Will The Next Xbox Be A PC?

Will the next generation of Xbox simply be a PC?

Stop and think about it for a minute before shouting “no” at this article. It’s something that’s been playing on my mind now for some time and I think it’s inevitable and makes sense that Microsoft merge the two platforms.

I think I need to lay the following fact on the table before continuing. I own all consoles and play games most evenings, plus I love the current generation of consoles and what they have done over the past 4+ years in developing the games we all play, but I think that right here, right now, both the Playstation3 and the Xbox 360 are holding back video games because parts of their abilities are showing its age.

OK, so we all know how both Sony & Microsoft (and Nintendo to a lesser extent) have been aiming for the all conquering single box that will take over your living room and be your entertainment hub for just about everything but in my opinion both consoles have one major flaw that will prevent them from becoming that single box. What is it I hear you ask?  The ability to upgrade the key power components i.e. graphics, sound and processor.

The Xbox 360 is over 4 years old, and the Playstation3 over 3 years old and the graphics are starting to look dated in all but the AAA++ games.  Uncharted 2 and God of War 3 are both stunning looking games but due to the low resolution both games are displayed in, the games don’t look as good as they would on a power gaming PC.  I played Modern Warfare 2 on both the PC and Xbox 360, and the PC version simply walks all over the Xbox 360 version in terms of visuals. You have the ability to connect an Xbox 360 controller to the PC and you can connect a PC directly to most modern TVs, so why would you not play it on a PC?

Standard internet services that we all take for granted on PC are being developed and rolled out regularly on PSN and Xbox Live!, e.g. Facebook and Twitter integration, general browsing.  Instead of wasting money developing ways to push these features onto our consoles, would the research and development time not be better spent on bringing the gaming to the PC?

I guess the game that has pushed me over the edge to write this article is Gears Of War 3.  We’re all waiting around for the official announcement later today but does anyone really expect it to look much better than Gears of War 2?  They are working with and developing the game on the same hardware that they developed the original game on over 4 and a half years ago. By the time the game gets released it’ll be April 2011 so the console will be 5 and a half years old.  When the PlayStation 2 was 5 and a half years old, just how many gamers considered the major releases to be cutting edge on the old trusty PS2?

In those 5 and a half years, how many people will have changed or upgraded their PC?  Multicore processors are the standard for a home PC, graphics cards have progressed at least 2 generations
since the current crop of consoles hit the shelves.  Windows 7 has been a roaring success for Microsoft and the world has quickly forgot about Vista.  In short, I believe that PCs are once again king in terms of raw power and should be capable of improving the games that we will all be playing in 2010.

The so called upgrades that we are being offered this year are potentially nothing more than attempts to muscle in on the casual gaming market, currently dominated by the Nintendo Wii.  Natal and Move are add-ons, a new way to control games. Not having experienced them first hand I may be speaking out of turn but these motion controls do not increase the power of the machine therefore the games themselves will not break through the next level of graphical realism.

I’m sure many of you who have read this far are fuming and are ready to call me a PC fanboy because you think that console games look so good these days but answer this question…what’s next? Where are the improvements going to come from? No new consoles have been announced so we could be stuck with the ones were have now for the next 5 years.

Back to answering my opening question, “Will the next generation of Xbox simply be a PC?”

Microsoft could have identified that they would have to market a gaming PC as their main platform for the next generation a long time ago. So they introduced Games For Windows which has been improving with each version.  Who is to say that the Xbox 720 will be a standalone machine, why could it not simply be released as an add-on for a PC?

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  • Razzle

    Off topic but tag overload?

  • Ben Lehman(wargamer17)

    I see what you are geting at. Microsoft is a software company and have worked so much on Windows. The games look and with the right hardware run great on PC’s. Since they also make the Xbox 360, why can’t they make an affordable high powered PC with the Xbox brand and firmware? I think partly that is the reason there. They make software and rely on third party hardware but it could be done. They could even make it more customizable such has HDD for one thing like the PS3 but also other common upgrade components that PC users tend to upgrade. It isn’t a hard thing to do when you think about it, but with the Xbox as a standalone console without third party upgrades, it’s such a major cashflow avenue. If they just provided a customizable software and hardware unit like a PC, they’d lose a lot of money compared to what they have now on the 360. Anyways, I think it’s a great idea, but it all comes down to how the company makes money and constantly makes it from the user of their product and first party software/hardware.

