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Console Manufacturers Want the Impossible?

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the also-known-as-a-computer dept.

PlayStation (Games) 316

Phopojijo writes "Consoles have not really been able to profitably scale over the last decade or so. Capital is sacrificed to gain control over their marketshare and, even with the excessive lifespan of this recent generation, cannot generate enough revenue with that control to be worth it. Have we surpassed the point where closed platforms can be profitable and will we need to settle on an industry body, such as W3C or Khronos, to fix a standard for companies to manage slices of and compete within?"

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Frist psot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838527)

Maybe I should...

*puts on sunglasses*

post first!

*yeeeaaahhhhhhh*

Frist psot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838533)

Frist psot btiches!

Re:Frist psot (-1)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year ago | (#43838959)

What exactly is a frist psot? Probably a next generation gaming platform that is profitable? LOL. Seriously, the answer above is no and it will never be so. Its a niche market now and the three remaining players need to accept that.

Really? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838543)

Quite a bold statement that the console market isn't profitable, where is your source for this? MSFT posted Q1 2013 earning for the Entertainment and Devices Division:

"generated revenues of $2.53 billion for the quarter, up 53 percent from the same period a year ago. The division includes the Xbox business and Microsoft said there is now 46 million people signed up to use its Xbox Live online service, up 18 percent from the same period a year ago."

Seems pretty damn lucrative to me...

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838645)

Pretty sure they included revenue from the ads plastered all over xb in those numbers. It doesn't say much about actual gaming part of the platform.

Re:Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838833)

So? It's still Microsoft making money on the product.

Re:Really? (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year ago | (#43838723)

Quite a bold statement that the console market isn't profitable, where is your source for this? MSFT posted Q1 2013 earning for the Entertainment and Devices Division:

You'd be surprised what products are reported as part of "Entertainment and Devices Division". Rumor is that all Macintosh software created by Microsoft is part of "Entertainment and Devices Division", most likely to make it look more profitable.

Re:Really? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838803)

You can't prove something is profitable by making a statement about its revenues. If you look at the divisional earnings over the last 5 years it hovers around the $0 mark - profits in some quarters, losses in others - and the console segment is the least reliable earner in that division.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43839061)

The console segment is the MOST reliable not the least. The ups and downs are caused by the far more volatile parts of the division like huge losses in online and mobiles.

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

gsslay (807818) | about a year ago | (#43838927)

Article summary should be re-written;

Console market isn't profitable in the way that some gamers would like.

Re:Really? (2)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year ago | (#43839001)

Article summary should be re-written;

Console market isn't profitable because there are few games being made gamers want.

Fixed that. Seriously, Xbox one is being marketed not as a gaming console but a dvr.

Re:Really? (2)

slim (1652) | about a year ago | (#43839143)

XBone marketing has barely started. There's been one press conference about PVR / social media / blah. There's been stuff about CoD. And that's it.

Of course there will be games. Lots of them. Whether they're games worth buying an expensive new system for, we'll have to wait and see.

Re:Really? (4, Informative)

tgd (2822) | about a year ago | (#43839211)

Article summary should be re-written;

Console market isn't profitable because there are few games being made gamers want.

Fixed that. Seriously, Xbox one is being marketed not as a gaming console but a dvr.

Except that its:

a) Not being marketed at all yet
b) Explicitly described as not having DVR capabilities

So you're wrong on both counts. Guess you've got a case of the Tuesdays.

Re:Really? (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year ago | (#43838993)

compared to what? Think about this. An xbox is useless if unconnected to the internet. Same for a PlayStation 3. So really they have no choice. Oh and when you are talking about the new Xbox one, this video was from its launch. I love how it was edited to point out the obvious. Very little games. Isnt that the purpose of a console? I mean if I want another dvr I can get a non microsoft or sony one right? Watch this and count the number of times any game or game logo appears. Then ask how of that 2 billion was actual games.
http://youtu.be/KbWgUO-Rqcw [youtu.be]

Re:Really? (2)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43839157)

"compared to what? Think about this. An xbox is useless if unconnected to the internet. Same for a PlayStation 3."

What? Why are they useless? They both still function perfectly, just like with a PC you can't enjoy online content like multiplayer gaming or watch things like iPlayer or Netflix that stream video that's all.

