After a walk through Madrid Games Week where we have been able to test the latest in video games, as well as the new generations, the final feeling is clear: the industry is stagnant. Concepts repeated over and over again coupled with a technical advance that, to be honest, is not worth it: the change is not that significant. And this situation of stagnation in the perfect element where Apple usually shows its particular “game changer” that could be the future Apple TV re-invented as a video game console. Find the keys in this opinion article.
These days a more than interesting event is being held in Madrid: Madrid Games Week. A showcase organised by the big names in the video game industry, through aDeSe (the Spanish Association of Entertainment Software Distributors and Publishers). At this fair or event held at IFEMA (Madrid Fair) we can try out the new generations of consoles from Microsoft and Sony : the Xbox One and the Playstation 4. We can also try out new games for each platform such as KillZone, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty Ghosts, Ryse Son of Rome, Forza Motosport 5 or Drive Club, among many others. A must for every fan.
Last Thursday, taking advantage of its opening for professionals and the press, we took a walk and were able to test each and every one of the devices and games in detail. Printing: the industry is stagnating . Battlefield 4 for Xbox One was a real disappointment at 720p resolution and poor fluidity at times, Forza Motosport 5 or Drive Club (for One and PS4 respectively) were more of the same from the thousands of driving simulators (graphically spectacular, empty inside). The new Need for Speed Rivals, the Call of Duty that looks like another episode of its predecessors and not a new game… the continuous franchise deliveries are doing a disservice to entertainment .
But that’s not the worst thing, because you can more or less like them and enjoy them because they are still of great quality. The problem is that you don’t have the feeling of being at the controls of a new generation console that is almost 7 or 8 years ahead of the previous ones . Yes, nicer graphics, but… not much else either. Commented cases like Battlefield 4 that is not able to work in Full HD in any of the two platforms, to my way of thinking, they make jump the alarms.
Both consoles are a technical carbon copy of each other , with a custom AMDATI chip (Jaguar architecture-based APU) integrated into the 8-core x86-64 CPU and GPU, which is almost identical but slightly more powerful on PS4 than Xbox One. Both have 8 GB of RAM, Wi-Fi, integrated hard disk, Blu-Ray reader… 400 euros for the PS4 and 500 euros for the One because it comes “indissolubly” with Kinect (crass error).
Do we really have to spend 400 or 500 euros now to keep paying the same for the same games with a slightly improved graphical addition (in real experience) that brings nothing new or innovative? Ironically, PCs (whether Windows, OS X or Linux) are the big beneficiaries because the new generation has eliminated the technical restrictions that limited releases by using middlewares where you program once and get the executable for all platforms. Ironically, Battlefield 4 can only be played in Full HD at 60 frames per second on a PC . A good PC, all things considered.
Here’s the situation, now what? Well, we have several interpretations each of which is more curious. For example, Nintendo doesn’t raise its head with its Wii U and its habit of selling the same game over and over again with tweaks from one platform to another. Microsoft wants us to spend 500 euros to put an HD camera in our living room permanently turned on (Obama will be delighted) with a console in continuous listening so that we say “Xbox, turn on” and Sony, more discreet, wants us to pay another 400 to continue doing the same as before, but with the possibility of uploading our games comfortably to the Internet. It doesn’t make any sense .
Apple, however, has in its hands the A7 processor, compatible with OpenGL ES 3. 0, 64 bits , with a similar power and in some aspects superior to the current generation Xbox 360 or PS3 (said by Epic Games, creators of the Unreal Engine) and with a base of developers, companies and a fully prepared development kit, as well as compatibility with each and every one of the middleware in the market such as Unity 3D, Unreal or CryEngine.
Can you imagine if we take this processor and put it in a future Apple TV with Full HD output? And if we sell such a device, which we could call iPlay, without any controller because we have several options in the market to choose from or use our own iOS device as such? What if everything was priced between 100 and 150 dollars?
Imagine an ecosystem of apps like the one Apple has created for iOS, applied to this new console. It would be a real game changer that would force many to change their strategies: affordable prices, more than enough power, multimedia center to enjoy all our content, the unlimited possibilities of integration with services in cloud … Yes, it would not be with games like “hard-core gamer” , but it would be more than enough for many, generating a radical change that the industry needs .
Microsoft and Sony believe that their new generation will put them in the best position, but from my point of view they couldn’t be more wrong. Apple could set a trend and Google would follow (it’s official that they are working on an Android-based game console). If we add the new Steam Box by Valve or how to convert a PC with dual operating system (Windows and Linux) in a real modular console, certified and with all the power, much higher than these One or PS4, as well as open to install as many programs or add-ons we want, we see that the future is very open and different to what Microsoft and Sony expect .
My prediction is that two markets will be created: the low or medium-demanding market, led by Apple, and the market for hard-core gamers which will move towards the Steam Box, seeing how the Xbox One and PS4 formula will gradually be extinguished no matter how much their consoles drop in price. Even Gabe Newell himself, the head of Valve, has already said that the real danger for his Steam Box is Apple. In the end, we are changing machines and forcing them to pay for the same thing with an invaluable difference for the vast majority .
What matters is the price of the product and its formulas: and in that Valve and Apple know much more than the rest . Besides, what is easier, renewing your console every 3 years for another 100150 euros or every 7 years for a 400500? What are they offering me not to buy Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty Ghosts on Xbox 360 for 40 euros instead of paying 500 plus 50 for the game in a One? Is it worth the outlay for what they offer? The answer is clear: not at all.
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