  • Mark Withers. (MarkWithers)

    I’m expecting someone to hit me with the old argument that a high end PC costs around £1000 compared to £300 for an Xbox360 Elite but even a £500 PC should better the Xbox on paper.

    It’s food for thought and I’m hoping to read everyones thoughts and comments as in a couple of years time we could all be sitting infront of our XboxPC

  • Reggie

    It seems your entire argument is based solely on graphics. For that reason, I doubt it will happen. Also, if they wanted to come out with a gaming pc they would’ve already. And like a previous commenter said, they would likely lose money with 3rd party upgrade add-ons. They’ll stick to consoles. I see no reason for them to do this, there’s no benefit. Sure, graphics max out at a point in a console’s life time but games aren’t solely about graphics.

    • Mark Withers. (MarkWithers)

      My argument did focus heavily on the graphics side but I mentioned the general new features e.g facebook being sqeezed onto our consoles albeit, I only mentioned them briefly as I did not want the article to be too longwinded.

      Games are most definately not about graphics but I hate to see anything going stale and without the potential and available power to improve the graphics in anyway then that side of the game will go nowhere.

      Everything needs to be looking to improve as nothing is perfect.

      Many of my friends are migrating back to PCs for the very reasons I mentioned. Their small factor powerful gaming PC is hooked up to their TV and they have all the gaming glory they need and they can hook an xbox 360 controller up if they please and log into Games for Windows (or steam).

      I should have explored the arguement more but I guess what I was getting at is that a large percentage of the games are multiplatform and available on a PC. if you have the same luxury of sitting in your living room, using the same controller, with improved graphics, then why not use a PC?

      • Jack

        actually i feel tht since the ps3s and 360’s release the graphics on the consoles have improved massively and from my perspective ps2 games improved massively up to about the ps3’s release, and games often force upgrades on you with pc ect and it often costs a fortune to upgrade, i’ll stick with consoles, my ps3 still looks and feels amazing with the AAA exclusives often looking better thn all but maybe crysis and i prefer the sepreta network system for messages ect without having to give them my real name ect for msn!

  • Jon

    I think the real problem and deciding factor is the problem Microsoft is facing right now, that is the problem of storage. With Sony win over the disc market (Blueray) Microsoft has as of yet, nowhere to run with higher quality gaming. With the newer games, and the demand for HD graphics, where will Microsoft hold the data? Sony will never give up the right for Microsoft to use the Blueray technology so they will never be able to compete unless they create a new system or a new disc. Sure, they could make a PC that could store the games, but then they would have to increase the price of this “XboxPC” to compensate for the cost of all the space required to hold the games. Unfortunately I don’t think Microsoft is in any position as of right now to be making headway. PS3>PC>Xbox360. The reason why I say this is because: A) Sony (PS3) has the capability in their hardware as well as the disc system necessary to create high quality games at an affordable cost. B) PC’s are very powerful, far more powerful then the PS3 but the cost is FAR to great to expect everyone to run out and buy that $1500.00 machine. Secondly the programmers for PC’s are slackers, they don’t create the games to their fullest potential. They are in it for the quick cash. C) Xbox360 is less powerful than either of the two machines listed above. They lack the storage necessary and they have no where to go as of right now.

    Please, I urge people to debate this. I find it entertaining and I like to see other peoples views on the matter. Bring news to me if I am “misled”.

    • Mark Withers. (MarkWithers)

      thanks for the comments Jon, Well thought out points and like you I’m really interested to hear everyones thoughts on this as the Xbox360 is my favourite console but I have a 250Gb hard drive and i feel like the space i have is not enough so for the gamers with no hard drive at all Microsoft need to come up with something and fast to combat the storage problem they have. Just another reason I thought I’d throw the idea out there that an addon for a PC might be a good option for them as storage would be unlimited and it could always tap into extra available RAM etc.

  • Volomon

    I’m not even sure where to begin really, does the author mean PC as in beyond what it already is? Xbox360 is already a computer, for the longest time PS2 was called Computer Entertainment hell Sony was often referred to as Sony Computer Entertainment, in fact it might still be. These are console computers affordable computers for entertainment. Hell PS3 use to have linux on it.

    A PC is a personal computer meant for more than entertainment. A console is a computer meant for entertainment.

    So what is exactly is the author even saying here?

    Essentially the only real difference is the projected profit margin which keeps component price down on the console. Consoles are also secured meaning they can’t keep up with PCs in the first place. When a console is planned it takes years for it to come out during this time PCs again will surpass the console.

    What the author is asking is impossible it’s like asking if the next car will fly because flying is so much better. It honestly does not make sense to anyone with any knowledge of the industry or of the hardware.

