New Consoles New Questions
Each new generation of video-game consoles work in a slightly different ways. This comes from both the new technology but also new business models. With the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 now announced, and the Wii U already available for some time, a bit of research goes a long way to ensuring you are getting good value for your family from these products.
One important issue for a new console is backwards compatibility: how well it supports your previous machine. When consoles first launch there are fewer games available on them, so being able to access games from the previous generation is a bonus.
Also, if they support the old games with the new hardware this not only means you need fewer boxes under the TV but that you can pass the old machine on to friends and family.
Although both 360 and PS3 supported running many old games (Xbox and PS2 respectively) the Xbox One and PS4 are both not providing this functionality. This comes down to a combination of economics and hardware design.
Firstly, it costs more money to support old platforms, and increases the price that the console costs to buy. Secondly, to provide the best visuals and audio often results in new hardware design that is incompatible with older software.
Microsoft’s statement around the Xbox One helps clarify things here: “Xbox One is not compatible with Xbox 360 games. We designed Xbox One to play an entirely new generation of games-games that are architected to take full advantage of state-of-the-art processors and the infinite power of the cloud. We care very much about the investment people have made in Xbox 360 and will continue to support it with a pipeline of new games and new apps well into the future.”
Similarly, Sony have considered backwards compatibility carefully and come to a similar conclusion. PS4 system architect Mark Cerny talked to AV Watch about it. “We decided to focus on the ‘positive aspects’ of switching to X86 [new chip design]. If a different architecture had been selected, it probably would have been even more problematic. The X86 architecture is well known and development is relatively easy.”
Second Hand Games
Another hot topic is whether the new consoles will limit consumer’s ability to resale old games. With new titles costing around £40 and dropping in value quite fast after purchase a nice way to recoup some costs after finishing a game was to sell it second hand.
For some time game publishers have included elements of the experience that cannot be resold. This is often a download feature that requires a particular code to access. While you can still play the rest of the game second hand, to access these features you need a new code that can usually be purchased for a few pounds.
Again Microsoft looked to clarify things for the Xbox One in their statement about pre-owned games. “We have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail. Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios. Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.”
The key thing to remember with these new consoles is that a bit of research and reading before ordering enables you to ensure you are making the right value choices for your family.