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Should Next-Gen Game Consoles Be Upgradeable?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the downloadable-hardware-unlockers dept.

PlayStation (Games) 348

MojoKid writes "Historically, console add-ons that boosted the performance of the primary unit haven't done well. Any attempt to upgrade a system's core performance risks bifurcating the user base and increases work developers must do to ensure that a game runs smoothly on both original and upgraded systems. The other reason is that a number of games rely on very specific hardware characteristics to ensure proper operation. In a PC, swapping a CPU with 256K of L2 for a chip with 512K of L2 is a non-issue assuming proper platform support. Existing software will automatically take advantage of the additional cache. The Xbox 360, on the other hand, allows programmers to lock specific cache blocks and use them for storing data from particular threads. In that case, expanding the amount of L2 cache risks breaking previous games because it changes the range of available cache addresses. The other side of the upgrade argument is that the Xbox 360 has been upgraded more effectively than any previous console; current high-end versions ship with more than 10x the storage of the original, as well as support for HDMI and integrated WiFi. It would also forestall the decline in comparative image quality between console and PC platforms."

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inchorent (-1, Offtopic)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961611)

summary x balls for words + what really? = Balls for TF summary

Re:inchorent (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961651)

Bifurcation means the splitting of a main body into two parts.

Re:inchorent (-1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961659)

Funny, just saw that troll comment in another /. thread. Troll.

First Post (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961625)

No

Re:First Post (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961923)

No

Correct.

The reason platforms become popular are for one of two reasons.

1. A known base system so developers know what to build for. The Kinect is an outlier as it was advertised as the "next-gen" of the XBox and it was interesting enough for people to get to play with. It wasn't a memory increase (N64), but it was a Rumble Pack which came packaged with a product that requires it.

Apple did well with the requirement of having 1 mouse button as the standard. It forced developers to make simpler interfaces, which made Macs easier to use.

2. Cheap replaceable and interchangeable parts. The PC falls into this category, but companies with systems like Consoles or consumer gadgets do not want people poking around them. To top it off, all major console manufacturers have acted against altering the systems systematically.

Re:First Post (5, Insightful)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962345)

You basically said what I was going to say.

Essentially, allowing them to be "upgradeable" removes the last barrier that effectively makes them computers with odd user interface devices. So I must say to anyone who wants upgrade-able consoles, it is okay. You don't have to be in the closet. PC gaming isn't so evil you need to hide it under a hipster like charade. We understand.

Doubt Sony will (5, Funny)

Master Moose (1243274) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961629)

It is too much of a change from the current gen being downgradable.

Re:Doubt Sony will (5, Funny)

an unsound mind (1419599) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961805)

Oh give it up. So Sony disabled your hardware's capabilities. So what? At least they didn't totally disable the hardware, which they could. You should be grateful for that. You'd have a right to complain if Sony goons came to your house and cut your hands off, at least if you aren't a pirate. If you're a pirate or complain online about Sony, it's totally justified to cut your hands off, because you are hurting Sony and costing billions of Americans their jobs.

Re:Doubt Sony will (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961845)

You're referring to the PS3, the most standards-using (basic USB, standard hard drives, etc) popular console in history?

Re:Doubt Sony will (5, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962257)

Yep, the only console that I know of that removes features in firmware updates. It doesn't matter that the hardware was standard, Sony believes its their hardware to do with as they wish, regardless of what you want.

Re:Doubt Sony will (1)

liquidweaver (1988660) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961853)

I lol'd, but in a sad way.

Re:Doubt Sony will (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962095)

As he pulled into the parking slot near the edge of the huge, asphalt lot an empty beer can crunched under one of the front wheels of the car. He turned off his lights and surveyed the area. Yes, this was a good spot; he had a clear view of each automobile turning from the lone entrance driveway into the lot, where it had to slow almost to a stop under the bright, mercury-vapor lamp there, and he also was well situated for seeing which row of the lot each vehicle eventually turned into. He pulled his coat more snugly around his neck, turned the radio dial until he found an FM station which was broadcasting his favorite Schubert sonata, and settled down to wait.

Read more. [resist.com]

No. (4, Insightful)

americamatrix (658742) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961635)

Isn't the point of them to be simple? n00bs use them. ;)

Step up to PC gaming if you want to able to upgrade your stuff.


-americamatrix

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961703)

i've been using computers and playing games since the early 80's and i play more games on my 360 than the pc. Am i a N00B ?

Re:No. (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961761)

I don't know, but apparently you're logically handicapped. The fact that "n00bs" use consoles doesn't mean that only them use consoles.

Re:No. (3, Funny)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961769)

Well, let's just think about this. GP posts under UID and then uses same UID as sig. What do we really think?

No, because that's not the point (5, Insightful)

samriel (1456543) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961645)

The entire point of game consoles is that developers at least have a chance at a homogenous platform where they can make sure the game mostly runs the same everywhere. If you allow upgrading CPU, GPU, etc. then it's just PC gaming with a weird OS and components that will most likely cost more just because they can.

Re:No, because that's not the point (0, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961763)

I wonder if anyone replying to this article will make the connection to smartphones and realize that this is why Android's hardware fragmentation is a bad thing. In fact, Apple is practically like every other console manufacturer in providing a restricted set of hardware with a centrally approved software set.