  • Lucas

    I totally agree that in terms of pure technology consoles technically hold things because because the hardware itself becomes dated.

    I admit the PC is by far a better platform in terms of graphics/ games generally.

    Nevertheless I still prefer my console. Why? Because it means when I shell out £200-300 it will have a lasting value.

    I do not want a PC where I have to upgrade my G-card every year just because my PC won’t handle the latest game! It costs too much, and makes each g-card purchase very very short term = bad value for money.

    Console guarantees me 5-7 years worth of good quality games. Therefore better value for money, even if it is arguably holding tech back.

    • Martin

      I disagree. My PC is running a quad core at 2.6 and a GForce XFX 260 Black Edition, with 2 gigs of DDR3 running at 2 gigs. It came out to 1,600. Years later, Im still playing everything maxxed out and super smooth frames. In another year or 2 i add another G card 260 which will be waayy cheaper then, as well as 2 more gigs of ram, and I will still be trumping next gen consoles. The whole upgrade every year is BS. Its basically every console cycle, for the same price yet way better performance

      • Martin

        Also i feel i should add I have a 60 gig 360 and 80 gig i think it is, PS3, but i just use em for exclusives. As for the arguments about HDD and graphics, i agree. Console graphics are outdated for the exceptions of a few excellent titles such as God of War 3. They are holding back development when it comes to multi-platform games. Yes its not just the graphics but think of the enviorments, physics, etc.. The CPU of a 360 can only handle so much physics, it has to borrow from the GPU. Read this article on Halo 2 and how the developers said the XBOX held back how H2 should have been.

        If they want to keep with their consoles and what not, its time they made new ones

  • Mark Withers. (MarkWithers)

    now we’re hotting up. Lets keep this debate going guys.

    “A PC is a personal computer meant for more than entertainment. A console is a computer meant for entertainment.” Tell that to Sony and Microsoft as they seem hell bent on delivering a onestop system that satisfies everyone.

    All criticism is welcomed, even negative.

  • Mark Withers. (MarkWithers)

    @Volomon. I simply asking if the next logical step in console evolution is basically a PC as they are so close now with consoles desperately trying to be a PC.

  • Mark Withers. (MarkWithers)

    also one last point that i should have included in the article.

    Assume the next generation of consoles are not even going to be announced until 2012. that means this generation will be 7 years old, what other piece of technology can claim to be a leader in its field at 7 years old.

    • Jon

      Well, as we saw with the PS2 as well as the Xbox (although not as much as the PS2), the PC took the lead; as the consoles become older the PC has a chance to increase its popularity. During these times you can see a major rise in PC gaming, in sales for games as well as hardware. It’s not talked about very much but people get tired of playing on the older games and go for the new graphic intense games, which can be found on the PC when the consoles become older and “obsolete”.

      People will still be playing the PS3 and the Xbox360 at that point but a lot of the hardcore gamers will be “switching” or making use of their PC’s more at that point. It’s very difficult to tell where things will go from here.

  • Me

    I get sick of seeing comments ebout upgrading graphics cards every year.

    I bought a gaming rig for Crysis 1500 CND. I was able to play Crysis at the second highest resolution with all the graphic settings on full with the exception of AA. It was only 8x not 16x. If I was using XP at the time I could have ran it with eveything at full.

    Anyway my point is that in 3 years I have not had a game that I could not play at full graphics. I know of only one or two games that I might have trouble with.

    When I bought that machine an Xbox was around 500 and a PS 3 was around six.

    I do own an Xbox now and use it only as a media extender and for hockey.

  • bill

    PC game developers are slackers? Having worked in several software houses making both PS3 and PC games I can honestly say that is BS. Its down the person and the studio manager. I’m no developer but was a lead QA on AAA PC and PS3 games so can be a little objective about this.

  • For me, not having to drop a bunch of cash on upgrading hardware every 6 months is the whole reason I am a console gamer.

    I used to be a PC gamer back in the day, but I simply HATE being excited for a new game, and then realizing it looks like shit on my PC and I have to go spend 300-1000 dollars to have it look any better.

    I love the fact that with an Xbox, PS3, or Wii, I know that I will be able to put that disc in my system and it will run like it was intended to. That I’m getting the same level of quality that everyone else who plays that game on a console is getting.

    I believe that PC gaming can offer higher visual quality than a console experience. But it also means more expense and more tinkering. For a lot of people, it’s just not worth it.

