Microsoft – The company that’s owned by that one seemingly really simple, but seriously rich guy, which also happens to have it’s own line of gaming consoles called the Xbox – maybe you’ve heard of them – had their head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, recently announce during their Spring Keynote event that they plan to make future Xbox consoles “upgradeable.”
Spencer continued to express his thoughts regarding the future of Xbox to IGN and believes that a console should be upgradeable and change during it’s generation, much like PC’s. He says:
I love the idea of both backward and forward compatibility when you think about future innovations that can happen in the hardware space. And frankly us decoupling, to some extent, how a game runs on a platform and the hardware itself, allows that hardware to move within a generation and the games to stay with you longer. We’re very motivated by that inside of Xbox right now.”
When asked if they plan on forwarding current gen Xbox One games to future consoles, he replied:
That’s our goal…Your games that you buy on Xbox, we want to make a commitment that you’ll get to continue to play them. Look at Windows. The lifespan of a Win32 game is pretty incredible. Xbox never had that…. I don’t think consoles should miss out on that.”
Moreover, Spencer also acknowledged that they also have plans (and are currently in the process) of bringing many, if not all, the Xbox One exclusives to the PC (boy, can’t imagine the backlash they’re going to get from the fanboys from this). Backwards compatibility was one of the biggest new features announced by Microsoft last year; something that Sony has still yet introduce to it’s PS4 (Though, if they brought that, the value of Sony’s “PS Now” would become obsolete…which might not be all that bad seeing how no one really uses that service). So I can understand their want to continue the trend of having one machine for all of your past/future gen games. Personally, I miss playing so many of my PS3/PS2 games and wish there was an easier/one step method of doing so.
Spencer continues to elaborate on this idea by telling the reporters:
Consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation. Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger. And then you wait for the next big step function…When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform.”
By the way Spencer is talking, it really seems like Microsoft wants to merge these two platforms into one. Remember just a couple weeks ago when it was announced that Quantum Break, a formerly Xbox One exclusive would be coming to PC as well and everyone and their great uncle’s lost their minds? Well, I’m sure that it wasn’t an entirely unconscious decision. Combine that with the Windows 10 integration with the XBONE and you can clearly see that this company wants it’s audience, both PC and Xbox alike, to play nicely together; much like a newly wed middle-aged couple telling their respective bratty teenage kids that they’re all family now and have to share and play nice.
I, for one personally think this is exactly what should be happening and is the right move going forward in the games industry. What Spencer says is absolutely correct, consoles lack behind in performance and speed, frankly even in the early ages of their generation. Heck, both the PS4 and Xbox One released as underpowered machines when compared to the capabilities of not only a high-end, but mid-tier gaming PC’s. Developers, though may not always admit it, concur that they had to pull back on graphical fidelity due to the hardware constraints of both consoles. The Witcher 3 is a prime example of this. But of course, graphics aren’t everything. But even that aside, it’s quite clear that the future of gaming, like it or not, is in VR, and VR needs a solid machine to run it. The minimum requirements for both the Oculus Rift & HTC Vive are staggering. And I’m certain that once Playstation VR comes out, though I’m sure will be a great device, won’t compare to it’s PC experiences, the Vive especially. Moreover, games should be timeless. If I want to play Kingdom Hearts 2, or Halo 3, I should be able to simply put in my disc, or download it from an “App Store” and enjoy it. You can do that with PC games, because they have a solid “platform” which allows you to.
So yes, consoles need to be upgradeable. 6-7 years is a millennium in the tech world today, so allowing your one machine the ability to upgrade and mold itself in order to be both backwards compatible and future proof, is something that sounds very exciting.
Though, it does make me wonder: with Microsoft continuing to merge both these platforms together, both in the ways they function, and also the games they share, what incentive does it give gamers to own/buy a future Xbox console when/if most of it’s games will be coming out on the PC as well?