A Major announcement today could change Console Gaming forever

Well, I’m sure that some folks will not say it’s a good thing, but, we have some very interesting times ahead in the console gaming world.

Xbox head Phil Spencer announced a very different future for consoles then what I think people were expecting. Instead of consoles that come and go within their usual timespan, he instead envisioned a PC-like environment where consoles would get optional hardware upgrades and stay on the same code base pretty much long term.

Are we heading to a world where consoles get incremental upgrades rather then huge leaps forward? Microsoft thinks so.
Are we heading to a world where consoles get incremental upgrades rather then huge leaps forward? Microsoft thinks so.

We see on other platforms whether it be mobile or PC that you get a continuous innovation that you rarely see on console, 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.” (Microsoft Head of Xbox Phil Spencer)

He pointed towards the fact that gamers can still play classic games like Doom and Quake on current generation systems (in fact, there’s a site; GOG.com, that focuses on making classic games available and playable again) as a positive. Under this new ecosystem, if you bought a Xbox One, you’d be able to play XB1 games, but when the next generation Xbox came out, if you upgraded, you’d be able to play all the new generation games as well as the past generation games, without any need for finicky emulation, and limited games, as is happening with XB1 back to 360.

I think we’re seeing the next step that was introduced with the cross buy feature for Quantum Break. Xbox is trying to leverage their PC domination to getting ahead of competitors by making the process more like buying a PC. He went on, by replying to a request from Polygon as to what today’s announcement meant:

“We look at these other ecosystems out there like mobile, tablet and PC and we see that they have a very continuous evolution cycle in hardware, whereas between console generations most of the evolution is making it cheaper and potentially making it smaller.

Both are meaningful but don’t make the games play any better. If you look at PC specifically and see the evolution that happens there, there’s no reason why console can’t ride that same curve.

I look at the ecosystem that a console sits in and I think that it should have the capability of more iteration on hardware capability. Sony is doing this with VR and adding VR capabilities mid-cycle to the PlayStation 4 and they are doing that by adding another box. I don’t mean that as a negative. But it’s not changing what the core console is about.

For consoles in general it’s more important now than it’s ever been, because you have so many of these other platforms that are around. It used to be that when you bought your console you were way ahead of the price performance curve by so much, relative to a PC. But now PCs are inexpensive and your phones are getting more and more capable.

I still think a console is the best price to performance deal that is out there but when you look at the evolution … I’m not going to announce our road map for hardware … but what I wanted to say on stage for people when they see this vision of ours and question our commitment to console I want to make sure that people see that what we are doing enables us to be more committed to what consoles are about than we’ve ever been and innovate more consistently than we ever have. That’s the key for me.”

So, what’s that saying to me is, Xbox One doesn’t want to try to beat Sony one big jump at a time (at the console release, the 1.0 jump if you will), but iterate their systems 0.1 at a time with optional upgrades that provide an incremental bonus to move ahead of Sony slowly but surely, like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.