    • NPG

      I agree with this guy!

      Well said!

      It’s all about popping in the disk, firing the game up and playing the damn thing. You know in advance exactly the quality to expect.

      And I don’t believe that the xbox or ps3 are at their potential, yet. Let’s compare Halo 1 vs. 2. Or Perfect Dark Zero vs. Halo Reach, or Brink, or any of the new 360 titles. Big jumps.. And actually I remember Ghost Hunter for the ps2 was an awesome looking game that arrived at the end of the life cycle.

      Although new machines being released q3/4 2011 would be nice.

  • axel

    The Blu-Ray Association had the Microsoft Xbox brand cornered against a brick wall in 2008.
    Though its it worked for the PC, M$ has no other way but to go Full Digital Download route.
    Since it was their business from the start anyway against optical disc why not go all the way?
    But yes, the console storage problem needs to be solved.

  • Bobby

    Some people have hit on this point already but… what you view as weaknesses are actually what make consoles popular. The majority of gamers don’t want to upgrade anything. They want a box that they can get and play for years without having to make any changes. They do not want a game to come out that makes them have to open up their box and replace something. As long as console graphics look good, and no one can say they look bad, then 80% of console gamers aren’t even going to consider a PC.

    Also, developers must love consoles. They get to make a game that will look exactly the same for everyone that plays it(the only exception being HD and SD). They don’t have to worry that half the Xbox owners haven’t upgraded their processor so now their audience is cut in half.

    With the number of console gamers rising and PC gamers falling I doubt the next move for consoles will to become more like the box they are beating.

  • I can never see this happening because Microsoft has spent a lot of time building the Xbox brand and if they launch a XboxPC it will be confusion for the customers who pick up consoles for casual play.

  • Charlie

    This is a very interesting and clever thought however there is one driving force that encourages people to game using the home console – Component swapping.

    No one wants to own a XBOX 720 with a copy of Halo 6 in their hand and on the case it says ‘Must have Microsoft InsaneGFX 9000 graphics card installed to play this game’

    This is why people get consoles. They buy the console, get the game and you’re good to go. No need to spend money on more things in order to get going.

    Whilst this article is fantastic and you put many valid points, this is why Microsoft would never consider component swapping on a home console.

    Microsoft need to bring out the XBOX 720 with a powerful processor and graphics card that completely outclasses the PS3 – WITH A GOOD FAN. They also need to make the controllers not need battery – come with a rechargable cable. Whether they go Blu-ray, there own optical disk or digital is anyones guess however.

  • Jim

    The main difference between consoles and PCs (while there are many) is where it is used. Console gaming is about living-room enjoyment, while PCs remain in offices, dens, libraries, etc. Very few people actually keep their PC hooked up to the living-room TV, because computing is not practical in a living-room environment. Except for hardcore gamers (which the industry barely caters too) the target demographic is families and the casual gamer, and they want a relatively inexpensive, family oriented, centrally located system. The “one box” idea is the taregt–yes; too include movies, music, games, social activities, etc. While game consoles are becoming more “PC” like, I don’t believe we’ll see them simply become PCs themselves. Families aren’t going to want to purchase multiple PCs for different purposes, and then have to buy upgrades for all of them. Consoles are easy, not overly technical gaming systems.

  • Qaiz

    Great article guys 😀 But I don’t see it happening.First of all who makes the Xbox? Microsoft.
    Oh and who makes the operating system you use on your PC? Microsoft.

    It is this reason that they wont do it.It would be cutting a huge hole in Microsoft’s profits and install base.Also if consoles didn’t exists,do you think bluray would be as popular as it is now?The ps3 made bluray what it is,and the ps2 made dvd what it is.

    Consoles provide cheap and quick fun,plug and play,no questions asked.

    What I believe they should do is bring the PC to the console,make all the PC features integrate in to the console,as the PC gets smaller.

    Graphics don’t actually look bad on a console,its just the PC looks better.

    Also think about it this way, Sony are making a huge loss with a ps3 even with the 512 ram and the old gpu,its also this reason why the hardware wont get any better,but because the games are made to run on that configuration,they work without haste,and with things like Project Natal, PlayStation Move and wii motion plus,gaming will change,forget the gui,its all about the nui 😀

  • warriorpain

    the xbox360 is shit.

    • Jim

      Thanks for bringing your insightfulness to the discussion.

  • tom

    no way next console will be a pc. upgrade and games developed for it will make everyone else upgrade there machine to play, ridicules. that is why i buy console is for the simple play and every 8 or so years upgrade for the better tech not every few years.

