After so many years playing videogames I know hardware is the heart of the industry and subject to constant transformation. These changes are product of constant technological advance and development as they lead to wonderful things as implementation of Wi-Fi technology or bigger HDD’s. I’m grateful the industry is constantly evolving and we are given the best possible technology for a “reasonable” price, but the current console generation has almost abused this, giving as a result more than 3 different models of almost every console able to this day. What’s causing it?
Let’s start with Xbox 360, the console I play the most. The first one I got was the standard 20 GB HDD white one. After the horrible discovery that most of the consoles would break someday due to design flaws, Microsoft released new models featuring new processors, leading to a lower percentage of broken consoles but still having the Red Ring of Light issue over the years. They changed their business model and released a lot of different models after that; no HDD, 20 GB, 60 GB, 120 GB and the most recent one has 250 GB, as well as built-in Wi-Fi and a special port for the upcoming Kinect hardware and no red lights (no, seriously).
PS3 is no different story; they started with a pretty expensive but attractive piece of hardware, faithful to their 10-year of life policy for each console. It included PSOne emulation and PS2 compatibility, 4 USB 2.0 ports, flash memory card readers and Linux support. You were welcome to change the HDD yourself for a bigger one anytime without consequences and it was pretty easy too but the console was indeed pretty expensive. They started butting production costs eliminating ports, the card readers, and the PS2 backward compatibility (their biggest sin probably) and Linux support. The price got down with time and they started having bigger HDD’s. Now we have a new slim model, with 160 or 320 GB. It is almost the same machine that debuted back in 2006. Sony has a lower rate of broken consoles, so we can say the main reason for redesigning the console was price.
Finally, the Wii hasn’t changed anything since launch, except for colors. The thing that has changed is the Wiimote. Initially it looked like a fantastic idea but with time it started to feel old. So we welcomed the Wii Motion Plus, an attachment improved the move controls experience but made the Wiimote heavier, bigger and uglier, plus there are not many games out there capable of using it as there should be. So a new Wiimote with this technology is upon us, already dated for Japan.
Portable consoles have suffered many redesigns as well. Both PSP and DS have suffered changes on their looks and functions. I’m not sure what’s the strategy here but the PSP Go failed due to the lack of support from Sony and the DSi XL is honestly pretty bad for portable gaming and probably won’t sell many more units due to the price and proximity of the 3DS.
I haven’t talked about special editions here intentionally, that’s suitable for another article.
As I said earlier, I’m grateful for the constant research and development, but I think it’s a little too much now. Some redesigns are a step in the right direction but others as the PSp Go are reasons to plan ahead of our times when releasing new hardware. I believe the next generation is already on its way and I really wish the new consoles (both home and portable) are planned, developed and tested correctly so we don’t have to revisit the design table so many times like this generation.
As I see it, it could be a way for companies to make more money selling us the same machine with something extra over and over again, or the first signal of an era where digital distribution and cloud gaming will let us play without having to buy expensive hardware in order to enjoy our favorite franchises. I think it’s both things, what about you? Are you happy with these constant redesigns? How many of each console have you got over the years? Is it a way to keep the industry fresh or a way to make more money?