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Xbox Scorpio, PlayStation Neo an "incredibly positive evolution"

EA, Ubisoft and Take-Two discuss why Microsoft and Sony launching new consoles more quickly is a big win

While Sony wowed gamers at its E3 press conference this year with a barrage of impressive content, some would argue that it was Microsoft that made the biggest splash by choosing its press conference to announce not one, but two distinct console hardware upgrades that would be hitting the market in consecutive years (Xbox One S this year, Scorpio in 2017). Years from now, this may be the grand moment that we all point to as forever changing the evolution of the console business. Sony, too, is preparing a slight upgrade to PS4 with the still-to-be-unveiled Neo, and while it won't be as powerful as Scorpio, it's not a stretch to assume that Sony is already working on the next, more powerful PlayStation iteration as well. We can all kiss the five or six-year console cycle goodbye now, but the publishers we spoke to at E3 all believe that this is ultimately great for the console industry and the players.

The most important aspect of all of this is the way in which Sony and Microsoft intend to handle their respective audiences. Both companies have already said that players of the older hardware will not be left behind. The ecosystem will carry on, and that to EA global publishing chief Laura Miele is a very good thing, indeed.

"The idea that we would potentially not have an end of cycle and a beginning of cycle I think is a positive place for our industry"

Laura Miele

"I perceive it as upgrades to the hardware that will actually extend the cycle," she told me. "I actually see it more as an incredibly positive evolution of the business strategy for players and for our industry and definitely for EA. The idea that we would potentially not have an end of cycle and a beginning of cycle I think is a positive place for our industry to be and for all of the commercial partners as well as players.

"I have an 11-year-old son who plays a lot of games. We changed consoles and there are games and game communities that he has to leave behind and go to a different one. So he plays on multiple platforms depending on what friends he's playing with and which game he's going to play. So the idea that you have a more streamlined thoroughfare transition I think is a big win... things like backwards compatibility and the evolution," she continued.

"So it's not my perception that the hardware manufacturers are going to be forcing upgrades. I really see that they're trying to hold on and bring players along. If players want to upgrade, they can. There will be benefit to that. But it's not going to be punitive if they hold on to the older hardware... So we're thrilled with these announcements. We're thrilled with the evolution. We're thrilled with what Sony's doing, what Microsoft's doing and we think it's phenomenal. I think that is good for players. It'll be great for us as a publisher about how they're treating it."

Ubisoft's head of EMEA Alain Corre is a fan of the faster upgrade approach as well. "The beautiful thing is it will not split the communities. And I think it's important that when you've been playing a game for a lot of years and invested a lot of time that you can carry on without having to start over completely again. I think with the evolution of technology it's better than what we had to do before, doing a game for next-gen and a different game from scratch for the former hardware. Now we can take the best of the next console but still have super good quality for the current console, without breaking the community up. We are quite big fans of this approach," he said.

Corre also noted that Ubisoft loves to jump on board new technologies early (as it's done for Wii, Kinect, VR and now Nintendo NX with Just Dance), and its studios enjoy being able to work with the newest tech out there. Not only that, but the new consoles often afford publishers the opportunity to build out new IP like Steep, he said.

"We will for sure get there as an industry. We will get to the point where the hardware becomes a backdrop"

Strauss Zelnick

"Each time there's a new machine with more memory then our creators are able to bring something new and fresh and innovate, and that's exciting for our fans who always want to be surprised. So the fact that Microsoft announced that they want to move forward to push the boundaries of technology again is fantastic news. Our creators want to go to the limit of technology to make the best games they can... so the games will be better in the years to come which is fantastic for this industry. And at Ubisoft, it's also in our DNA to be [supportive] early on with new technology. We like taking some risks in that respect... We believe in new technology and breaking the frontiers and potentially attracting new fans and gamers into our ecosystem and into our brands," Corre continued.

Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick pointed out the continuity in the communities as well. "The ecosystems aren't shifting as much. We essentially have a common development architecture now that's essentially a PC architecture," he said. And if the console market truly is entering an almost smartphone like upgrade curve, "It would be very good for us obviously. To have a landscape...where you put a game out and you don't worry about it," he commented, "the same way that when you make a television show you don't ask yourself 'what monitor is this going to play on?' It could play on a 1964 color television or it could play on a brand-new 4K television, but you're still going to make a good television show.

"So we will for sure get there as an industry. We will get to the point where the hardware becomes a backdrop. And sure, constantly more powerful hardware gives us an opportunity but it would be great to get to a place where we don't have a sine curve anymore, and I do see the sine curve flattening but I'm not sure I agree it's going away yet... That doesn't change any of our activities; we still have to make the very best products in the market and we have to push technology to its absolute limit to do so."

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Latest comments (21)

Im not sure if this is going to be a real positive for the industry. Perhaps if Sony allows you to trade in your current ps4 for a large credit towards the new neo, some of the pain could be relieved.

Otherwise I dont know what universe and economy these industry heads are living in, must be nice in their bubble, but out in the real world I see almost an entire world economy in recession or teetering on one. Debt is everywhere, and the last thing many struggling families and people need is to upgrade a console they just bought in the last year or so. People in the bubble seem to act as if the US economy is OK, umm.. as for unforeseen expenses
In fact, about 63 percent of Americans say they're unable to handle a $500 car repair or a $1,000 emergency room bill, according to a new survey from Bankrate.com.
that quote was from January and things are only getting worse. So personally I think its bad timing to try this experiment of mid gen re up.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 27th June 2016 5:03pm

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Richard Sutton Studying Bachelor of Science - Computing and I.T., Open UniversityA year ago
Just to point out, Nintendo have taken this approach for years with their portable hardware and their home consoles arguably follow a similar strategy.
Though it obviously works, the New 3Ds still seems to sell worse than the 3ds. And fans are getting fed up of shelling out for a slight upgrade.
I see the positives of keeping the same architecture, but if it's a matter of memory and processing power only, and if it makes guaranteeing a stable play experience even harder, what advantages do the consoles have over modern, heavily standardised PCs?
Obviously, this might be a direction Microsoft intend to follow anyway, but Sony will start making even less profit from hardware.
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Emmanuel Dorée Studying Software Engineering, Open UniversityA year ago
I totally understand these companies look forward to this evolution but for the players I don't think it's all pink:
Before buying a console guaranteed you all the games without concession for 5-7 years. Now how long before your machine does not play the games well or does not play them any more? Who knows.
Before the developers were really bringing out the best of your machine meaning by the end of the generation the games looked out of this world. Now will they really bother pushing the hardware? Not sure.
Like Richard Sutton said above, why not get a PC where at least the upgrades are modular and not dictated by a few actors? And indeed how can you be confident refreshing your console knowing new models will release now every 2/3 years.
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Show all comments (21)
James Stanard Senior SDE, MicrosoftA year ago
People should look at it this way: a new console cycle is bad for gamers on a budget because they know that new content for their aging system is going to slow to a trickle and eventually stop. They will be stuck playing older games until they spring for a new console. This new paradigm we're seeing doesn't have this problem. Games for Xbox One and PS4 aren't going to slow to a trickle any time soon. Both Scorpio and Neo reportedly will require that games also work on older hardware. So early adopters aren't forced to upgrade, nor are their first-round consoles becoming obsolete. They are just the new low-end configuration on a spectrum of devices. We didn't have to throw out our 1080p TVs when 4K TVs came out. 1080p is still completely acceptable. And if you can't afford a 4K TV, what point is there in springing for a Neo or Scorpio anyway? They just make the graphics prettier, but they are completely optional. Arguably, the extra power is possibly intended to make VR better, but once again, if you can't afford these new boxes, how can you afford a VR headset? But if you do have money and want to experience VR, perhaps a powerful console designed for VR is more cost effective than building a PC. I don't see anybody losing here, especially not the gamers.
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I don't see anybody losing here, especially not the rich gamers.
missed a word. Fixed it for you.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 28th June 2016 12:36am

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Bob Johnson Studying graphics design, Northern Arizona UniversityA year ago
Don't see the concerns at all.

