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Is this the Legacy of Next Gen Consoles?

With each new motion from current to next gen consoles, gamers see a significant development meant to further extend the breadth and depth of the gaming experience that video game consoles can offer. From the very first generation to the current, seventh generation, this was a trend. The next generation, however – the eighth generation spearheaded by Nintendo’s Wii U, Sony’s Playstation 4, and Microsoft’s Xbox One – seems to have gone astray of tradition.

Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane:

Pong Arcade

First Generation: Pong

Dull old TV was too boring for the folks of the 1970s, so an engineer by the name of Ralph Baer thought up the concept of “Interactive TV,” thus, gaming was born. Pong is the iconic video game that started it all – all 2 bits of simulated ping pong glory played on such consoles as the Magnavox Odyssey, Atari Tele-Games Pong and Nintendo Color TV Game.

Mircochip-based Game Cartridges

Second Generation: 8-Bit Gaming + Cartridges

Within the same decade (see, even then the standard timeframe between generations was about five years), people reveled in the glory of 8-bit gaming, and of course, the use of microchips, which enabled consoles to play multiple games. Yes, the old Pong consoles can only play games stored within the consoles themselves. The second generation of video game consoles used the consoles as readers of the cartridges where the games were stored.

Side-Scrolling Graphics

Third Generation: Side-Scrolling

The golden age of the 8-bit gaming scene came with the advent of scrolling graphics, allowing players to “explore” a gaming world instead of being content with a single, unmovable screen. This generation was when now-immortalized games like Super Mario Bros, Final Fantasy, Metroid, and Metal Gear first came out, and when rivalries between gaming companies first started to really surface.

CDs

Fourth Generation: 16-Bit Gaming + CDs

Reflecting the changes of the second generation, the fourth generation of video game consoles introduced a leap in gaming power by doubling the bits playable as well as transitioning to a new medium of storage: CDs. Microchip-based cartridges were still in style, and leading consoles included the SNES and the Sega Genesis.

3D Gaming

Fifth Generation: 32 and 64-Bit Gaming

The gaming giants Sony, Nintendo, and Sega butted heads in this era, releasing the dominant Playstation, the unique N64, and the underrated Saturn that all embraced full 3D gaming. Handhelds were also developing, spearheaded by Nintendo’s Gameboy variations.

DVDs

Sixth Generation: 128-Bit Gaming + DVDs

Again mirroring the advances of the second and fourth generations, the sixth generation leapt forward in processing and graphic power again while introducing a better game storage system in DVDs. After the Sony Playstation nearly crushes both Nintendo’s N64 and Sega’s Saturn, the Playstation 2 seemed set to hog all the glory in this generation, but then Microsoft launched the Xbox. A late-comer to the industry and the generation, the XBox still proved more than capable of matching the feats of the PS2. MMO games on the PC were also on the rise, and handheld gaming was in full swing.

Variable Motion Controls

Seventh Generation: More Power and Variable Controls

The seventh generation of consoles made a significant leap forward in terms of processing power and graphic display capabilities. The PS3 was actually more powerful than the Cray I supercomputer, which was the fastest badass just a few decades ago. Also, Sony introduced Blu-Ray, a more vast storage unit compared to DVD. What really defined this generation, however, were the wealth of games and the introduction of variable control systems like the Wii’s nunchucks and the Xbox 360’s Kinect. The devices opened up a new avenue for gaming, and while in the interim between the current generation and the next they were relegated to less hardcore games, they did interest gamers and developers in more unconventional methods of control, leading to the advancements of such systems as virtual reality and brainwave control, like the Oculus Rift and Haier‘s BrainWave TV.

What's Next?

Eighth Generation: Back to Basic Entertainment?

And so we reach the next gen consoles, and despite a decent move forward in terms of gaming capability (in terms of graphics and processing power), trade shows like the pre-launch press conferences of both the PS4 and Xbox One as well as game shows like E3 2013 were at best lukewarm. It appears as though the console scene is going full circle, starting from base entertainment to full-blown gaming, and then back again to entertainment with a focus on socialization.

Is this the legacy of next gen consoles? Abandoning the forward march towards greater gaming possibilities and settling for becoming media centers instead of video game consoles?

A number of games of the next generation are promising enough, but if the consoles themselves aren’t pushing us forward, how far can the games go? Instead of extending the breadth and depth of the gaming experience, these new consoles seem to be extending the breadth of its audience. What’s next? Office applications and desktop email clients?

Here’s to wishing that years from now, when gamers of future generations look into Wikipedia or search on Google, they wouldn’t find that the only enduring legacy of the eighth generation of consoles was an attempt at backwards development: trying to become entertainment media centers instead of what makes them unique: dedicated video game consoles[by ]



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