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"There's no reason why console can't ride that same curve"

By Matthew Handrahan

"There's no reason why console can't ride that same curve"

Wed 02 Mar 2016 10:45am GMT / 5:45am EST / 2:45am PST
BusinessHardware

Xbox boss Phil Spencer says consoles will soon have the “continuous innovation” of PC and mobile

Microsoft's Phil Spencer made bold statements about the likely future of the Xbox platform, indicating a shift to a model closer to that used by PC and smartphone manufacturers.

In a presentation given to reporters last week, the head of Xbox addressed the controversy around a recent "cross-buy" promotion for Quantum Break, under which people who purchased Remedy's new game on Xbox One also received a copy of the Windows 10 version. At the time, Spencer said that the concept would become a "platform feature" for Xbox.

At the Xbox Spring Showcase he went further still, noting that the "continuous innovation" found in mobile and PC hardware is rarely seen on console.

"Consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation," Spencer said, as reported by Polygon. "Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger. And then you wait for the next big step function."

Spencer stated his belief that the console space will be driven by a similar pace of innovation in the future, and Microsoft intends to play its part in making that happen. "You'll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation," he said, "allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform."

No hard details of Microsoft's plans were offered, but it's clear that Spencer was describing a radical departure from the traditional console model. Following up with Polygon after the presentation, he said that the main focus of innovation as a console becomes established is on price and size. "Both are meaningful but don't make the games play any better," he said. "If you look at PC specifically and see the evolution that happens there, there's no reason why console can't ride that same curve."

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18 Comments

Andreia Quinta Creative & People Photographer, Studio52 London

257 733 2.9
Popular Comment
But if consoles were to ride the same curve, or a very similar curve, what reason would there be to pay premium for proprietary parts (I'm recollecting the prices for HDD's for the Xbox 360 since that's the closest comparison we have) when the PC market is much more open? Seems to me the PC is closer to a tabletop box/console now more than ever.
If the consumer is paying good money for proprietary parts or risk a newer game not running as smoothly as it could, why bother being in the console market since that'sone of the biggest perks of owning a console? It just works, without fiddling around with it.

That said, I might not be thinking outside the box here as much as I would like to. So please enlighten me.

Posted:3 months ago

#1
except that its been tried before and failed every time

Posted:3 months ago

#2

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,998 2,316 1.2
So, having lost the console-war, Microsoft try to redefine consoles/gaming as not as good as PCs, so they can sell... Bastardised PCs?
"You'll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation," he said, "allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform."
Other than that's one-hell-of-a-mouthful, isn't he just describing what Steamboxes are, but with less flexibility in the software? Due to UWP, "The same games to run [...] on top of the Universal Windows Platform." Soooo... Windows. But Microsoft's very specific Windows Store, with it's XBox branding and UWP (and DirectX 12) limitations.

I think this quote from PCGamer sums everything up. It's the very first sentence out of Phil Spencer's mouth:
I look at the work we’re doing on the platform as an enabler for us becoming relevant in PC gaming.
Everything is built around that focus, now, I would say.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 2nd March 2016 1:04pm

Posted:3 months ago

#3

Mats Holm Technical Writer, Electronic Arts

67 56 0.8
Microsoft did this without much ado last time around with the S and E models. I can see them doing the same thing here. More USB ports, an SSD HD, or maybe some extra RAM for speed reasons. Give it a year or two and we can have some 4K output (not for games, but for apps maybe?).

Posted:3 months ago

#4

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,447 1,808 1.2
Too much fragmentation: big problem
Being considered as having inferior hardware: bigger problem
Refreshing the hardware Apple style: financially intriguing

I am sure, there is a compromise to be found.

Posted:3 months ago

#5

Carl Hudson Studying Computer Science, University of Adelaide

72 87 1.2
Like a steam-box, but with windows? :) Hands up if you bought a steam-box?

Posted:3 months ago

#6

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,998 2,316 1.2
Like a steam-box, but with windows? :) Hands up if you bought a steam-box?
Hahah... :D

To be fair, if Microsoft had pushed Valve's idea of a Steam-box, it might've caught on. Which is why I'm worried about this UWP/Xbox bastardisation. :/

Posted:3 months ago

#7

Gareth Jones Software Engineer (Contract), Cisco Systems

63 194 3.1
Popular Comment
Microsoft seems to be missing the point here to a significant degree.

The last time they missed the point like this was when they released a DVR that you controlled by waving your hands at it. The result then was that they drove a significant proportion of their fanbase into the open arms of the PS4, me included.

As others have said, the whole point of a console is that:

a) developers can develop their games with a specific target in mind; and
b) gamers don't have to splash out on new hardware every 6 months.

Also, what happened to the idea that the Xbox would be supplemented with cloud-based computing (Azure), meaning that the console hardware itself would last 10+ years?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Gareth Jones on 3rd March 2016 11:59am

Posted:3 months ago

#8

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.