The industry needs to go this direction because the risk of new hardware is so great. The cost of doing everything all over again every generation is such a drain. The customer will ultimately like this direction more as well. They won't have to start over either. They don't have to upgrade. New games will still be backwards compatible for (at least) the usual 5-7 years still because of the economics of catering to the largest install base. Pcgaming has shown this is what is going to happen. And btw customers don't have to wait for the console makers to bring their UI feature set back up to where it was last gen. The transition will be much smoother.

It's really the best of both worlds. There is still a very fixed set of hardware to develop for. Twice as many console models is still equivalent to 0 compared to the number of pc configs out there.

I think much of this is customer driven as well because, as far as the PS4 and X1 consoles go, the experience is defined mostly by the graphics. Thus the ability to get better graphics even sooner than before is something a ton of customer will desire.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bob Johnson on 28th June 2016 6:15am

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing A year ago
Think about what this will do to used hardware prices. Every upgraded hardware essentially generates one hardware unit entering the used market. It seems Microsoft will release Scorpio quite some time after Sony releases Neo, giving Sony a headstart when it comes to increasing their userbase by means of cheap used consoles. This might explain why Microsoft changed its focus on promoting the Xbox as a platform; trying to generate lot's of PC f2p users with special PC versions. Console wars are over, long live the platform wars.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.A year ago
At what point do MS and Sony tell developers that Model a56sd4f is the new baseline for development? They can't keep releasing new boxes and maintain the same "all games must run on the original base X1 or PS4" position forever.

And what's going to be the selling point of the new new system (PS5 or X2)? Certainly not 4K now and VR now.
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James TerryA year ago
Of course they are going to raise their baseline eventually, just like Apple does.

The last PS1 title came out in October 2004, even though the PS2 came out in March 2000, and the last PS2 title came out in November 2013, with the PS3 coming out in November 2006.

There are developers and markets that will continue supporting an old baseline years after its successor comes out, and there will be developers on the cutting edge. So long as Sony/MS make a mandate that you support hardware that is at least 5 years old, you have customer trust that their system can play every game that comes out for the next 5 years, even if it looks or plays better on better hardware.
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Jordan Lund Columnist A year ago
The piece that's lost here is that we've been through this before... (puts on gamer historian hat):

Right now the push is for newer technology, 4K and VR. A few generations ago the new technology push was, get this, compact disc!

Sega and NEC both came out with CD attachments for their consoles, but at the time there were a whole host of other systems built to try to capitalize on CDs. This was all in the period between the Sega Genesis, SNES and Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64.

In that brief period of time we saw, come and go, the CD attachments for the Genesis and TurboGrafx, the 3DO (two variations on this), the Phillips CDi, the Pioneer Laseractive, the Tandy VIZ, the Atari Jaguar with CD attachment, the Amiga CD and CD32, the failure to launch of the Apple Pippin, the notorious Sega 32X. All of these failed. Nothing caught on until the release of the Sony Playstation in 1994/1995.

This sort of 1/2 generation is what's going on now, to a smaller extent, with the VR platforms. Sony and Microsoft both know their current machines don't have the power for VR, so they're putting out new hardware to work with Playstation VR, Oculus Rift and others. Each chasing to be the dominant player in the space.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jordan Lund on 28th June 2016 6:28pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing A year ago
@klaus The Xbox as a platform is so they can use the high PC penetration in Europe and Asia, traditionally weak markets for Xbox, into their ecosystem.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! A year ago
As someone who actually talks to fellow gamers (most of whom are on budgets or have other financial responsibilities outside gaming, which is getting more expensive on consoles), there's a LOT of confusion and dislike on this new set of systems on the way. "Why so soon?" is what I hear on the street from people who had no issues with a PS3 or 360 for about a decade. A bunch have indeed moved on to PS4 and Xbox One, but there's a good deal of hesitation I'm hearing on cyclical upgrading as a thing to get attached to.