Re:No, because that's not the point (3, Insightful)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961793)

Nobody will make the connection because everyone's already sick of hearing you Apple trolls repeating it ad nauseam in every single Android story.

Re:No, because that's not the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962063)

So this post is modded "Insightful" when it's just as flame-baity as the post it's replying to. Slashdot is Android's personal army by the look.

Re:No, because that's not the point (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962231)

Just because someone doesn't toe the iPhone zealotry line doesn't make them an Android zealot. Most of us are simply sick of both groups baiting and arguing over whose phone is the best. It is beyond bizarre that people get worked up over phones or consoles or graphic cards, but not so much over jeans or shampoo or mattresses.

Re:No, because that's not the point (5, Insightful)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962371)

I think if we had more articles about jeans, shampoo and mattresses you would see that people get worked up about everything.

Re:No, because that's not the point (4, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962375)

It's not even true anymore anyhow. There are so many different classes of Apple hardware that a developer has to target that it's not a homogenous platform anymore. You've got three different resolutions ranging from 480x320 to 1024x768 (not even the same aspect ratio), two incompatible instruction sets (ARMv6 and ARMv7), two incompatible and fundamentally opposite graphics APIs (OpenGL ES 1.x and 2.x, which is kind of like DX7 fixed function versus DX9 programmable), varying amounts of CPU cores, clockspeeds, amounts of RAM, screen sizes... Third-party iOS apps are running on three different device families, and that's only going to broaden when Apple's iTV product comes out.

All told, there are currently twelve different product lines running iOS (with further variations within a product line, such as amount of flash), all with different capabilities, all with different OS version support. For each of those twelve devices, you have to support at least two major OS versions, and potentially a few sub-versions. The feature grid on the wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_iOS_devices) should underscore how non-homogeneous the platform is.

Re:No, because that's not the point (1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961783)

Personally? Consoles for games, open(ish) HW for work - PC or Mac, I don't care.

Re:No, because that's not the point (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961957)

Consoles for games, open(ish) HW for work

Then what for indie games? Xbox Live Indie Games and nothing else?

Re:No, because that's not the point (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962295)

Honestly there really aren't that many decent Indie games out there. For "Indie" games you'd best just stick to Flash game and Minecraft because that's really all the Xbox Indie games are, either clones of a different game or flash games with 3D graphics that cost money.

But how are they worse than mainstream games? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962389)

that's really all the Xbox Indie games are, either clones of a different game

One could say the same for mainstream games. What are all the military FPS games other than clones of each other? Even Katamari Damacy is just the old Williams arcade game Bubbles redone as a 3D platformer. The last genre launch I know of was around 1997 when Parappa the Rapper was released.

or flash games with 3D graphics that cost money

One could say the same for a lot of Wii disc games in the $20 bin at Walmart.

So how should one join the industry if one's family is unwilling to move to Austin or Seattle?

Re:No, because that's not the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961837)

This is very, VERY important.

Re:No, because that's not the point (5, Interesting)

foradoxium (2446368) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961847)

+1 I was going to make a similar reply. The whole point is so developers can make their game run on 4 year old hardware, optimized of course. This is why so many console games don't look as nice as their PC counterparts..but they do play on 4 year old hardware.

the other nice benefit of consoles is multiplayer, everyone is on equal hardware. Where as in the PC world, someone playing on 4 year old hardware might not be able to perform as well as someone with the latest and greatest system (think fps)...that is one benefit of consoles.

Re:No, because that's not the point (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961905)

Although the summary as described essentially says "devs don't want to figure out size and configuration of caches at run time", something that's commonly done even in some otherwise immutable hardware. After all there's always the next gen of hardware and it's nice to be able to not redo the software if you don't have to. In other words, devs shouldn't be lazier than necessary.

I think this attitude really came from early days where the PC was just an awful mess with applications and games completely bypassing the nearly nonexistent operating system on a whim (ignoring decades of experience in other platforms).

Re:No, because that's not the point (2)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962131)

I think this attitude really came from early days where the PC was just an awful mess with applications and games completely bypassing the nearly nonexistent operating system on a whim (ignoring decades of experience in other platforms).

Um, it wasn't "on a whim", at least on IBM PCs. On early IBM PCs, ROM BIOS was the closest thing to a HAL; but ROM BIOS was also dog slow (stemming from the fact that RAM was many times faster than ROM, meaning a program that made a lot of ROM calls would tend to be dog slow). Earlier versions of MS-DOS used the ROM BIOS a lot as well, precisely to run on as many IBM PCs or clones as possible, but as time progressed many calls were replaced with direct hardware access precisely for the speed improvements; this obviously happened in a lot of other programs as well. Of course, as time progressed RAM became much bigger and cheaper, so it was common (and still is) for the ROM to be copied in RAM precisely for the speed boost it offers. And the above doesn't even get into the fact that the ROM BIOS, as close as it was to a HAL, was a far cry from a HAL; it's precisely the reason DOS and Windows have their own drivers and HAL.

