just profile based)
  3. Integrated DVR
  4. Integrated broadcasting service
  5. Integrated social service
  6. Voice command
  7. More indie-developer support

The Verdict

Compared to 6th-current transition, current-next gen transition doesn’t bring that much improvement (7 vs 17). But, number is just figure on paper (or on web). Each generation reveals the improvement in graphics, which is expected. However, the next-gen gaming is no longer just about playing game. It’s about how to share your experience of gaming to worldwide. It’s about how to connect the players to the other players. It’s about online, all-connected media.

A tagline from the Watch_Dogs:

Watch_Dogs quoteWell, I predict in around 5 year from now on that the “9th generation console” will mostly consists of digital-only game, with game streaming capability, virtual reality support (I mean you, Oculus Rift & Morpheus), and “social-oriented” feature. Will there be an Instagram for gaming? IDK. LOL.

Edit: I just watched the technical demo of inFamous: Second Son photo mode, including the different focal point, blur effect, and many editing tools. So yes, currently, there is an “instagram” embedded inside this game (currently only in inFamous Second Son).

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