The Game Awards Host Geoff Keighley is probably one of the best connected game journalists in the industry, and today he gave his insight on a few interesting aspects of the relatively near future of the industry during a lovely conversation on The Inner Circle’s podcast.
A quite intriguing topic was the possibility of the release of slim form factor PS4 and Xbox One consoles:
What I do think is that the idea of the same console platform staying as a locked target for five, six, seven years is not gonna happen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we started to see Xbox and PlayStation start to iterate on the hardware a lot quicker.
I would Imagine, I don’t know, but I would imagine that the Xbox One is gonna do a refresh of the box at some point soon, much like they did last generation. You know, that’s a big piece of hardware for what’s inside of it.
The slim versions will come probably for both platforms in the next couple of years, but what will be interesting is, will they keep the hardware the same, or will Microsoft say hey, we actually wanna improve the graphics chip.
That’s something that happens all the time in the PC space or in the mobile space. […] Traditionally consoles have always kept things the same, but I wonder now in the space with so many mobile phones iterating as quickly as they are, would Microsoft say “hey, we’re actually gonna improve the graphics, we’re gonna add more memory to the system.
The challenge is do you alienate the old consumers that brought the system and can’t upgrade… On Xbox 360 they brought up the system and a year later they decided to add an HDMI port to it. Everyone that didn’t have an HDMI Xbox was really upset at the time.
The way an executive at Microsoft described it to me was like “we see this console serve like cars. Every year there’s gonna be a new model of this Ford or this BMW that will come out, and they have some new features. We may start to upgrade like that.” They didn’t end up doing that in the Xbox 360 era, but I do wonder, and this is not specific to Xbox, I think it’s fore every console manufacturer, at what point do you start to kinda improve the hardware, because I do think it’s gonna be hard for these systems to stay static for five plus years in this environment.
Keighley afterwards explained that this doesn’t mean that in this scenario the older Xbox One would not work at all. It could still play new games, but not as well as the next iteration.
He explained that he doesn’t have specific information and he doesn’t know if this will be talked about this year, but he feels that if consoles want to keep up with the level of innovation in the mobile space, the big companies are gonna have to start to think more and more about that, and they probably are.
Keighley also gave his predictions and explained his expectations for E3, then switching gears into an interesting chat on game exclusivity:
What game will make the biggest splash? Wow… it’s a little hard to say right now. My hunch is that it’ll be something that we don’t know about and hasn’t been announced yet. Some kind of surprise game.
We know Uncharted will be big, we know Halo will be big. Those are known quantities, we know Call of Duty will be there, there’ll be another Assassin’s… Hopefully there will be something that comes out of nowhere and just blows people away. That’s what we all live for. That’s what we love of E3, the surprise that we didn’t know was coming and blows us away.
What third party exclusive megaton will there be… I don’t know… It’s tough because I remember there was all the drama… Tomb Raider last year and then Street Fighter… I guess there will be something like that, but I don’t really love the idea of games just being on one platform, one audience celebrating, and the other audience being upset about it.
Everyone should play great games. I can tell you a lot of the people I know who make first party games just for one system, nothing pains them more than the fact that there are a bunch of people that are never gonna enjoy their game.
The guys at Naughty Dog, they don’t like that people on Xbox can’t play their games… There’s benefits to make games just for PlayStation, because they can really max out that platform, but I think everyone as a game maker wants to have as many people experiencing their games as possible.
Maybe there’ll be a business deal that will shock people… You know, this game is gonna come exclusively for this period of time on a platform. And I think they’re cool announcements, but I just don’t know if there’s anything that’s going to shift the momentum dramatically.
Keighley went on explaining that people often don’t realize that those deals are often made from a position of weakness on the publisher’s part. Street Fighter V and Titanfall probably weren’t going to happen without a partnership.
He feels that it’s good that these deals help games get funded and ultimately happen, but that’s not all there is:
It’s competitive and I know everyone and all the companies they love to get a deal and feel that they won E3 […] It’s a point in time when everyone wants to win, so I get it, but at the end of the day I just want to see a lot of great games, and after a year or so, so far, there hasn’t been a lot of truly amazing stuff. I just wanna be inspired and excited about being a gamer. That’s what I wanna see at E3.
Personally, I always respected Keighley’s experience and insight on the industry, but I’m rather skeptical on the possibility of inter-generation hardware changes. Nintendo did it with the New 3DS, but the change wasn’t massive and the 3DS is closer to the mobile space than home consoles are.
The real strength of console hardware is is standardization, which leads to extreme optimization. If you start having multiple iterations with relevant hardware differences, developers will have a harder and harder time squeezing every drop of juice out of the components as they do nowadays.
On the other hand, I find myself in full agreement about exclusives. While it’s nice to have developers push a single console as far as it can go, I’m much happier when great games can be enjoyed by as many gamers possible.
While apparently I’ve been impressed by quite a few games released earlier in this generation a lot more than Keighley has been, hopefully E3 will bring inspiration and joy even to those gamers that haven’t been blown off their feet just yet.