Neither the XBox 360 or PS3 have an online requirement for anything other than online content. The only exception I can think of is if you want to download Live Arcade games on, say, a friend's console and then continue to play them after disconnecting from XBox Live.

"Very little games."

There usually never is more than 10 - 30 on release of a console. I think the XBox One said 15 exclusives on release and then presumably a whole bunch of non-exclusives and possibly even some arcade games, so all in it seems about standard for a console release. Not sure about the PS4's launch lineup though.

Re:Really? (3, Insightful)

Parker Lewis (999165) | about a year ago | (#43839153)

And how about the loses from the beginning of this generation? The article talks about the entire generation, not only a specific quarter.

Consoles aren't profitable? (5, Insightful)

dicobalt (1536225) | about a year ago | (#43838545)

*blink* *blink* No... I'm pretty sure Sony and Microsoft are making lots of money off licensing, game sales, and content distribution. The point is that the hardware itself doesn't need to be profitable.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43838597)

*blink* *blink* No... I'm pretty sure Sony and Microsoft are making lots of money off licensing, game sales, and content distribution. The point is that the hardware itself doesn't need to be profitable.

"even with the excessive lifespan of this recent generation, cannot generate enough revenue with that control to be worth it."

personally though I wold think the hw to be profitable on it's own at least few months from launch at least.. or they're buying their stuff wrong. the next gen, knowing how x86 chip prices go, should be dirt cheap to them one year from now.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (3, Informative)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#43838653)

*blink* *blink* No... I'm pretty sure Sony and Microsoft are making lots of money off licensing, game sales, and content distribution. The point is that the hardware itself doesn't need to be profitable.

Microsoft spend >6 billion dollars building Xbox brand. They barely started making profit last year? (or maybe in 2011). It will take them ~6 more years to recoup this investment.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838819)

They started making money in 2009 on it. the 360 they are now profitable on, though they are still in the toilet for total investment if you include original xbox.

Let me get this straight... (5, Insightful)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about a year ago | (#43838919)

So an American corporation takes a long view on a business proposition rather than playing the short con quarterly filing scams, and this is a bad thing?

Remember when that's the way business worked? Microsoft (at least, this division) is actually doing it right, and not bending to the whims of shareholders and 10Q filings with the SEC.

Re:Let me get this straight... (1)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#43838973)

Xbox was introduced in 2001. M$ will be lucky to turn a profit on the overall investment in 2019. Nuclear power plants take ~20 years to amortize.
This is not a long investment, this is an eternity.

Re:Let me get this straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43839039)

They would be very close to an overall profit already. It is a little hard to be sure though as the division the Xbox is in also includes some other large loss leaders like the windows phone division and online. though I believe currently they are profitable on the 360 and should be Brand wise profitable in the next year or two. They have built up a huge brand over the last decade with an unequalled online gaming business with Xbox live. I would think they would be incredibly happy with how it has gone.

Re:Let me get this straight... (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#43839173)

It's sad how modern stock market and economy made people actually believe that ~20 years is "eternity".

When it is MS doing something (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#43839125)

It is bad on Slashdot. People here love to hate MS, so if MS takes the long view on something, that's bad. If they take the short view on something else, that's also bad. It is a matter of zealotry, not fact.

In fact MS has been good at the long view idea for quite some time. When they get in to a market, often their first showing isn't that impressive. Many companies who do that say "Oh well, guess we can't compete," and fold. MS sticks with it, keeps improving, keeps trying. They don't always do that, and when they do they don't always succeed, but they've done it a lot.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838943)

Microsoft spend >6 billion dollars building Xbox brand. They barely started making profit last year? (or maybe in 2011). It will take them ~6 more years to recoup this investment.

And far far longer if the fact that people like me have no intention of buying it actually makes any impact.

Microsoft has a vision for the next XBox which basically says I won't be buying it, because they're cramming an always-on internet down my throat, and it's not something I am willing to use.

When you tell your customers "it's my way or the highway", don't be surprised when some people decide to say the hell with you.

Microsoft can eat shit, because they sure as hell won't be getting my money on an XBox One.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year ago | (#43839203)

Well of course a few weirdos like you are going to abandon them at various points, depending on what they do. It's like that with anything. But the vast majority of their target market probably doesn't care about the always-on-internet requirement and will happily run out and buy the new Xbox and a bunch of crappy overpriced games for it. Remember, "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public".

