Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?
Nicholas: There’s a certain feeling that comes with the announcement and then your subsequent purchase of a new console. You’ve been enjoying the previous generation for a number of years and you’re looking forward to the next big thing. The console then comes out (hopefully) with a collection of great-looking launch titles that should ultimately re-invigorate your passion for gaming. You debate how long you’ll wait for the price to drop (if at all) before you make that payment, but it’s an inevitable decision that you’re going to make eventually at the end of the day.
The launch of the Xbox One and PS4 happened a little while ago so we’re not going to discuss that this week, but it’s their new and improved 2.0 versions that we’ve been hearing rumours and titbits about over the past month that I wanted to dive into instead. Codenamed Scorpio and Neo for the Xbox and PlayStation respectively (damn, I wish those were the names they end up giving them), each is boasting (if proven true) to be significantly more powerful than their current iterations.
So to kick things off this week I wanted to get your opinion firstly on the very fact that Microsoft and Sony are working on more powerful versions of the consoles we currently own. Is it a hardware upgrade that you think is required at this stage of the current generation, or is this another example of one of those nickel-and-dime situations we’ve spoken about so often in the past?
Andy: I don’t think it’s either really. I definitely don’t think it’s nickel-and-dime type practices from either company. Yet, I also don’t think they are really needed right now either. Most of the stuff that we know, or think we know, are just rumours at this stage. We most likely won’t know the exact specifics until E3 when each company gets a chance to do their presentations and show the world what they have instore. Side note, wouldn’t it be funny if Xbox had Don Mattick come out to do their console presentation?
I think it’s pretty obvious why we are seeing ‘new’ consoles in the works though. Both companies are banking on VR becoming a household thing, and to do so they need systems that can stand up to the requirements without losing any current features and functionality. While it’s exciting to see new specs and hear about the raw under the hood type stuff (not the puny stuff you find under the hood of a Mazda, but real powerful cars), I just don’t think it’s needed. I’m not sold on the idea of VR being a household thing, and one of the comments I saw from an unnamed source – so take it with a grain of salt – is that all games will be playable on both systems. If that’s the case what’s the reason to get an upgraded console?
What about you though? What are your initial thoughts on all the rumours and pre-E3 buzz/hype around the new machines? Do we really need them right now? Is it something along the lines of both companies merely planning ahead, or are they as you suggested a badly hidden cash grab for the companies?
Nicholas: I do agree with what you’ve said, and at the same time I can understand the decisions that Microsoft and Sony are taking with this. First and foremost, I don’t see these as a cash grabs and moreso just another repeat of historic practices. Ever since the PlayStation 2 (at least, that’s when I remember) Sony have released 2.0 versions of their consoles. It happened with the Xbox 360 as well so it’s not surprising to see it happening again with the Xbox One. The sentiments that I also share with you is that it does seem too soon. Perhaps it’s a case of time just flying, but it doesn’t feel like I’ve had my current console for that long (and I bought it at launch), so to hear that they’re already working on new versions, that to me is the most surprisingly part. It’s not because they are doing it, it’s because they’re doing it now.
So to answer your question, as you’ve mentioned, I can understand why they’re working on these new consoles so they can usher in this new age of VR (our long-standing opinions on the tech still remain), but it still feels a little too premature in the current generation to be releasing new hardware.
You mentioned the fact that both types of consoles will play the same games, and we’ll get to that later on, but I wanted to touch on the emotion side (if that’s the right choice of word) of new consoles launching in this generation. I purchased my Xbox One on release, and it’s been my console of choice ever since – I honestly do love it. The thing is though, when I hear about new versions of the current generation consoles being developed, a part of me starts to feel like I’m running with old tech and there’s a (perhaps stupid) part of me that is now inclined to want to purchase it, because it’s the new best thing. Do you ever have the same feelings when hardware companies announce new products like these? Furthermore, do you think Microsoft and Sony are banking on the fact that gamers will sometimes upgrade just for the fact of having the newest toy, even when they might not use any of the new capabilities that they offer? Do you think most will upgrade or keep what they have?
