It's no secret that the next generation of consoles is on the way. Heck, they are kinda already here, if you count the Wii U as "next generation." Each generation does something to enhance the previous, and it's not just the visual/ graphics specs. When the 360 and PS3 launched we were introduced to the achievement/trophy system which was a great idea. By rewarding players for doing what they do (play games) it added quite a bit to the replay value of a certain game. I know I personally have played certain games longer than I normally would just to get a few extra trophies or slightly increase my gamer score.
So the big question for the next generation of games is quite simple: what new features will be introduced that will become standard across the board? We all know game companies copy the successes of their competitors...they would be stupid not to. So what will the next generation bring us? Will the next PlayStation controller have a touch screen on it, a la the Wii U GamePad? Or will the next Xbox FINALLY be able to play BluRay like the PS3 currently can?
I'm no fanboy, and own all three of the big name consoles. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and in a perfect world the next generation of systems will have learned from this and built on the strengths while doing away with their shortcomings. Of course this is not a perfect world, and each system will still have its own strengths and weaknesses. Just look at the Wii U. Nintendo should have done a whole lot more to mimic what Sony and Microsoft offer on their consoles, but they dropped the ball and didn't fully capitalize. Don't get me wrong, the Wii U did make some fine advances. It now offers 1080p gameplay, has a user name tied to the console and all games (as opposed to the horrid sixteen-digit friend codes of the Wii's past) and even tried to one-up the competition by heavily embracing social media. Unfortunately the Wii U doesn't offer a trophy/achievement program, maintains an unorganized online store, doesn't support BluRay and has a limited selection of online-enabled co-op games. Now some may say that the Wii U is a poor example because it isn't exactly a "hardcore" gaming console, and that is partly true. But that doesn't give Nintendo a free pass, and perhaps they would have sold more units if they had paid more attention to the strengths of the PS3 and 360.
So what are my predictions for console gaming's future? I really have no idea, but I do have wishful thinking. The next PlayStation and Xbox need to make some improvements to get ready for the next generation. Yet while I'm saying this is what I would like to see them do, I have no idea what will actually happen. For all we know the next Xbox will have a crazy new feature that will blow everything else out of the water. But for now let's focus on what I think each company has to do.
The PS3 is a great machine. I upgraded to a PS3 two years before even touching a 360 for the first time. After seeing what the 360 had to offer I no longer showed favortism towards Sony as I realized that both consoles had their strenghs and weaknesses. The next PlayStation really needs to address the lack of a social community. And no, Home DOES NOT COUNT!!! Look at the 360. The party chat option makes it a snap to get a group together to coordinate a co-op playing session. That's just not an option on the PS3 since there is no cross-game chat. The next PlayStation has to support that cross-game chat, and also make it just as easy to join in a friend's game. Plus having the chat supported directly by the console you never have to worry about a game's particularly lousy voice chat (I'm looking at you, Dead Island, Borderlands 1 and...that other game where the two players switch off between the warrior man and the archer lady.) I also like that the 360 offers a demo for almost every game that comes out, while the PS3 does not always have a demo available. Sometimes I really need to play a demo before committing to a game!
The 360's best attribute (in my opinion) is the ease of getting together with others. Yet there are some flaws in the console where the PS3 still looks better than the 360. For starters, the 360 has to get rid of the points system for the XBLA store. No one wants to take the extra second to crunch how much 1200 points is in actual currency, and Microsoft has no need to do it now. Speaking of money, the Gold account really has to start offering more than the ability to use things you purchase separately. Sure, you can argue that Gold costs a monthly fee because you are getting a better online experience (party chat) with it. But when you compare it to the PlayStation Plus program, where members get ACTUAL GAMES, the Gold account looses it's luster. Simply put, Microsoft has to start offering Gold members something more than a connection service. Lastly, the 360 needs a dang BluRay drive. It's ridiculous for me to have three discs for a game on the 360 when the same game fits nicely onto one BluRay disc for the PS3.
Lastly, let's just get into some of the rumors that are circulating the coming of the next generation. Touch screens? Completely unnecessary. It works wonders with the Wii U, and it's one of the reasons that you buy a Wii U. It's just not a necessary component for the coming PlayStation and Xbox controllers. Disc-based games are history? Absolutely not going to happen. The third party game business, between Gamestop and Gamefly, has too much at stake and too much sway in the industry for such a thing to happen. Plus I should be allowed to sell off my discs anytime I want! 3D displays? Gosh, I hope it doesn't come to that. 3D technology is nowhere near where it should be to make an impact on the gaming industry, so don't bring it on yet.
So that's what I hope to see, and not see, in the coming generation. I'd like to think that I will continue to be a wide-spread gamer in the sense that I own all the home consoles, and I would hate to fall into the "fanboy" status. But truth is that I'm only going to be able to purchase either the next PlayStation or Xbox initially, so what each systems ends up offering is what will sway me one way or the other. I'm relatively neutral at this point but better online capabilities on Sony's behalf or a promise of some free games via Microsoft might be enough to push me in one direction.