What do you want from the next generation of consoles? Pixar-quality graphics? Ultra-capacity Blu-ray as standard? Immense game worlds with procedurally-generated everything, to create a sense of lifelike interaction like never before? Or how about a beefed-up tablet computer that'll make you look like a twat in the pub for the few brief moments it survives before being smashed, covered in booze, or converted it into heroin by the local scallies via the transformative medium of theft?
Epic's Mark Rein is swinging towards the latter. Check out his arguments, then tell me what you think.
Speaking to Develop, the Vice-President of Epic Games detailed his vision of a new set of consoles unrestrained by the need to be connected to a TV:
“Imagine a future Xbox 360 that is actually a tablet you carry around. It will have more power than 360 does today, with technology like Kinect built right in.
"Imagine walking into a bar with some friends, propping it up on the table and playing games like Dance Central or Kinect Adventures anywhere you go. Then when you get home that same device will use technology like AirPlay or wireless HDMI to connect to your big screen, you’ll pick up a wireless controller, or use your phone as controller to play games like Gears of War."*
“A lot of gaming is going mobile and I believe that console-style gaming is going there as well,” he goes on.
“It feels like there’s a great opportunity for game consoles to cease to be something you plug into the wall and rather become something you take with you. Of course it will be more than just your game console; you can have your productivity apps, your documents, and your media collections on it as well.”
So like an iPad then. That Apple thing that runs iOS. That Apple operating system that Epic have recently got their Unreal Engine 3 running on, as revealed at a big Apple event in London. Introduced by Steve Jobs. I see no coincidences here.
I get that Epic wants to expand into the exponentially growing mobile gaming market. And no-one was more impressed than me by their Epic Citadel demo. But come on guys, I don't even take my iPhone out of my pocket in a pub without an armed guard. There's no way in hell I'd whip out my main console, balance it precariously against a dirty pint glass on a soggy table, and then start squinting at its in-built screen in an effort to play something I can enjoy in much greater comfort at home. With more space. In surround sound. Without looking like an anti-social loser/irritating poser, while getting in the way of the bar queue. That shit's just uncivilised.
I'm really into mobile gaming these days. And I'm really, really excited to see what Epic can pull off when it turns Epic Citadel into a full-fat game. But portable gaming and home gaming are two different cultures, with very different design needs. The PSP's greatest problem has always been its failure to recognise that. I don't want the eventual next set of 'big' consoles hampered by the same issue. But what do you reckon? Is everything merging into one quite happily these days? Or do you still want distinct machines for distinct purposes?
*No. Just no.