BY: Tom Ivan
Daily Digest: This is the future for core gamers.
Oskari Hakkinen, head of franchise development at Remedy, said in an interview published earlier today that the next generation of consoles represent"a quantum leap" from systems available today.
While the platform holders have yet to announce theXbox 720 and PlayStation 4, or whatever they will eventually be named, the likelihood is that at least one new console will arrive in 2013.
Here, we analyse five key features that will shape and define the next generation.
1. 4K resolution displays
Stunning visuals are always a crowd pleaser, and graphical improvements tend to be the first thing the average consumer recognises when comparing two hardware generations side by side.
Most recently Yahoo reported that PS4 will support ultra HD '4K Resolution' displays. 4K resolution is the term used in digital cinematography to broadly describe a resolution (pixel count) of around 4000 pixels horizontally on a display. This is similar to 'Ultra HD', or 'Quad Full High Definition' (QFHD), which at 3840x2160, is exactly double today's full HD resolution of 1920x1080.
With 3D failing to take off as the next big thing, Sony and the rest of the big players in the TV industry are looking for a new way to get consumers to upgrade their sets. Given that Sony's already selling 4K Blu-ray players, similar support for games and movies on PS4 seems highly likely.
2. Platform Ubiquity
Next gen consoles will allow players to engage with content in new, increasingly imaginative and convenient ways. PS3 Remote Play using PSP was an early step in this direction, but things will only accelerate in this direction with Wii U, PS4 and Xbox 720.
Users will be able to begin playing games and watching movies at home on one device before leaving the house and resuming them on another, or vice versa. Secondary devices will make experiences more immersive by delivering companion content using tech like SmartGlass, and serve as remote controls for your home console, whether it's the Wii U GamePad, your Vita or your mobile phone in the case of SmartGlass.
A new PC-based development environment for PS4 should also enable more companies to take advantage of initiatives like PS3-Vita Cross Buy, which let you buy a piece of software on console and get a free digital version for handhelds.
3. Enhanced communication
Online gaming is a great way to keep up with friends without having to ever leave the comfort of your own sofa, Kinect Video is an interesting feature, and the integration of social media platforms on consoles is nothing new, but next gen consoles should make great advances in the communications space.
Earlier this month a Microsoft job ad revealed that the "next gen Xbox" will support Skype. The potential to make or receive free phone calls on your console is an appealing one, particularly if it means you can simultaneously play games, eradicating the need to juggle your mobile phone or telephone receiver with your controller.
The Wii U will also go in this direction, allowing customers to make video conference calls with their devices.
4. Digital dominance
The brick-and-mortar games retail business will not survive another ten years, the executive vice president of EA Games recently told CVG. While the next generation of consoles are highly likely to support physical media formats, that doesn't mean the digital revolution isn't already in full flow, and day-and-date digital game releases are likely to become as mandatory as DLC in the next few years.
That said, sales figures for downloadable triple A games on console won't match sales of physical products until digital prices are more reasonable. We can't think of any reason why New Super Mario Bros. 2 costs £10 more to buy from the eShop than it does from GAME for £29.99 (games on PSN and Xbox Live's Games of Demand are also regularly overpriced).
Sony also has the possibility of opening up a games streaming service with its newly acquired Gaikai tech.
5. Subscription options
Microsoft has been trialling a console subscription model in the States, where customers pay $99 upfront for a new Xbox 360 bundled with Kinect and a two year Xbox Live Gold account, and are subsequently charged $14.99 for the following 24 months.
We've heard from a well placed Sony executive that the company thought about introducing such a model for the PS3's launch, and think it would make sense for the platform holders to roll it out from the offset of the next generation. The model locks buyers into the concept of upgrading at the end of their contract, when they can pick up the latest iteration of the current hardware offering. It has worked for Apple with iPhone and iPad, so there certainly is potential for consoles to do the same.
The subscription model also allows the platform holders to sell their high-power machines at a low deposit RRP, meaning that the huge investment required to make these machines won't be reflected in such exorbitant product costs. The PS3 suffered tremendously when it launched at $599, but a subscription model would likely cut that price down by more than half.