  • Bunkai

    All of this talk about “having” to upgrade your video card if you’re a PC gamer is BS. That requirement is actually due to the game developers and not because it’s a PC vs. a console.

    Developers MUST develop their graphics for newly released console games to require no more demand from the hardware than previous games because of the lack of upgrade capability.

    They don’t, however, have that restriction for PCs because new hardware capability is released frequently. That allows the developers to create more impressive graphics capabilities in their newer games.

    PC gamers don’t have to upgrade if they don’t want (or can’t afford) to, but that doesn’t mean that it costs them quality. Just because a new game can take advantage of newer graphic hardware power, playing it with it’s video settings turned down doesn’t mean that it looks worse than a game that’s 2 years old with max video settings.

    The idea of required upgrades is an idea of perception vs. reality. If specific benchmark numbers were used, that would be much more easy to see.

  • Axe99

    As a few others have mentioned, the beauty of console gaming is get disk, put it in machine and it goes. Sometimes there might be a patch, but there’s _never_ a driver conflict or a registry error. Your gamepad doesn’t sometimes not work for certain games and you get to see the game as it was displayed in a console demo, rather than get a PC game running at half the resolution as the demo done on a $2000 gaming rig.

    I started off gaming on PC, but I got tired of upgrades, driver clashes, having to re-image systems and the like. Console gaming is just easier – you spend more time gaming and less time messing about with a complicated rig that bugs out a quarter of the time (I still play my strategy on PC, and it still gives me the same old problems, fairly regularly).

    That, and you tend to get more bugs on PC games because they have to deal with ridiculous numbers of iterations of different types of hardware set-ups. And producing an upgradeable console will give you that problem, while splintering the audience. I don’t think PC gaming will die, but I think it will become more niche as most gamers are just that – they want to game, rather than mess around with an expensive rig and a temperamental OS.

  • DonCiclon

    I think alot of you are missing the point. Microsoft doesn’t have to make an XboxPC,

    They already have.

    Console’s are becoming more and more like PC’s, maybe even surpassing most rigs.

    As computing components become cheaper they’ll be able to build a console with a 1TB hard drive/RAM (yea i’m exaggerating, for now anyways), and a decent cpu and/or gpu (i believe they’ll be merged someday), and BAM! you have a PC. Slap some “Compatible with Windows 8” stickers on there -while still being able to play games on its own, and you got urself a ucking license to print money. you merge the platforms aswell. and you kill to rocks with one bird.

    IF you can add in a chance to upgrade, go for it. If not, maybe next generation. but i think it’s that time for us.

    I’m part of the Sony camp mind you. Don’t even own a 360. (have a decent rig thou 😉 **gtx 275 sli baby***) but i do feel microsoft is definitely saving a special nail for a special coffin. (imagine Sony focuses more of their resources to software development in that case…. (O_O)….i wish to live to see the day)

  • name

    dude have you actually played any of the games released last year?
    99.99% of the games certainly do not look outdated, most of them look amazing!
    in the last year or so the only games that had bad graphics are AVP, just cause 2, wanted weapons of fate, rouge warrior, the avatar, dragon age origins and thats about all i can think of.
    6 titles, 6 in comparison to the hundreds that have been released in that time frame and look fantastic!

    not to mention theres console games that look better than PC games, GOW 3 for example looks better than every PC game out there!
    consoles are not holding back this industry, developers are!
    developers are to god dam lazy to make a game for the PC than port it to consoles.
    that is why in the last like 5 years PC games really have not improved that much compared to console games.
    look at consoles every month or so there is a new title raising the bar, on PC though sadly i cant say the same thing.

    id love to see consoles go the PC route but than having upgradeable parts is going to push the price through the roof!
    the only reason why people buy consoles is because they are so cheap, you really think M$, sony or ninty would of sold as many systems if they cost PC money?

    • Mark Withers. (MarkWithers)

      Thanks to everyone leaving comments. I’m really enjoying reading everyones feedback.
      My intention is not to reignite the console vs PC ageold argument but to make everyone question if we’re reaching a plateau in quality of games and that progress will slow as we cannot upgrade current consoles. If Microsoft had expansion ports or some kind of upgrade option available to them then they could offer the gamer a more powerful machine with a less expensive upgrae path compared to a brand new console.

      Would anyone really have a problem in spending $100 on an improved processor or graphics processor that could be slotted into a 5 year old machine?

      Anyway, keep the debate going, it’s facinating to hear