Andy: Oh absolutely, that’s what both companies are hoping. Realistically, I think they are right in their assumptions too. There is certainly a segment of gamers who always want the latest and greatest new shiny thing. Whether it be a new game, controller, DLC or an updated console. I have to admit, most of the time I fall into that category too. In regards to video games I love having the newest model. Do I always need it? No. But it’s nice to have.
I think a good portion of gamers will upgrade to the next version of consoles. But, I don’t think that’s the most important segment of gamers to be perfectly honest. There is another segment of gamers that doesn’t seem to get much press, but it’s a segment the console makers are very much aware of. That would be the holdouts. Those gamers who, for whatever reason, did not jump on board back in 2013 for the new wave of consoles.
With a new version of consoles they have two shots at getting them on-board. They can entice them with the latest/greatest console versions; or they can price cut the existing consoles enough to get them to make the jump. Either of those options are good because then you get all the game/add-on sales and everything that comes with those purchases. Then you also have to take into consideration what happens with the console that are traded in, sold on Craigslist and what have you. Those are all potentially “new” generation customers. I think that’s one segment of gamers that not a lot of people talk about, but it’s a very real segment even three years after the initial release of these devices.
It’s funny that you mentioned that it doesn’t seem like you’ve had your Xbox One for very long. I’m the completely opposite, I actually feel like I’ve had mine for quite a while. I’m actually a little surprised that it hasn’t even been out three years. With that said though, knowing it’s been less than three years before the talk of upgraded consoles hit is a little disheartening. Since we only have rumblings so far and nothing set in stone yet in regards to the new batch of console when do you think they will hit the marketplace, and the bigger question on gamers mind’s how much are they going to cost?
Nicholas: When can we expect to see them hit the market? I suppose as soon as the technology that they’re upgrading the consoles for is ready. What I mean is, if the Neo and Scorpio are there so that they can support the new VR hardware, then as soon as VR is available for sale then the accompanying consoles should be available too. For the PlayStation that will be towards the end of this year, but for Microsoft I see it coming into play later in 2017. As for how much they’re going to cost, I don’t think the consoles can realistically sell for much more (if that) than the original current generation consoles did at launch. I know I certainly wouldn’t spend more than $500 on a new console that can do the same thing mine does now, and even then, $500 is more than I’m willing to spend regardless.
You mentioned before that future games will work on both the current and to-be-released consoles, and that presents little incentive for some gamers to make the switch. From what I’ve read, games will have a ‘standard’ version that runs on what we currently have, and then a more enhanced version to support features like 4K. As it stands, there’s very little apart from potential 4K support and VR that make me want to actually purchase these consoles – and even those two features mean nothing to me. So the question I’d like to ask you is, aside from having the latest and greatest, what features would the Scorpio have to contain that would make it a must-buy for you? Complete backwards compatibility to the original Xbox perhaps? Bluetooth integration? What’s missing from the Xbox One now that you’d love to see added, given the chance?
Andy: I was hoping you weren’t going to ask me that question, because I suck at coming up with new features and things I want added. Especially when I am satisfied with the product I have. You mentioned the two big things that being VR and 4K support, but if those are the two primary reasons for upgrading to console 2.0 then I’ll sit out for a bit. For starters, because there is no way in hell I’m doing VR. We’ve talked before about my tendency to get motion sickness with some games. Much less strapping a giant motion sickness-inducing machine to my face. Going to have to go with a giant “Nope!” on that. In terms of 4K while I like gaming, I just don’t “need” that super awesome resolution. I just bought a new TV last year so I won’t be needing to upgrade that anytime soon.
You raise another good point about the price. Asking for more than the initial cost would be a slippery slope to go down for either one of them. I think Microsoft may have the best chance at coming out of the gate with the 2.0 version. Mostly because they have seemed to ditch the bundled Kinect idea which alone should lower the cost from the launch price. I’m like you though, while I wouldn’t mind the shiny new console if the cost and upgrades don’t do enough for me I’ll simply pass it by. The last drawback I see in regards to what you mentioned above is the brick and mortar are not going to like carrying two SKUs (or more) for each game. With all the different editions of games there already all (standard, deluxe, gold etc.) then add the 4K/VR versions to that… that’s going to create a nightmare for retailers. Just imagine the shelf space for the next Call of Duty game with 3 editions and 2 versions for 6 total. Then you’ll have people that buy the “better” version but then not understand why it doesn’t work on their console.