In short, yes, it's ideologically nice to not directly access hardware, but sometimes it's the only reasonable step if you want to get decent performance on limited, for the goal, hardware. Now, I have no idea if that's still the case with the XBox 360, PS3, or Wii, and I'm inclined to believe for the most part that it's more an excuse for more general bad coding decisions or trying really hard to push the limits of what's graphically possible for the "Wow" factor to compete against other games/other systems. And for the latter point, I can see the justification, but that really boils down to each company working hard to making a good base library for each system to be used in all their games, effectively writing a new HAL for their needs. And presuming they do that, I can certainly understand their willingness to accept having to port that library in the future if needed because it'd be a one-time rewrite and would serve their needs much better than simply catering to whatever they get out of the official libraries given to them by MS, Sony, or Nintendo.

Culture of bigger monitors and multiple gamepads (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961967)

If you allow upgrading CPU, GPU, etc. then it's just PC gaming

That and unlike with PCs, there's a culture of plugging consoles into bigger monitors so that people on a sofa can play together in person. Not all games are competitive FPS or RTS where splitting the screen destroys the multiplayer experience. Fighting games, for instance, don't even need a split screen.

Re:Culture of bigger monitors and multiple gamepad (3, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962293)

I've played tons of splitscreen Halo with my son and it's lots of fun. Even if you're playing against each other, it's a level playing field. If you're playing as a team against others online it's a bit of an advantage because you have two vantage points.

I've been disappointed with perhaps decreasing support for split-screen in console games. To me it's where consoles really shine above PC games. I haven't upgraded from Forza 3 to Forza 4 because they didn't make much improvement to the splitscreen mode (co-op online play, more than 2 AI cars, etc).

Would you buy console-style MP games for PC? (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962337)

Would you buy PC games if they let you plug in multiple USB gamepads and actually use them?

Nope, that's just a bonus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962277)

The "entire point" of consoles is a) to give consumers a cheap, simple platform they can easily play games on, and b) keep control of the platform, so that the vendor can charge royalties on each game.

True, the homogeneous hardware is also easier on developers, which can at least mitigate the costs of supporting yet another proprietary platform. I'm pretty sure developers would prefer to e.g. support only Windows than to have to support Windows, Xbox, PS3, and Wii (and PSP, PSVita, DS, 3DS etc).

Re:Nope, that's just a bonus (1)

noh8rz2 (2538714) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962385)

I'm pretty sure developers would prefer to e.g. support only Windows than to have to support Windows, Xbox, PS3, and Wii (and PSP, PSVita, DS, 3DS etc).

I'm pretty sure if developers had to choose one platform out of those you mentioned, they would not choose windows.

Consoles vs. PCs (4, Insightful)

omganton (2554342) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961653)

I believe that if you want an upgradable gaming/HT platform, then you should build a PC. Consoles are specifically manufactured to run on a set hardware specification. Adding and/or changing the predefined hardware of a console will only add to the development cost of games, which will eventually be passed on to the consumer in the form of even more expensive games. Although the concept seems cool, I don't want next-gen xbox games to cost $100 each.

It doesn't matter (4, Interesting)

Jiro (131519) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961655)

Suppose all those problems were resolved, and after resolving them we concluded "yes, next gen consoles should be upgradeable".

It wouldn't make any difference. Consoles are proprietary platforms--controlled by one company. The fact that making the console upgradeable would benefit *you* isn't going to result in an upgradeable console. It wouldn't benefit the company, and that's what matters. I mean, I'm sure that PS3 Linux benefitted people.

(Incidentally, for an example of a successful add-on, look at the PC Engine CD. We just don't remember it much because the system barely got a foothold in the US.)

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961777)

Well, imagine if you had the option of buying an Xbox 361 right now, that would function identically to the Xbox 360, but would get better frame rates. Would people want to buy it? Sure. I hate it when cutscenes suddenly drop down to 15fps, or when a game suddenly lags under the weight of all the action on the screen. I'd pay a hundred bucks or so to upgrade the 360 at this point.

You'd just have to enforce a decree that all games are playable on the low end systems, and try not to have too many different upgrade paths available.

Re:It doesn't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961971)

So...... you're advocating that game consoles should become shitty PCs? Only, with the added drag of not being able to do arbitrarily different tasks.

Not to mention that "just" decreeing that all games are playable on the lowest end of that console's spectrum is ... pretty much why "upgrades" to consoles don't do well. It isn't so much of a decree, really, but rather that developers don't want to target a part of the market with that upgrade AND interest in that game. They just want to target any gamer with interest in that game. So least common hardware denominator.

Yeah, the 360's storage capacity is way up.. and thats one of the rare cases where this type of thing works. Why? Because basically nobody cares how much your max storage capacity is. Both the developer and the average gamer only care that there is sufficient capacity. There's no extra burden or effort from the developer. Both a stock day 1 x360 (assuming it still works) and a brand new, straight off the shelf x360 write save data the same way. No new drivers, instructions, or anything else necessary.

Also.. you hate it when cutscenes drop to 15fps or lags from all the action.. but everything could be solved by upgraded hardware and requiring developers to make things playable on the low end... But if developers were any good at that there wouldn't be 15 fps cutscene moments or frame drops. And thus no need to upgrade.

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962329)

I would buy a 361 with advanced post-processing in a heartbeat. Forget even changing anything about the code at all, jsut apply better post-process with more AA, more Aniso, faster frames etc.

