Maybe We Need New Game Consoles After All

By  |  Monday, June 20, 2011 at 5:55 am

Microsoft and Sony — but not Nintendo — would have you believe that we’re in for a long game console cycle, with no rush to replace current-generation hardware.

But after seeing the PC version of Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 3 at E3, and hearing how the console version will compare, I beg to differ.

Johan Andersson, a rendering architect for EA developer DICE, confirmed over Twitter that the console version of Battlefield 3 will be choked back to 30 frames per second and 720p resolution. On PC, Battlefield 3 runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, and it looked wonderful during a brief hands-on demo at E3 earlier this month. DICE is making compromises to the console version to allow for bigger levels, lots of vehicles and certain visual effects.

In fairness to EA and DICE, few console games manage to reach 60 frames per second — especially shooters — but Activision’s Call of Duty series pulls it off year after year (presumably by making its own compromises). And Battlefield 3 is being positioned as Call of Duty’s biggest threat to date. To the millions of console gamers who reach into their wallets every year for a new Call of Duty, the difference in smoothness will be obvious. That could be a big problem for EA.

But it doesn’t always have to be this way. After years of silence, we’re starting to hear the first whispers of new console hardware from Microsoft and Sony. Next-gen replacements for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are probably still years away, but in that time, demand for more powerful hardware is going to grow, especially as console versions of hit games pale in comparison to their PC counterparts. In other words, console gamers — myself included — will finally start to notice what they’re missing.

When Microsoft and Sony do finally make the leap, DICE will be ready, with Andersson saying he wants the next-generation of consoles to arrive “sooner rather than later.”



12 Comments For This Post

  1. Reece Tarbert Says:

    "On PC, Battlefield 3 runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second."

    You can't really compare the performance of a high end gaming rig with that of a console: a top of the line graphics card alone costs nearly twice as much a PS3 or Xbox 360.

    "and it looked wonderful during a brief hands-on demo at E3 earlier this month."

    Did you take a look at the hardware? I bet those PCs were more "state of the art" than "just" high end. In other words: you get what you pay for and expectations should be tuned accordingly.


  2. Gabe Glick Says:

    New systems with more power are not automatically a good thing anymore. More power means more pressure to make amazing looking games, which means more people, bigger budgets, and even less room for risky but interesting experiments than there is now. Unless these consoles have SDKs that also make it incredibly easy to make graphics that live up to their power (and it's highly likely they won't), they may end up making the games market look even more homogenous than it is now.

  3. Dave Says:

    They could always make a user replaceable video card module that cost say $150:) It would have to be easy to slide out and back in– the way an SD card is.That would extend the life of current consoles until game performance became bound by the cpu. Since they lose money on every console system sold, it would save them money too.

  4. Lazlow St. Pierre Says:

    Terrible idea.

    Nobody wants to have to have to check the specs on the case of the latest Halo or Call of Duty game only to read something like "certain features require the Microsoft Xbox X-Treme GPU ™ card upgrade", "performance may not be optimal without the PlayStation GFX+ addon", "this game requires blah blah blah" etc.

    For those who want to spend the time and money tinkering and upgrading and want the graphics performance of the latest available hardware, then a gaming PC is the way to go. Consoles are (and should remain) for those who want to spend <$500 on a machine and expect to be able to buy games for it for the next 5 years without having to worry about compatibility and upgrades.

    Console upgrade options have not met with success in the past – Megadrive CD upgrade, N64 memory upgrade, etc. Either not enough people bought them for it to be worth game developers making use of them, or people ended up with games with crippled performance and lacking features because they didn't have the upgrade (I remember having to buy an N64 memory pak after buying Perfect Dark because it was totally crippled without the upgrade).

  5. sittininlab Says:

    I think about 10 years ago people were predicting the end of PC gaming, and that consoles and handled machines were going to be the wave of the future.

    Now I’m on the no more unitasker train. Really now the future is a at home server that dishes up entertainment to a multitude of devices around a house. Zapping movies, games, and the internet to all the users in a house.

    Next generation consoles? Who cares? Let’s get more leading edge than that.

  6. Rip Says:

    Meh, Xbox and PS3 specs are still better than average gamers pc specs. Might wanna check Valve's Steams stats. People with the newest and best specs don't even represent 2% of gamer base. Oh let's not forget Battlefield on PC will sell less than 100000 copies, as usual, while consoles will comebine for 10+ mil.

  7. Jared Newman Says:

    Hey Mike, I could be mistaken, but I believe most console shooters (except COD) run at 30 frames per second. The difference in framerate between COD and Halo is striking.

  8. Reddog_X2000 Says:

    I'd wait until the economy picks up.

  9. Lazlow St. Pierre Says:

    If you want to spend $3000 on a machine to get 1080p graphics, 60 frames per second, etc. than you can.

    They just call it a high-end gaming PC instead of a gaming console.

    Most people would rather spend $300 on an Xbox or PlayStation than spend a small fortune in order to have higher frame rates and graphical bells and whistles like maxing out anti-aliasing and anisotropic filters.

    For those who want to spend thousands on a gaming machine with the latest and greatest graphics performance, the option is certainly available, just like the option to pay $300 for a gaming machine that meets most peoples wants, the option is also available.

  10. Xbox 360 Says:

    All these high graphics would definitely lower Battlefield 3's sales. Not much people have great gaming rigs to play that. I, myself have a pathetic Pentium 4 3.2 GHz with a 9600GT 🙁

  11. jonny jon Says:

    lol @ xbox 360

  12. free credit reports Says:

    Salutations, mon pote! Je suis Greg d'Australie et je voudrais juste dire que votre blog est génial. Tout est si instructif, de la vidéos pour les articles à même les images.