The new Xbox Durango and PlayStation Orbis, as is rumoured to be their code names, have everyone talking, with a lot of rumours beginning even last year that this was going to be the year of at the very least an official announcement. But new consoles , as exciting as that may sound, are, in my opinion, a bad thing for the gaming industry and for gamers right now. Here's why.
1) Game development costs
It starts with game development costs. In an article published recently at gamesindustry.biz, developers who are supposedly working with the Durango are saying that costs to create games on the platform look to double.
"I'm having to double my budget for models," said one developer. "If we want to take advantage of Durango's capabilities it takes a lot more time for each model."
“At a time when many console titles have been finding it more difficult to make a profit, the prospect of doubling already considerable budgets is not making publishers happy. They are already looking to find ways to increase the revenue potential of their development efforts,” says the Gamesindustry article, and it's right.
(Although, interestingly, as long as the current opportunities for indie developers continue to exist and evolve, the trend will be rather different there.)
The fact is that game studios have only just figured out how to get the best out of the current consoles and work their costs appropriately. If game houses need to spend more we may see them not taking full advantage of what the new consoles provide. Or we may see them cutting costs in storyboarding, voice artists, or anywhere they can.
Putting this extra cost on game developers right now makes me think that the current momentum will be lost. Sure, it might force them to put in more, but it might also mean we get far less in the end. I don't feel that's good for this industry.
A popular concept idea of the PlayStation Orbis
2) It's only just becoming popular
I don't know about you, but more of my previously dis-the-gamer friends are now investing in an Xbox 360 or PS3, mostly because of the price point. New consoles will mean that they might give up on the whole thing together, at least for a while, because they only just bought a console and now there's a new one – with cooler games, too. But it's more expensive. That only leaves a bad taste in the average consumer's mouth.
Purists may lament the commercialisation of gaming, just like purists in any industry, but the reality is commercialisation means more money which means bigger budgets which (generally) means better products, unless you're talking pop music or Call of Duty.
Bringing in new consoles now, I feel, could drive the average consumer away for a good while. The reason why they buy consoles is because, unlike the PC, they feel they don't need to keep upgrading their hardware. The console loses this allure when it starts becoming more like a PC, regardless of how much more a PC can do. The average consumer cares less about graphics (not to say it's not important) than gameplay and other factors. But it honestly feels, to me, that graphics is really the biggest and most important thing new consoles will offer, and I don't believe we should upgrade just for graphics' sake.
And if there's a new console, that may not be backwards compatible, there's very little reason for the average consumer to invest in more games since the cooler and newer games aren't going to come out for the console they invested in anymore. The may look to rather try another hobby to pass the time.
A popular concept idea of the Xbox 720 Durango
3) It's only just got cheaper
As Microsoft and Sony start to actually make a profit on their consoles, we can all enjoy cheaper products. That's what's bringing in the majority of new gamers right now. Plus, another price drop is soon to be expected – where the Xbox 360 might drop to about R1500, which will generate a truck load of more interest in gaming.
The whole environment changes with new consoles coming on board, especially with the rumours saying that the new PlayStation won't be backwards compatible (understandable if Sony have moved to AMD for processing power). Gaming will get expensive again, at least from a hardware perpective. Plus with the increased costs in development as mentioned above, there's a possibility that games themselves may get more expensive – and they're expensive enough as it is.
Another concept idea for the Xbox 720 Durango
4) It's only just started making money
I personally feel that Microsoft and Sony should hold off as the Xbox 360 and PS3 have only just started making them money. I'd rather see them plow that into development costs now so that the new consoles can be cheaper upon release.
Unfortunately, the public, the media, and the competitive environment (not that that's such a bad thing) are forcing them to make a move of some sort. If I was either of them I would be begrudging a release right now. Rather wait another two years. It would only be good for gaming. But I don't think they have that privilege.
About Ryan Peter
Ryan Peter has been an avid gamer for over 25 years, seeing the industry evolve from King's Quest to what it is today. He is the editor of Do Gaming and a ghostwriter of fantasy and sci-fi. His fantasy book When Twins War is available at Amazon.com, in the iBookstore for the iPad or at Smashwords.com.