Re:It doesn't matter (4, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961781)

Not to cut in on the OMG-PROPRIETARY-PLATFORMS rant, but benefiting the company is kind of the point of running a business. And the console business is doing extremely well, much better than the PC gaming market, so mainstream customers are clearly okay with it. The fact that people on Slashdot still rant about PS3 Linux as if any significant share of the PS3 user base even bothered with it is illustration enough how out-of-touch many of the posters are.

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961813)

I thank you.

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

liquidweaver (1988660) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961881)

If I sold you a bicycle, but then told you how you were allowed to drive it, how fast would you tell me to fly a kite? What if I then told you I wasn't kidding, and came back later and removed the back wheel and welded on a block of concrete in it's place?

Tough, the eula is in the panier in the back and you agreed to it with you got on. Nah nahnah nahnah nah!

Re:It doesn't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962297)

Getting jiggy with it, are we?

Re:It doesn't matter (3)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961973)

but benefiting the company is kind of the point of running a business

Forget society. I can do whatever I please to make money.

The fact that people on Slashdot still rant about PS3 Linux as if any significant share

Of course. If something bad happens to a few people, it doesn't matter. It's only a few people, right? Something "bad" suddenly changes into something "neutral" or "good" because it only happened to a few people!

Re:It doesn't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962151)

The PS3 Linux thing had jack shit to do with marketshare, you miserable troll.

Re:It doesn't matter (2)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961825)

(Incidentally, for an example of a successful add-on, look at the PC Engine CD. We just don't remember it much because the system barely got a foothold in the US.)

The N64 memory upgrade would be an actual example of a successful console upgrade. Plenty of people bought that and it was well supported.

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961947)

citation please?

Re:It doesn't matter (3, Informative)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962149)

citation please?

Can't find exact install base, but The Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask required the Expansion Pak and it alone sold 3million copies [wikipedia.org] . So 3 million at an absolute minimum to get a ballpark figure going. Plenty of other games highly encouraged people to get it too. [wikipedia.org]

Re:It doesn't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961949)

The number of games that support the N64 Memory Pak is actually rather small, as a fraction of available games. And most people who bought it did so because it was necessary for one of the three first party games that actually required and bundled it.

So I guess that yes, if it's cheap enough that people will pay more than the average game so that they can get your killer app, then you can be modestly successful with an console performance upgrade.

The Xbox 360 "upgrades" since release, while nice, don't really impact core performance in any way. There's nothing that plays differently because you don't have HDMI or you have a 60 GB hard drive instead of a 320 GB hard drive.

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

Jiro (131519) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962121)

One database lists 417 CD games for the PC Engine and 301 cartridge games. I'm sure those are at least close to the correct values.

By any standards the PC Engine CD was a success. It wasn't a cheap upgrade compared to the price of the base system, either.

Re:It doesn't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962387)

417 CD games (and required an add-on)...... only 45 of which were released in North America. NA being, by far, the largest gaming market. And the PC engine wasn't ever officially distributed in Europe. By contrast.. the SNES had 721 games in NA. 1442 on the Super FamiCom. The Genesis.. 915 games, although the list doesn't break that one down by region.

I dont' know that you can claim "by any standards" that it was a success. Especially if your standard is the number of games released on a system.. The PC Engine/TurboGrafx16 is kinda a study in how "upgrading" consoles really doesn't work. Between the base TG16, the CD addon, the SuperGrafx with twice the video hardware, and the Turbo Duo that combined the base TG16 with the CD addon in one unit but left off the SuperGrafx's extra hardware, and the portable TG unit that played the cards but not the CDs. Its a mess of SKUs, compatability, and expense.

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961953)

The N64 memory upgrade was also thrown in free with Perfect Dark, Donkey Kong and most importantly, Zelda: Majora's Mask. It also helped that 3rd parties also put out RAM expansions too.

Didn't you just answer the question? (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961663)

Past consoles that had upgrades didn't do too well. In particular changing aspects that the programmers depend on (the amount of memory being the particular given example.) The "counter-example" is that adding entirely new optional features or additional file storage that the programmers can choose to use or not, and which do not change _anything_ about the regular architecture if they choose not to use them, doesn't seem to have any adverse problems. (Which says nothing about how well new games using the optional features sell, just that it doesn't break old games.)

Using that "counter-example" to argue that perhaps they should allow upgrades to the components the programmers depend on is just weird. Certainly you'd have to include a disclaimer in the docs right from the start about which components might be upgraded in the future. Even so, a large number of programmers would either not notice the disclaimers and fail to account for the possibility in their programming, or decide that dealing with it would be too difficult and thus fail to account for the possibility in their programming.

Pretty much nope. (1)

JazzXP (770338) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961669)

Anything in the initial design should be such as amount of storage space and video outputs (as it has to support many even with the most basic version). Beyond that no. The beauty of consoles is that it is a fixed hardware platform. Even the lack of hard drive in the original basic Xbox 360 was a disaster in my opinion (and caused troubles with dashboard upgrades later in the cycle for those units).

Re:Pretty much nope. (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962373)

Which they finally rectified by soldering 4 GB flash to the mobo and allowing USB sticks as HDD. After looking at the whole arc of the story, its hard to call the hard drive decision a 'disaster'. Non-optimal, sure, but they fixed it without altering the base platform other then providing alternate and easy paths to the base config. And now hard drive is pretty much assumed, one way or another.