It’s easy to talk about the positives of Console 2.0, smaller, faster, less power, 4K, VR and whatever else they decide to throw under the hood, but there are some drawbacks too. Cost being right up at the top. Are there any other concerns gamers should have about 2.0? It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of shiny new stuff, but sometimes that leads to bad decisions too. I don’t want to be all negative here, but it is something we should at least touch on isn’t it?
Nicholas: If I’m honest, I don’t see too many negatives with the launch of these new consoles, if and when they happen. You mentioned the two versions of each game, but from my understanding it will continue to be just one product, and within the disc will be two versions of the game that the console will access depending on what you own. The only problems we’ll have is if what I’ve just said is incorrect, because yes, it’s going to seem ridiculous for retailers to stock two of the same game for each console, and even from a developer’s point of view to have to develop and ship two versions of the same game per platform. That aside, it’ll just be business as usual – either you’ll own the current console or the new one, but apart from bragging rights, it won’t make much of a difference. My only question will be whether we’ll have compatibility problems online, or will gamers playing on the upgraded version of the game still be able to play against those who are running the ‘standard’ variant. I must admit, calling the games we have now, which already look beautiful, as ‘standard’ seems ridiculous.
As we approach the end of this week’s article, I wanted to touch on a certain topic we discussed a few weeks back – specifically, the announcement of Nintendo’s NX. Initially reports suggested that the NX would be more powerful than the Xbox One and the Sony PS4, however if the Scorpio and Neo rumours are to be believed, the NX will be weaker of the three consoles yet again – and it hasn’t even been released yet! Pure speculation here at this point of course, but do you think Microsoft and Sony have already doomed Nintendo’s chances of ever coming back as a competitor? If you were in Nintendo’s position, what would you do if you were reading the news about Microsoft and Sony’s plans?
Andy: I don’t think Nintendo has anything to worry about when it comes to specs of the machines really. For one, Nintendo has a very specific niche that they have filled over time. The disaster of the Wii-U notwithstanding, I don’t think there are many Nintendo gamers that think to themselves, “if the specs of this console don’t match up to Xbox and PlayStation I’m not playing the next Zelda game.” Nintendo fans play and support the games because of the love they have with them. Plus, there is no other place they can play those titles. With Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed, Fallout and the rest of those AAA games there is a choice of what you play them on. Want the next Mario, Pokémon, or Donkey Kong game you only have one choice. So I think Nintendo is fine as long as they get out of their own way.
My hope with these updated consoles is that neither Microsoft nor Sony is rushing to get another version out there just because. In Sony’s case if their VR tech is ready to go and they need a beefier console to use it, it makes sense. That all depends on when the VR stuff will start hitting shelves. I think the benefit for Microsoft possibly doing their release of VR stuff next year is they will be able gauge interest and see if they need to tweak anything. In this aspect I think it’s a good thing to go second.
At the end of the day it’s about games. If the upgraded consoles offer enough incentive then I’ll probably get one. If it is just mostly about VR and 4K resolution then I will pass for now. Especially knowing that all the games will be playable on either system. You will probably have the normal detractors that say if they are releasing updated consoles so soon maybe they should have waited to release the PS4 and Xbox One. I think that’s just the speed technology is improving right now. Everyone wants to squeeze as much as they can out of game systems. So it’s natural to want more under the hood.
I just hope that the player base is never segmented and that the upgrades aren’t just smoke and mirrors with really cool sounding names and more teraflops. Because, all I need my Xbox to do is play games and once and awhile stream a movie or two. Time will tell if the tech behind the reasons for these upgrades pan out. Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick doesn’t seem to be a fan of VR, I would assume there are others in the industry that think that as well. Will it be a fad or a game-changer? Who knows. I have long been a fan of innovation though and new experiences. So, if these console upgrades allow that to happen either in the short-term or more long-term then I am all for it. After all, it’s all about the games, right?