Inside the industry, there's a lot of nodding and smiling and forecasting of great things down the pike. On the real world side, it's a lot of thinking gaming has gone the Apple route where you need to buy a new system to replace the (not at all) "old" one as a mandate of some sort.

As for "just build a PC", which I see a lot of comments about online... Sure, fine. But the reality is not everyone has that patience, time and money to shop around, grab some parts, find a "clean room" to assemble and maintain, and so forth and so on. I have a few other concerns and issues (how long will he VR train last? Will AR take attention away? Can we have both (yes) and still keep interest up on both for an extended period until the next new fad comes along, et cetera), but I'm willing to keep an open mind and be proven dead wrong on anything.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 28th June 2016 10:44pm

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Jason Alexander Level Designer A year ago
Wouldn't "poor" gamers just continue playing new games on their regular PS4/Xbox Ones and hold off on upgrading? Which is the same thing they would normally do anyway under the "traditional" console model?

Beyond just the emotional reaction to "I don't have the latest and greatest!" I don't see what really changes for them. PS4/Xbox One games will still play on both, they'll still have access to the same online population, but their graphics might look a bit worse than the other version. And since PS4/Xbox One graphics are already a bit worse than PC versions, that's not really a new problem either.

The only way criticisms of this make any sense is if somehow there's a requirement to upgrade immediately to access new games, and all the evidence so far seems to go against that happening (unless we're talking about VR games on Scorpio, which wasn't a part of the Xbox One anyway). Now maybe in 2020 or something, the original PS4/Xbox One may be left behind, but that's around the same point a new console generation would've left them behind anyway, so nothing's changed there either.
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Beyond just the emotional reaction to "I don't have the latest and greatest!" I don't see what really changes for them.
The latest and greatest emotional sentiment runs strong in tech, very strong.. But beyond that, so many are missing the point.

You are now going to have two sets of users/consumers in each console camp. Many here suggest,that the neo/Scorp will just basically be tied two the lower dominator since everything still has to play on both, so why should the regular user worry. But if that is the case then it will be the people who buy the upgrade that will be pissed. See you cant have it both ways.

its either
1) The upgrade does very little except do a minimum upgrade visually (after viewing from more than a few feet away) and does nothing much for VR, so the upgraders get screwed and the regular user has nothing to moan about...or
2) The upgrade does allow for better gaming experience, both graphically, FPS wise, and for VR, and so in comparison the regular user are getting a poorer gaming experience per same game, in which the regular user will be pissed that the console they just recently purchased is already supplying them with a lesser gaming experience.

SO it has to one or the other. Does the upgrader feel screwed, or does the regular user feel screwed. You cant have it both ways. Some one is going to feel screwed, and as a business that's not what you want your consumers to feel.

Consoles have had a 7-8 year product cycle for many years, This allows the earlier adopters and the wealthier people to jump on in the first couple years, and it allows others to save up so that they buy in, in year 3, or 4 and now they too enjoy the TOP console and enjoy the best consoles has to offer, all while knowing that the console they just bought will still be the best for a another 2 or 3 years etc etc. The cycle is known by the consumer.
If you start messing with the cycle, you start messing with your consumer perception and expectation. If consoles cut the life cycle in half, which will not allow the average console consumer to save and buy, Console Makers are playing with fire. This is how you destroy your own product line.

Look at what I wrote above. In the US, the richest country on the planet. 63% of americans dont even have enough money set aside for a $500 unexpected car repair..... think about that. This generation coming up is going to live worse than the one before it. Console makers have failed quite a bit in video gaming history, and its almost always their own fault.

Edited 6 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 29th June 2016 12:50am

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! A year ago
Look at what I wrote above. In the US, the richest country on the planet. 63% of americans don't even have enough money set aside for a $500 unexpected car repair..... think about that. This generation coming up is going to live worse than the one before it. Console makers have failed quite a bit in video gaming history, and its almost always their own fault.
@Todd: That ball you hit just cleared Mars. Good shot.