No (2)

master_kaos (1027308) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961671)

No they shouldn't. The whole reason you get a console is because it just works. Don't have to worry if your video card is good enough, if you have enough ram, if you have the right drivers installed.. etc. You just plug it in, hook it up to a tv, and put your game in. If you want upgradable consoles, then just use your pc and buy a controller.

Re:No (1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961841)

True, this is how I feel. But there are a lot of PC users out there that get second rate ports. hence my personal love of homogeneous consoles. That's why Sony were right to charge for 'future proof'.

Re:No (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962395)

We get some second rate ports sure, but the first rate stuff we get FAR outweighs the bad. Even bad ports still look better on PCs.

And pray that your game even supports controllers (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962027)

If you want upgradable consoles, then just use your pc and buy a controller.

And pray that your game even supports controllers. Too many PC games support only a mouse and keyboard, not a HID or Xbox 360 gamepad. And even if they do let you use a gamepad without JoyToKey, they make you use a separate computer and a separate copy of the game (cha-ching [cracked.com] ) for players 2, 3, and 4.

Good lord no. (5, Insightful)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961673)

Unless you mandate that older hardware works just as well as newer hardware, no.

People will rush to point out things like Kinect, or PSMove, or WiiMotion Plus... Those are accessories. Often cheap too, relatively speaking. The CPU is still the same, the RAM is still the same, game compatibility is still the same(more or less; there are bizarre examples across the board). Having upgradable mass storage or expandable accessories doesn't break the underlying assumptions.

I think that consoles should be "good enough." Big deal, Battlefield 3 looks amazing on PC. Surprise, it also looks amazing on Xbox and PS3. Increased levels of detail do improve immersion a LOT. But when there's a huge trade off between bleeding edge graphics and stability and compatibility, I'll lean towards stability and compatibility.

Re:Good lord no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961943)

Today, External PCI-E and Intel's Thunderbolt are both fast enough to drive a discrete GPU,

That's the only thing TFA throws out that qualifies as a possibly system changing upgrade (as opposed to storage or an accessory)

And I think it could work.
They're already programming for a multi-gpu and multi-core environment, what's another few GPUs?
Everyone codes their game to run on the console's native hardware and includes logic that allows for extra graphics units.

Re:Good lord no. (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962127)

Yeah, but you've got to now load low res textures, midrange textures, blahblahblah.

It's a huge hassle. Not to mention QA nightmare for game devs.

Technological Convergence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961679)

So they just won't make gaming consoles in the future; it'll be converged into something else.

N64 - Worked for them! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961701)

Expansion Pack, baby! Increase your RAM from 4mb to a whopping 8mb! That's DOUBLE the fun? Want to play MultiPlayer in StarCraft64? Better buy it!

N64 RAM Upgrade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961721)

The Nintendo 64 did this with a RAM upgrade from 2MB to 4MB which enabled better textures in newer games.

It seemed to work out fine there, but more advanced changes such as CPU or GPU replacement I think are better left to a new console generation.

Maybe 10 years ago, but not now. (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961745)

Now would be the dumbest time to start making consoles upgradeable. The long lifespan of current-gen consoles shows that the hardware is no longer improving very rapidly in any way that people are willing to pay for. The low cost yet low sales of desktop PCs confirm the same fact. The next-gen consoles ought to be designed to run a generous poly count at 1080p resolution at 120hz (i.e. 60hz in 3d). Do that, and people will be happy for quite some time.

Re:Maybe 10 years ago, but not now. (1)

mozumder (178398) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961959)

I'd make it 4k compatible, or 8k even..

We have this already. (2)

Severus Snape (2376318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961753)

They are called Gaming PC's. It's a niche market and there is reasons for it. The XBox 360 adding internal WiFi is one thing, changing anything relating to processing power is completely different.

Not this cr*p again..... (4, Insightful)

Groo Wanderer (180806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961759)

Upgradable in anything more than a trivial way, HD or Optical for example, basically an add-in card, blows the console economics out of the water. Socketed ram adds cost and drops speeds vs soldered. Same with CPU, and then we get to cooling issues..... Given MS's ability to keep the bumps on the 360 from shattering, would you want people to start mucking with that?

Part 2 is pointed out well above, console = fixed platform = cheap software testing. Upgrades = not fixed platform = testing nightmare.

While I haven't read the article (yeah, shame on me), I know more than enough about console development, economics and programming. I also talk to people doing the 'next gen' consoles almost every week. Having written for a console, I can tell you directly that 'upgrades' are, and will always be a non-starter. Anyone who posits it seriously is the walking equivalent of a flashing neon 'N00B' sign, complete with arrows. :)

                            -Charlie

The real issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961773)

Technical details that would prevent newer hardware from playing older games shouldn't be a problem on a console designed for upgrades, considering the budget and the caliber of the teams that develop these systems. The Xbox 360's upgrade history is unrelated, as the upgrades mentioned add no capabilities from a software standpoint. The real issue is the one first mentioned: platform fragmentation.

