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What Will We Be Playing On In The Future?

CG looks to the future

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Growing up playing on my older cousin's NES was how I began my gaming life. The Sega MegaDrive was my first machine and I racked up an unhealthy tally of hours/days/months on it, becoming a hardcore 'Sega Gamer' during the SNES v MegaDrive "which is better?" arguments (so what if the SNES was better Sega had more games). As I grew older my parents bought me a Pentium 100MHz PC, and as far as gaming was concerned I never looked at a console again, even when many of my friends were playing 'Daytona' and the like on their Sega Saturns. It made no difference to me, as I was enthralled with my first game, 'Screamer'. It was a brilliant racer yet only cost me £20. Why would I want to pay double the price for console games, which I felt, weren't quite as good? What really gave the kick in the teeth to my console gaming days were the FPS (First Person Shooter) games. No console at the time could dream of competing with them. It didn't take long for my hardcore console only friends to 'move on' and get themselves PCs. It was as if they were maturing as gamers. Even though they had to get used to installing the games and having all the buggy problems that we're used to with PCs, they endured them because the quality was better. Upon the release of Quake, every gamer without a PC was laughed at with pity, well I laughed at them anyway. Now up until this point in time consoles always had an edge on the PC when it came to multiplayer. Get your mates to bring their kit and joypads round and away you go. So easy, so simple, fun yet limited (usually only two player), just like everything else with consoles. The PC gave pretty dire performance in these modes. Sure you could network, but that was limited to a privileged few. No doubt, consoles had the upper hand but all that was soon shattered… As the months past, the PCs got better and better until suddenly 300MHz was upon us. Consoles were a forgotten pleasant dream. An upgrade later and the Quake2 logo graced my holy monitor. I remember going through its option menu and finding a Multiplayer section. Off course it didn't work first time (like a lot of things dotted around PC history!) so I rushed out and got myself a 56k modem. To this day I still remember the first time I ever joined a server, the first time an opponent actually chased me (as I lagged) around the map no matter how much I ran away. This was amazing! No more dodgy AI opposition! It was such a wonderful experience, one that no console has really managed to provide so far. The PC had gained the massive advantage of the (increasingly accessible) Internet, providing limitless possibilities in gameplay, across an increasing selection of genres of game so that gamers of all tastes would enjoy it. The powers that be would not allow the console to die. The finances involved in the companies who own them had too much at stake. Sega, Sony and Nintendo started to recognise the advantages of the PC and put their best efforts into making their next generation of products able to compete with the PC. How have they tried to do this so far? To put it simply, they're turning their machines into…*begin drum role*…PCs! Makes sense, "If you can't beat them, join them." As the PC has always advanced at breakneck pace, consoles are having to radically evolve to close the gap. The main step involved in achieving this is to get the consoles online. Done. The abilities of the new consoles and those due to be released in the near future are astounding, rivalling the current high performance PC's. Sounds good doesn't it? But as we all know that every few months, Intel and AMD bring out all new, more powerful Processors to the market (Damn right, says Mug, looking at his PIII-800E -Ed). Already they're at the landmark GHz, which even Microsoft's X-Box, (which is not due for release for quite some time) will not match. Don't bother even saying "not many gamers can afford a GHz processor", because I'm willing to bet that once the X-Box is finally out, Intel and AMD would have slashed 60% off their original release price of the 1GHz as we'll probably have +1.5Ghz by then. Seeing as new consoles are only released every other year or so, they're doomed to be lagging behind indefinitely. Just as Microsoft was the catalyst involved in making the PC so accessible to everyone, they intend to do the same for the console. Their announced entrance into the ultra competitive console market has caused a few waves already. I would not be surprised if future generations of MS console had almost identical windows versions as its PC counterpart. Would it inherit the same abilities as a PC? Could we upgrade our consoles one day? And if so, would or even could it still be termed a console? As far as I'm concerned, a console is a games only system. When the Playstation and Saturn were able to play audio CD's it was thought to be an advancement, a cool feature. Now though we're able to get keyboards and handle our emails with them. See where this is going? There is another side to this possibility. What if all the PC-like consoles of the future out sell the traditional PCs in the games market. Although I just cant imagine company offices LANing their Playstation 7's together to network the printer. The PC as a games machine could become obsolete. Sometime in the future, and at the rate technology is improving, it's definitely going to be far sooner than anyone thinks, one of these devices will die out as a games machine. Once the console gains all the traits of a PC, the two will be forced into direct competition with each other. Who knows what will happen. If one day a future console is able to give fluid 100fps in Quake 9 without any crashes or driver problems, I'll start calling myself a hardcore console gamer once more. Until then, I'll happily sit myself on the fence.

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