2,510 3,183 1.3
Apple: "They buy our hardware every year"

MS: "Hmmmmmm."

Posted:3 months ago

#9

Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises

501 341 0.7
This sounds good, my consoles always die after a couple years anyway. I'd rather replace them with a newer better version.

Posted:3 months ago

#10

Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer

289 143 0.5
Sorry, but that means I wouldn't buy a console anymore.. Also the advantage of longer cycles is the better understanding and usage of the hardware, which is just unused on PC's..

Posted:3 months ago

#11

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,557 1,582 0.6
Soooo... incremental improvements and a mobile business model? No thanks.

Posted:3 months ago

#12

Paul Jace Merchandiser

1,172 1,955 1.7
It certainly sounds interesting. I mean, something like this would have worked out much better for 3DS owners. Instead Nintendo told them that the "New 3DS" would be the only system capable of playing the 3DS version of Xenoblade Chronicles as well as certain future more powerful games. We're now roughly a year removed from the "New 3DS" launch and to the best of my knowledge Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is still the only game released so far that required the new hardware of the "New 3DS" to play on. If I were an original 3DS owner(I am) that bought the new system(I didn't) because I thought it would be my only way to play several up coming games I would be quite disappointed by now.

Microsoft is looking to avoid a similar situation with a hardware upgrade that would make new games still playable to owners of the non-upgraded hardware to avoid the embarrassing situation Nintendo caused some buyers. Again, this sounds interesting but can they really pull something like this off? Time will tell.

Posted:3 months ago

#13
Maybe what he says really is "please just get a f***ing PC, would save us so much trouble"...

Posted:3 months ago

#14

Sergio De Los Santos Senior Render Programmer, Frontier Development

10 12 1.2
I think what it means, is that you can buy your game for XBox, then play it on PC, XB1 or an upgraded version of the XBox. On PC, is the same as usual (but you buy on the Windows Store, not Steam), but for XBox it could mean that you play at 720p 30hz on the current XB1, but if you buy the new version you could play at 4k 60hz (to just give an example). Backward and forward compatibility in Consoles will allow people to just upgrade console and still play the same games, just with better graphics, just as we do on PC.

The difference is that for many people, a console is simpler and more convenient. You don't need to worry about the issues that you could have on PC, simple as that. So you can enjoy your current box, but maybe in a couple of years, you buy a UHD TV and you want a console that can give you UHD graphics (UHD is not 4k!!!). Just replacing the box can give you that. And if the updates come every 3 years or so, and keeping alive the previous one should be doable (that run games at lower resolution and graphics, but still the same game, just like an old PC can run new games today), it could still give a long life to a console, you don't need a new one to play games, but if you have one it will look nicer.

And yes, it's just like PC, but some people prefer a console, simple as that, call it convenience or simplicity, they don't want a full PC. They may even have one, like an ultrabook, just not powerful enough to play AAA games.

Also, for developers, targeting a new SKU for XBox shouldn't be a big deal, I mean we already have two consoles, and for those you need different APIs, so having a new SKU for an Windows/DirectX API console, that will just run on higher settings (which we develop for PC anyway), it should be easy to do. The worse part should be doing QA for another platform.

I think that if anyone an make it work, it's MS.

Posted:3 months ago

#15
Short of making a modular console, it's hard to imagine future proofing a console/PC that is immune to the rapid technological advances, which afford cramming more tech and material in a smaller footprint...thus necessitating a whole package upgrade anyways every few years

Posted:3 months ago

#16

Kevin Strange Developer Relations Account Manager, AMD

20 15 0.8
Full disclose, I work for the AMD Radeon Technologies Group (PC GCN GPU). I have no insight into what our Semicustom (custom GCN APU) team are discussing with Microsoft. (Or Sony)
So this is just me speculating comments with public info at hand (not confirming or leaking anything)

Upgrading the GPU while utilising the APU on older models whilst releasing more frequent consoles with new GCN APU/GPU hardware..
Is a lot more feasible for programmers who are now working with DX12, which is now on XBONE and PC.
Especially with explicit multiadapter which a lot of smart graphics programmers I follow on social are currently discussing (and Oxide are using in Ashes, one of the 1st DX12 games)
https://community.amd.com/community/gaming/blog/2015/08/10/directx-12-for-enthusiasts-explicit-multiadapter

X360 had a newer HDMI model release, perhaps they will release a more powerful XBONE model for 4K TV's as well as Hololense / VR headsets (see Oculus/Microsoft E3 announcement maybe it's more than just a controller) that still plays current XBONE games..
Maybe in the future even a USBC box/periferal for XBONE and PC especialy as chips get smaller, cheaper and more power efficient (14nm Polaris GCN and beyond)

Posted:3 months ago

#17

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

1,134 1,255 1.1
@Andrea
Beat me to it! Although it would be nice to have a 100% gaming dedicated system with 100% gaming focused specs, not sure if I would be in for upgrading both my PC and my consoles :S

Posted:3 months ago

#18

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