32x (1)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961789)

Historically, console add-ons that boosted the performance of the primary unit haven't done well

Obviously the poster never owned a Genesis 32x, I mean, I'm pretty sure they sold hundreds, if not thousands of them.

Fairly lame article, but... (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961843)

...at least I learned about pork brains in milk gravy! Almost made it worth reading.

Reminds me of the 80186 days... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961849)

Reminds me of the original days of the PC when there was a new processor out every month. The PC manufacturers were selling stuff that was "future-proofed". In the more extreme cases the processor and memory were all contained on a card which could be plugged into a powered backplane. The idea being that when a new processor architecture came out, you could just swap out the processor card and continue using all the other peripherals in the machine. Ah what's old is new again... (ie. it didn't work then, so...)

Yes, to an extent. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961877)

An absolute high spec basic frame with input and output, power, cooling.
High bandwidth connections can move data between one area and the other.

Your new console is sort of like a big cartridge that slots in to this.
Think back to what carts were like, some have had custom hardware in them to handle specific instructions, more memory, stuff like that.
That but on a huge scale, why not?
It could be separate units, enclosed RAM units, GPU, CPU, the current backing store method. It would be designed to be like PC, but less of a hassle. Less of a "will this blow my system up, or will it even fit in the first place" scenarios, less dealing with crappy naming systems from [insert any company from PC industry] where things with lesser numbers are more capable than things with bigger numbers. This is confusing and almost probably intentional, actually.
It'd be less money for the company, it'd be less money for us. Things fail? Easily replaced. No more having to rebuy an entire console where >70% of the thing could be entirely fine.

Of course, there is a big thing we need to remember here. This isn't just some huge cart you replace all the time.
This is to make a standard design that developers can work with throughout the upgrade cycle.
You CAN make a moving standard if you do it right. You CAN make things expand IF you do it right.
Games going slow because it needs to stream stuff from backing store to RAM? Here comes the new PS4 Xtreme Turbo, with faster and double RAM. Your game now runs smooth as a babies bottom. (this is already done now to an extent with HDD storage)
With the right dev tools, games can be made to automatically work with new hardware.
Developers would be advised to make sure their games are designed to not be strict, to check the current version, to work with offsets and percentages from maximums.

Let's face it, nobody cares about the PC industry anymore. There is a tiny market that won't grow anytime soon. It is crashing hard. It is also at a huge changing point that will cause more problems during the transition. (not to mention Windows 8 is the other other Windows, the bad one)
It is all about the Entertainment centers these days.
The only problem, of course, is the design for it. To have a decent design that is expandable, and most importantly, cooled well!

Hell, throw in some optical computing as the backbone. Might as well go all out.
That part is partially a joke. (there should at least be one ring for generic transport)

It would be a big risk. And to be honest, doubt it'd be one they will experiment with just now. Maybe next next gen.

It's called a PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961879)

Glorious PC master race. Also supports jailbreaking without mod chips. You can even install Linuxs.

Sure! (1)

Khith (608295) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961903)

Yes, I think that upgradeable consoles would be great! We could even come up with a special name for them... Since you could customize them as you choose, that makes it more personal to the owner. They also perform various computations that allow you to play games. Let's call them personal computers! Perhaps we could even shorten that to "PC" if people prefer.

Just imagine one of these PCs and all of the parts you could put in it. You could even attach different types of input devices! I can even see them used for applications outside of gaming.

Personal computer vs. family computer (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962105)

Personal computer? Too personal. If you have more than one gamer in the household, you want something the whole family can use. That's why a Family Computer [wikipedia.org] came with two controllers, and just about every console since then has supported two to four controllers and a TV output so that they could be used with a monitor big enough for the whole family.

Yes, they should be PCs. (3, Informative)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961909)

The Next Gen console is an inexpensive PC capable of playing the newest games with reasonable quality.

The whole console paradigm is based on two qualities.

1. Price. Consoles cut corners and lack certain qualities that PCs have and as a result have great game performance at a reduced price. This is entirely possible with PC hardware today. If MS builds their own PC from the ground up to be a gaming machine then there's no reason why it can't support windows and have superior game performance.

2. Ease of use. PCs have been hobbled for years by being too complicated for their own good when it comes to games. More sophisticated gamers have no problem with this but it can be an issue with many. Take a cue from Apple and lock down these console replacement PCs by default so the casual users doesn't mess them up. For one thing, restrict multitasking by default as that harms game performance. If people want to have lots of background processes running while they play their game then give them a setting that lets them disable the feature. But by default, just as with typical consoles, have them devote all their attention to the game when it's running. Everything else is suppressed. Also as MS would be releasing these machines there would be no driver confusion since all the systems would come with the exact same hardware installed in them.

This would also break down the barrier between Xbox users and PC users. This barrier is not in MS's interests. If the Xbox and the PC play the exact same games then no other console is going to be able to compete with them. Exclusive titles just for the xbox that don't get released on the PC don't help the xbox... they hurt the PC.

As an additional aside, the consoles and MS especially need to get serious about producing a REAL media center. Something like XMBC only better. XMBC is pretty impressive for an open source community built project but MS, Sony, Nintendo, or Apple can do better. Stop dicking around. Stop trying to restrict what people can and cannot play on the machine. This only hobbles the utility of the system and ensures it won't catch on. Who gives a damn about windows media center edition? Who ever cared? It was a flop right out the door because it was half baked. Produce a complete product and release it. We want it.

