Next Generation Consoles

OK, so now Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have announced their "next-generation" consoles: PS3, Xbox 360 and Revolution, respectively. A lot of sites, such as Engadget and Eurogamer, are documenting all these consoles with photos, specifications and rumours. This influx of information is coming in now because of E3; the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

The first console to be announced was the Xbox 360, which Microsoft announced during a 30-minute show on MTV. The console design has been changed fairly considerably. It's white for starters (people have pointed to Apple Macs for its inspiration!). The console is reported to have changeable face-plates, just like mobile phones. Is this a good idea? No doubt some people will fall for it. The Xbox 360 will have three processor cores, and should be pretty fast!

There are official photos of the PS3 that have come from E3. The design looks sleek, a definite improvement on the clunky looking PS2, and comes in either white, silver or black. A big change in the aesthetics for me came as I looked at the controller. It's a lot rounder and has longer handles. Overall, the new design is smooth, but nothing jaw-dropping. The PS3 will use Blu-Ray technology, which will allow storage on to DVDs of around 40GB, 10 fold what is normally stored! The console will also use a new processor type, developed by IBM, called The Cell. Sony has also announced that the console will support not only their Memory Stick format, but SD as well. I think this is a great step by Sony to embrace the more popular flash memory format.

There isn't much information about Nintendo's Revolution console ATM, but tomorrow will be its unveiling at E3. I'm not a huge fan of the latest Nintendo consoles because of their market audience which is reflected in their childish games. However, Nintendo have announced they will be developing games for the older audience, so it might be something to keep an eye on.

All three consoles will be comfortable laid flat or stood up vertically. Both the Microsoft and Nintendo have put some emphasis on this, which is what I can best describe as a quirky feature. Why is everyone obsessed with this ability? Most people have shelves to put the DVD player and VCRs, surely it won't look out of place in the same situation. Saying that, I have my PS2 stood vertically next to my TV. For me, I just think emphisising this fact is a little bizarre, it's just not a selling point for me. Oh yeh, and Sony came up with this first of course (on the PS2).

Most interestingly, for me at least, is the fact that all three of the next-generation consoles will be using wireless controllers. A good move? I'm not 100% convinced. I'm a little skeptical of wireless devices because of their battery consumption and recharging capabilities. Sure it'll allow freedom, but I've never been restricted with a normal cord controller, and I doubt you'll be playing games in a different room! It looks like I'm going to have to embrace the wireless future. I only hope they really think about how they're going to charge the devices and whether to include the option for wires.

Finally, the most important feature for me is that all three consoles will be backwards compatible, well almost. The Revolution will be able to play Gamecube games and the PS3 will be able to play both PS2 and PS1 games. However, the Xbox 360 will only support "most but not all of the top selling games". I feel that backwards compatibility is a huge requirement and is expected by the majority of gamers today. To support your old games is to support the gamers who paid into the industry during the previous console war.

I'm not a console fan boy, so I'll only be picking up one of these gems. I think my loyalties will be staying with the PS3. I will be able to play all my old games and enjoy the sequels to titles I used to play.

My only request is that Sony put in support for UMDs, which they use in their Playstation Portable. If they support this format and the ability to play the PSP's games, then I might even consider one of those little hand-held devices! It'll certainly help promote the new UMD format.