Epic Games Vice President Mark Rein said in a recent interview that although the video game industry has historically seen console refreshes every four to six years, there's no need to follow that strategy this time around. Consumers just aren't ready yet, he said.
"Over half the users who played Gears of War 2 so far do not have HDTVs," Rein told Eurogamer in an interview. "My point is, of the systems that are out there now, the majority of them aren't plugged into HDTVs. So there's no way we're ready for the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox Whatever."
Rein's comments fall in line with what Sony has been touting as the PlayStation 3's 10-year lifecycle. The hardware maker has said on numerous occasions that the rapid console updates of the past simply don't apply in this generation. That's why Sony, even though it's trailing far behind the competition today, believes it can still win this console war. It believes that its console is the only device on the market that has staying power.
For a while, many video game pundits (myself included) thought that argument was nonsense. Surely there is something bigger and better on the horizon, right?
Rein doesn't think so. He doesn't believe Microsoft will release a high-powered Xbox 720 to replace the Xbox 360. On the contrary, he thinks the future of the Xbox is based solely in Project Natal, motion-detecting technology to control a gaming system with no controller required.
"It's called Natal," Rein said. "That is the next Xbox."
Microsoft is saying the same thing. Just last week, the head of Microsoft Game Studios, Phil Spencer, said that when Project Natal is made available, it will revolutionize the market.
"When Natal comes out, it will feel like a new generation has arrived," Spencer said. "I see it as like the launch of the Xbox 360 back in 2005--there will be a launch portfolio of games to support it."
So perhaps Rein is right. Maybe the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox 720, while still possible, might not make their way to store shelves for quite some time.
It makes sense. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are network- and HD-ready. Thanks to firmware upgrades, the hardware companies can release incremental improvements to keep the consoles alive and well. Since the future is both online and in HD, what makes an Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 so important?
Moreover, developers face some real challenges when a new console is released. They need to learn how to exploit the hardware, which tends to lengthen development and cost the company more cash. And even though the Xbox 720 or PlayStation 4 might be able to provide Pixar-like graphics, that might be far too expensive for developers, causing most companies to balk at going that far with graphical prowess. While most gamers might want more from their consoles, sometimes, it's just not financially feasible.
Then there are consumers. If they've yet to capitalize on this generation's technology, why should the industry rush to bring out new hardware? Maybe the industry should allow consumers to catch up and then decide how to move forward.
But in the end, it's demand that will dictate the future of this space. And that demand comes from you. So, what do you say? Are you ready for the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox 720? Or would you rather wait until you've fully exploited the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360?