Oh, and MS... consider dropping a version of windows on a phone that can run desktop applications. These smart phones are vastly more powerful then the machines that ran windows 3.1 . I think some have to be faster then those that initially ran windows XP. If you can't squeeze a version of windows 8 on one of those phones with a custom touch UI... then you're fools. A system that had that sort of capability would be vastly more useful then any other device on the market.

Fear, surprise, efficiency, and devotion (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962265)

The whole console paradigm is based on two qualities. 1. Price. [...] 2. Ease of use.

At the risk of sounding like a Monty Python inquisitor [tvtropes.org] , make that three qualities: price, ease of use, and local multiplayer. The Wii especially is fun when you have other gamers living with you or when you have friends or relatives visiting you at home. It's a lot easier (and a lot more spouse-acceptable [wikipedia.org] ) to buy more controllers than to set up a LAN party.

Re:Yes, they should be PCs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962309)

Regarding your last point. There is some talk that Windows Phone 8 will be based upon the NT kernel, ditching Windows CE. Of course it will have the Metro interface already introduced with WinPhone 7.

Not exactly sure what this means for things like app portability, memory footprint, desktop app support and all the rest. Reasonable guesses are possible tho.

Re:Yes, they should be PCs. (3, Interesting)

phriedom (561200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962353)

Your bias is showing. You think PC gaming is superior and if consoles were more like PCs they would be better. But us console gamers DO NOT WANT the barrier removed. We like to know that none of our opponents are using aimbots or custom textures that let them see through walls or macros or other such cheats. We like the fact that people that mod the hardware of their XBOX in order to cheat run the risk of getting locked out of XBox Live. Microsoft makes more money on Xbox games than it does on the same game for PC. And PC game sales are dwarfed by the volume of console game sales, so the value of wooing PC gamers onto the console is not that big. It looks to me like that barrier benefits both Microsoft and console gamers. Also, Microsoft has been pretty serious about making the XBox into a media center, when was the last time you tried it? I have a friend who recently canceled cable TV and uses his PC as a DVR for over the air programming, then streams from the PC to all the XBoxes in the house. The Xbox also runs Hulu+, Netflix, Espn, Last.fm and a UFC channel. I hear the next OS update will add more. I believe they plan on being able to replace set-top boxes from some cable companies in the future. If they are limited, it is because the content providers want to maintain control, not because MS, Sony Nintendo, or Apple are "dicking around" YOU trying telling the networks they should stream everything so the users don't have to pay for cable.

Yes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38961911)

Yes, consumers should be able to upgrade storage and video card at least; and lets call them PC 2.0 :-)

No no hell no. (1)

SiliconSeraph (996818) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961981)

Is someone just dead set on creating a dystopia for tech inclined people? Can you imagine the kind of people you'd deal with if you provided hardware upgrade support for the Xbox 360?

Absolutely! (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38961989)

It is ridiculous that they are not and the waste involved in the industry. It is nice that most consoles live a 5-7 year lifespan but there is very little reason that they could not be designed for some modularity and allow for them to be upgraded. Basically at this point it is a MB/CPU and GPU upgrade. I'd be OK if it was even the same price as a new system just to reduce the ewaste. Also, it is ridiculous that consoles are not required to offer backwards compatibility at least through emulation. I used to work in the gaming industry and it is all such a waste and most for no reason at all aside from greed.

Wii has more back-compat (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962209)

Also, it is ridiculous that consoles are not required to offer backwards compatibility at least through emulation.

Nintendo upgraded the GameCube in 2006. The new version had not only more RAM, a slightly faster CPU and GPU, and a distinctive remote controller, but also an online service to buy older consoles' games. The Wii can play downloadable NES, Super NES, and N64 games in Virtual Console emulation, and units from about the first five years of production can play GameCube game discs. What other console has as much backward compatibility?

Re:Wii has more back-compat (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962341)

I never said that they don't, but that they should be required to. The reason they do not is because they feel it promotes the used market and that people will not buy new versions if they can keep playing their old games. Of course that is B.S. and what it does do is keep older less efficient consoles in operation or a waste of the user throwing everything away since it usually has little value. The Wii is probably the standout in this area.

Re:Wii has more back-compat (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962397)

That's a bad analogy. The Wii is backwards compatible 1 generation, it can play GameCube games and that's it. If I have some old SNES cartridges lying around, I can't exactly plug them into my Wii, I can't even send them in to Nintendo to have them imaged into Wii ROMs nor can I go to walmart and get a device that lets me transfer my NES/SNES/N64/Turbo-Grafix-16/Genesis/Neo Geo cartridges and play them on the Wii. Instead, I have to buy them again. That isn't backwards compatibility, that is simply Nintendo milking older games and older franchises for all they are worth. By your logic the PS3 and 360 are just as backwards compatible, after all, you can download Genesis and N64 games on there.

