Dear Readers: Keeping Up

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Atari 2600Dear Readers,

Atari released its “Video Computer System” (known by most as the regular ol’ Atari) to American audiences in 1977. The next mainstream home console, the original Nintendo, came out eight years later. Six years passed between the releases of the original Nintendo and Super Nintendo. Nintendo 64 came along five years later, followed again in five years by GameCube.

Notice a pattern here? New consoles are being released at increasingly rapid rates, and I don’t think I can keep up anymore. I haven’t gotten all the entertainment possible out of the last generation yet, let alone this one. Suren I’m not the only one, and yet, industry vets are predicting that successors to PlayStation 2 and Xbox could be upon us as soon as this year.

There was nothing left to accomplish with the original Nintendo by the time SNES was released. Graphics weren’t going to get any better, gameplay wasn’t going to get any more innovative; the system’s potential had been maxed. This hasn’t happened with PlayStation 2, GameCube, or Xbox yet. We’re still years away from reaching the limits these systems are capable of, and already the industry deems itself ready to move on.

No doubt it’s about making more money—console sales are down, so it must be time to develop new ones! The problem with the next generation, though (and indeed, a problem that has plagued this one) is that there’s no great leap in technology being made, unless Sony and Microsoft are keeping some major secrets from us; for the $300+ you’ll pay for an Xbox 2, all you’ll get is the ability to play yet another rehashed Madden with prettier graphics.

And what comes after that? How great can the visuals possibly get? By the time PlayStation 5 or 6 rolls around, will it even be possible to reach higher levels of graphical quality? Eventually, the industry will have to try something new; the path they’re walking now leads to a dead end.

One can only hope that other console developers will think to follow in Nintendo’s footsteps; the DS is the most innovative console to come out in years. Gaming geeks from around the globe agree that Nintendo is going to tank before Sony or Microsoft leave the biz, but the big N has something they don’t—ideas. Before too long, it’s going to take more than great graphics to woo the casual crowd, and the third-place former playing card manufacturer has a head start.



Paul Franzen

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