What is Next Generation?

I want to start off my blog discussion about the next gen consoles, namely, Xbox One and PS4. But I want to first try and define what a Next Gen console SHOULD be.

Next Gen in the world of gaming consoles is a high expectation. Its especially a high expectation in comparison to other markets. Why do I say this? Its simple. The first Xbox debuted in 2001. About 4-5 years later, the first Next Gen Xbox was announced in 2005- Xbox 360. Eight years from then, the second Next Gen Xbox debuts- Xbox One. Unlike the smartphone market, PC market, fashion market… gaming consoles revamped versions every half a decade. That’s a lot of techy time on the tech clock to do make major tech gains. To illustrate this, lets look at a Samsung smartphone from the same year the Xbox 360 debuted, The Samsung D900.

Samsung D900

2006 was an era in the mobile phone market that really represented the transition away from mobile phone with some light computer functions to mobile computer with a phone. Bless the D900’s heart; It was considered a flagship device only seven years ago, admired for its ‘whopping’ 3mp camera. Very impressive stuff back then. Lets flip forward to the spring of 2013, which is approx. seven years later.

1JSM

If you haven’t heard already, Samsung is reported to have launched a curved OLED smartphone. Let alone the lack of keyboards and the full submersion into touchscreen devices, seven years after the D900, Samsung has developed a phone with a twelve megapixel camera, capable of 1080p video captures, with 3Gb of ram, micro sd expansion, a 1080p screen, and a magically curved display. The difference between the D900 and Samsung’s latest flagship/s is science fiction, and this is the type of innovation improvement I expect out of a Next Gen console.

Gaming is great. I remember my first unboxing of a console. It was the PlayStation. Yes, the one with no numbers after the name. It was a circular box, small, but functional. I have little to no video game memories before that day when I turned seven years old, but gaming quickly took over a large chunk of my childhood memories after that PlayStation unraveling, as it did for most boys during the late nineties and early twenty first century. But it hasn’t changed. Gaming has become an outlet of relief in my busy college lifestyle. Its my get away and my retreat into a digital world of epic awesomeness that I wouldn’t dare try to replicate in reality. That shear passion for gaming is what is driving the 2013 Next Gen pre-release debate.

It is no question that both consoles (Xbox One and PS4) deliver on Next Gen gamability* (yes its not a word but it makes sense). Both consoles definitely represent what Next Gen hardware capabilities SHOULD be. But, that’s not enough. Remember, Samsung (and most of its competitors) didn’t say, “Ok, now that we’ve got LTE and great caller clarity, lets call it quits…”, NO, that is not Next Genny enough. They noticed trends and paradigms in the evolution of how people use their technology in their respective environments, and they innovated to meet those changes. Gaming, for instance, is becoming extremely mobile. A lot of people may not be Console or Hardcore PC Gamers per say, but they may be killer Temple Runners, and its important to include these people’s mobile obsession into the future of the Console experience. Also emerged from the crevasses of the basement couch are the motion gamers; the Wii heads. We may think of these creatures as casual gamers but believe me when I say that Wii is no walk in the park system, and it takes a lot of skill and dedication to master motion gaming- these people are now a new subgroup of video gaming. But we must not stop there.

Digital Communion. This is a living room in which many if not most households house their entertainment system…

Entertainment System

Right, this is a joke, but a good one at best. We are looking at a display, a Cable Box, a life-size remote controller, a DVR box, a DVD box, and some other boxes that I cant even identify. But lets be honest, how many times have we seen this type of setup (probably not stacked like a pyramid) in someone’s house if not our own. What this picture fails to portray are the four other remotes and the video game system/s with their respective controllers. The living room is a complete digital mess! In comparison, imagine walking around with a calculator, telephone, calendar, photo album, pen, pencil, eraser, Gameboy, digital camera, notepad, laptop, Ethernet chord, mouse, mp3 player, portable DVD player ect…. That may have been a reality less than a decade ago, but now we carry a smartphone, perhaps curved, that brings all of those functionalities into one small portable package. That is Next Gen, the picture above is not, but its still a reality and it shouldn’t be, but it will continue to be that way unless someone tries to bring all of those together without sacrificing the experiences of them (perhaps enhancing them). And that is the Xbox One. Watch this, I don’t want to write about it if I can show it.

To summarize the Xbox One’s Capabilities with the help of the Kinect you can:

  • Turn Xbox One on with your voice
  • Navigate the dashboard with your voice and hands
  • Watch live TV
  • Change channels with your voice. Say “Watch MTV” and you are watching MTV, just like that
  • Flip from live TV to your Game, to Netflix, to Music, to Movie with your voice, or hand gestures of course.
  • Pin two applications to the side of the screen for multitasking. For example, you can Skype your friends while watching a movie, watching TV, or playing a game.
  • Get live updates while watching TV from other applications. The updates may be directly related to what you are watching on TV
  • Flip through favorite, trending, and recommended shows and movies using your voice
  • See what your friends are watching
  • Play games

Those are REAL features for of the Xbox One. In comparison, the PS4 can:

  • Play games
  • Record and share game footage on the fly
  • Listen to music while playing games
  • A player can ask their friend to help them on a specific level and the friend can stream the game to their to do so
  • Use Netflix and a jumble of other entertainment apps
  • Play games…. Oh wait I said that already
  • And that’s all folks

M0st of which the Xbox One does equally as well, with the exception of the streaming gameplay feature which is pretty cool,  (grant it we haven’t really gotten our hands on either of them yet). But Xbox One is effectively communing the cable box, the next gen video game console, motion tracking, voice recognition, DVR/DVD box, TV Guide, and all 3-4 remotes into one system. This is revolutionary. That is Next Gen. The idea that I can do whatever I want to do with my voice or my hands or even one controller, is mind blowing and satisfactory. That is Next Gen for sure.

Is it a Game Console? Perhaps this is the question that is plaguing both Microsoft and those who are considering the Xbox One. Is it a game console? The easy answer would be yes, it plays games. Which is true. There is no doubt that Xbox One delivers a next gen gaming system from top to bottom. To draw a comparison between PS4 and Xbox One’s gaming experience is ridiculous without trying both of them, but the contrast will most likely come down to how people feel with the controllers in hand. But the Xbox One, we can all agree, is more than a console. Perhaps you are someone that just wants a game console, and that’s fair. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Xbox One is not moving away from gaming in any sort. In fact, they are taking it more seriously. The turning on of Xbox with your voice, the switching between apps and games with your voice, the multitasking, the Skype while gaming, the new Smartglass, and the extra cloud driven processing are all examples of how the Xbox team put gaming first. The amount of time saved from turning on the console, switching between live TV and your game, and playing your game while someone else wants to keep up with the football game is tremendous. Its important to look at the Next Gen consoles not of their components individually, but to imagine how the features might enhance your favorite form of entertainment (which for me is gaming). Although the Xbox may be a jack of all trades, the gaming trade alone is still the competitor its always been towards the PS4, and all of the extra trades are the tipping point for me. How about you?

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