Needs historical context (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962005)

Most historic console upgrades that I can think of consisted mostly of piggybacking what amounts to an entirely separate computer onto the console, and using the console as an input/output device. Think along the lines of the Aladin Deck Enhancer for the NES or the Genesis 32X. Often the upgrade cost as much as the console itself. It also tends to lack a "killer app," hence why so many development companies are reluctant to support it - pour $2M into a game only 5-10% of the userbase can use? Not exactly going to be rushing to jump on that bandwagon.

There is one upgrade I can think of that may have done a lot better than most of the others - that would be the N64 RAM upgrade. But, if I recall correctly, it often came with games, and it had a killer app in the form of a Zelda title. If a Zelda title is enough to move entire consoles, an upgrade is no surprise. That said, I have no idea how it actually did in the marketplace.

If they want to see mass acceptance of an upgrade they're going to need to put a LOT more thought into it, get developers in it IMMEDIATELY, make all new systems ship with the upgraded equipment built in as a standard (likely without a price increase), and drop the prices DRAMATICALLY. This may eat up their profit margin, but it's the only way to give people an incentive to buy the upgrade - after all, the reason that many people upgrade computer parts and don't just replace the computer is because it's cheaper.

Aladdin Deck Enhancer explained (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962311)

Think along the lines of the Aladin Deck Enhancer for the NES or the Genesis 32X.

The Genesis 32X I understand, and the Super Game Boy and Game Boy Player were the same way. But the Aladdin Deck Enhancer wasn't that so much as a set of common components (CHR RAM, bankswitching, and lockout defeat) that were in all Codemasters carts anyway. NES carts have three independent buses: the PRG bus used by the CPU, the CHR bus used by the PPU, and the CIC bus used by the lockout chip. The Aladdin adapter just handled the PPU and CIC bus jobs and ran the CPU bus lines out to a separate connector so that Codemasters' publisher wouldn't have to keep manufacturing identical PPU and CIC parts for each game.

Of course no. (1)

xmorg (718633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962019)

It doesn't even make sense. Consoles are for idiots.(or little kids) Idiots don't upgrade, they buy new consoles. IF you are 13 years old, all of your friends will laugh you into deep depression if you had an upgraded ps3 and not a ps4.

Oh please..... (1)

MaximumRD (2569421) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962029)

Oh sure WHY NOT? I mean being able to upgrade by bolting on new CPU / HARD DRIVE etc, JUST ONE MORE THING TO MAKE THEM EXACTLY LIKE A PC! Seriously, at that point just game on your PC. If they DID implement something like that they would have to better regulate strict hardware standards more then the do for current PC's because how else do you guarantee everyone's console will be compatible with the latest game release? Oh yeah that's right, you code the game according to the lowest comment specification like the majority of PC games! YEP I AM BEING SARCASTIC!

good luck with that (0)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962113)

They don't want you to piecemeal it . Like the cellphone makers, the want you to keep replacing the *entire* device on a regular basis.

its also why you see 'next generation' software not running well ( or at all ) on previous gen hardware.

Welcome to the upgrade-treadmill.

upgraded consoles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962173)

isn't the xbox 360 running a powerPC processor with ATI graphics(a single purpose PC)(no PC problems from upgrading and doing a shit job at it).... so if it becomes upgradeable doesn't it become a PC..... so whats the point of the console then its just a PC that is not multipurpose ..... so I might as well have a PC no point in console

Already done with nintendo 64 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962215)

The Nintendo 64 had the ram upgrade, it came packed in with Turok or maybe Turok 2? It let the game increase the draw distance and remove some of the "fog" also Perfect Dark had some multiplayer maps that would only work with the expansion pack too.

Consoles are upgradable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38962237)

I've upgraded my console a bunch of times. I had a Nintendo and then I upgraded it to a super Nintendo. I was even able to play my old games by downgrading back to my Nintendo. Some time later I upgraded my super NES to aN64!

I even upgraded cross platform by upgrading my N64 to an Xbox! Crazy stuff!

razors and blades (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962271)

Considering the price of games, one would think that the next-gen consoles would be nearly free, subsidized by the publishers. Especially as efforts to limit the value of used games becomes more prevalent.

I don't see Sony doing it, but I could totally see Microsoft partnering with a distribution channel to keep the price of the new consoles down. As it is, they'll probably be closer to $1000 than they will be to the prices of the current consoles.

I hope they fail. Consoles do nothing to improve the lives of gamers and have done much to degrade gaming.

NES (2)

Effugas (2378) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962275)

The platform that most successfully upgraded itself was the NES. One of the degrees of freedom they had, because there were chips in each cartridge, was to deploy new memory management units inside the games themselves. Quite literally, the NES became more powerful for games released later in its dev cycle. SNES did this too, with the SuperFX chip inside of Starfox (the most popular DSP in the world, for its era) but it wasn't quite the "all games ship upgrading hardware".

I suspect if there was ever to be upgradable hardware, it'd have to work by yearly subscription, and it'd have to be no more than $50 a year for the part. However, with guaranteed sales in the millions of units (as games would hard-require it) the logistics of making some pretty crazy stuff fit into $50/yr wouldn't be unimaginable. Remember that XBox Live is already pulling, what, $60/yr?

In a word: NO (2)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38962321)

One of the advantages of a console is that I can count on the games running in a relatively stable manner. The quality of the games usually get better over time because the developers learn better techniques & more optimizations, precisely because it isn't a moving target.
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