The idea that a large enough percentage of gamers coming up as well as current ones thinking of investing in these consoles can afford to keep upgrading EVERY bit of tech over shorter periods of time is mildly insane. One reason the last gen lasted so long was a sense of reliability (er, system failure rates aside, of course) and value seen thanks to both the 360 and PS3 getting decent content on a fairly regular basis and older titles getting price drops (and later, bundled into some great multi-disc sets). Not to mention the huge used games market that got many playing stuff at even bigger discounts.

Again, we'll see how this goes and I have the crow pot pies in the freezer to munch on if I'm proven wrong. But my money (and there ain't a lot of it these days) says some will be shocked (shocked, I say!) that targets aren't being met past the early adopters and collectors doing what they do best.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing A year ago
There are millions of customers that upgrade their systems for bigger hard drives. Having two consoles, and only two in a cycle isn't such a bad idea. As long as each console experiences full support for 5-6 years people won't be too mad in the end.

This is the big thing. No one will care about VR with a $1000 buy-in. $5-600 tops.

I also predict that cell phone style purchases, full price up front or $30ish a month including Gold or Plus is definitely in the cards. Don't pay? They already have the power to brick your console remotely or just let it time out if you're on subscription.

I know Microsoft is looking at it, I'm not sure if Sony is there mentally yet but I bet they'll get on board real quick once they are. How many people do you know would take a fully equipped VR system today for $100 down and $25 a month for 2-3 years?

If there's one consumer trend I see over and over and over again is that the concept of saving for something is entirely alien. "I bought Vizio because I can't afford Sony". When you suggest they save another six months you get glassy stares. People have eighteen months warning to save for Scorpio. I saved two years for my HDTV upgrade. I put aside money for six months for new consoles. I pre-plan and save for PC upgrades. People are used to these plans with their phones, and the bonus with this is that like cars, they'll have plenty of systems coming off lease for the lower end and casual consumer.

Not saying it will happen, just that it makes a ton of sense. Personally I'd I were GameStop, I'd be very eager to be at the heart of it.
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James Stanard Senior SDE, MicrosoftA year ago
In the US, the richest country on the planet. 63% of americans don't even have enough money set aside for a $500 unexpected car repair.
Citation needed. Besides, that leaves over 100 million Americans who do have money set aside. And was that American families or American citizens? Last I checked, more than half of Americans are children who don't set aside money for car payments. I think what matters is households that can afford an expensive hobby. The reality is that the global economy is in recession (a debatable fact), and there is less spending money to go around. But not making new products to entice people to spend is only going to contribute to a recession. The video game industry employs a lot of people, and these efforts to expand the market and "win the console war" are also an investment in people that is good for the economy. I'm sure Microsoft and Sony want everyone to be able to afford their game systems which is why they do price reducing programs, maintain older, cheaper consoles, and loyalty rewards like free games on Xbox Live/PS Plus. If Microsoft said, "Here is the Scorpio! It will be $600, not backwards compatible, and it completely replaces Xbox One.", then I think we can raise our pitch forks and pronounce the console is dead.
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Jordan Lund Columnist A year ago
Quick reminder: The reason the PS3/Xbox 360 generation ran long wasn't because of system love or reliability.

It was because of the financial crash in 2008, right when the big companies would start planning the next generation. Money dried up, loans were hard to get and as a result the Xbox One/PS4 generation was delayed a few years.

The previous generation was artificially and accidentally extended, it wasn't intentional.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! A year ago
Jordan: Of course it wasn't intentional... and it wasn't "artificial" at all, either. People didn't STOP buying games for those "old" consoles when new ones didn't arrive when they "should" have. The average Joe Gamer (also hit by that recession) was most likely less interested in a new console than making sure they could buy what was coming on the one(s) they already owned. You need to look at this OUTSIDE the "I'm in the industry" mindset where everything is charts, graphs and projections that never pan out properly and get rejiggered into different positions over time.
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Nick Parker Consultant A year ago
The last generation was also extended because of online OS/firmware up-dates, not available in previous generations and additional media such as Netflix, catch-up TV channels and movies that maintained the console where it was in the home.
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, AzoomeeA year ago
This isn't going to suit everyone, but I believe its the right direction for 'the console', even more so with the architecture they're using.
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