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (1)

berashith (222128) | about a year ago | (#43839023)

So I see some people breaking the Xbox division up and saying that the "games" portion of the device isnt making money, then we have this post where now the entire branding ( using a marketing department that is a company wide expense ) trying to show every dime that has ever been spent on xbox. Of course, using this logic, the xbox is a failed platform.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43839029)

How much of that 6 billion was pissed away on replacing faulty hardware though?

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about a year ago | (#43839093)

The Xbox started making a profit back in late 2008/2009 and has been ever since. Overall they are still in the whole but not to anywhere near the levels your post makes out. Impossible to get any completely accurate picture though as Xbox division includes lots of other heavy loss makers.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (5, Insightful)

RogueyWon (735973) | about a year ago | (#43838665)

That's the theory. Indeed, since Nintendo abandoned the "hardware at significant profit" philosophy as a form of emergency resuscitation for the 3DS (and hasn't gone back to it for the Wii-U) it's been the only theory in town as far as console developers go. Of course, most consoles achieve per-unit profitability after the first year or two (I got sick to death of being told that every PS2 was sold at a loss years after this ceased to be the case), but the general gist of it is that the hardware is a loss-leader and licensing is where the cash comes from. As manufacturer, other people invest to make games for your system and you cream off part of the revenue from every copy they sell.

Unfortunately, even that model (which did very nicely for Sony through many of the PS2 years - look at the chart in TFA) is coming unstuck a bit these days. Sony are flat, Nintendo's nominal profit or loss seems entirely dependent upon what the yen has done recently (but strip that out and they seem to be losing money right now in a way that's unprecedented in the company's history) and MS's gaming income is mostly from stuff that's very marginal to... well... gaming.

The whole console gaming industry in general is going through an odd round of self-cannibalism at the moment. There's just not enough money in the system. Console manufacturers are sinking (or have recently sunk) huge sums into R&D. At the same time, console game sales are actually falling quite sharply this year. They're caught between ultra-cheap (but mostly crap) mobile offerings and slightly-cheaper, more technically impressive PC releases of the same games (with even a basic home PC now easily able to outperform the consoles and the level of tech-savvy required lower than ever). Almost all of the big franchises which have released an installment this year - God of War, Gears of War, Dead Space etc - have seen a fall in sales on the consoles since the previous installments.

At the same time, development costs for games have risen and are rising still further. Early in this console cycle, the rule of thumb was that an "AAA" console game needed to sell 1 million copies to break even. That figure is closer to 3 million now.

Forget all the talk about corporate greed; barring the occasional mobile developer who gets (very) lucky, nobody in the gaming industry is raking in profits hand over fist at the moment. Stuff like online passes, day-one DLC and used-game controls aren't being implemented so that executives can have a bigger pile of gold to roll around on top of; they're fairly desperate survival strategies.

A significant portion of the Japanese games industry has already given up (or is in the process of giving up) the ghost and pulling out of any meaningful participation in the international market, in favour of their more forgiving (and heavily kids-and-otaku-driven) domestic market. There are a couple of developers that still try to be international players (Capcom, Sega, Sony and the publishing, but not the development arm of Square-Enix), but many others have now retreated into the handheld/mobile/moe-game comfort zone that's still profitable in Japan on the basis of low development costs. Even Nintendo seems to be hiving off from the rest of the world a bit; the 3DS's much-hyped reinvigoration is overwhelmingly driven by Japanese sales; it's still underwhelming in the rest of the world.

Western developers - and any console manufacturer who wants to be an international player - don't have that option. So manufacturers, game developers and retailers are all pretty much locked in a fight to the death with each other for the few shreds of profit left; with the irony being that they all need each other to survive.

I think game pricing is at the heart of the problem. Games are cheaper than they used to be - a lot cheaper. In the mid-1990s, a new PC game would be 45-50GBP, with console games being more expensive still in some cases. Today, a new PC game will be 30-35GBP and most console games launch at 40GBP but are discounted quickly. Factor in inflation and it gets even starker. Now, the industry could do that for a long time - despite a dramatic rise in development costs - because there were masses of new customers getting into gaming. It didn't matter that the profit per unit was falling fast, because they number of units sold was soaring.

However, at some point in the last 5 years, that growth in the gaming demographic slowed dramatically. In the developed world, at least, the low hanging fruit is gone. Anybody who might conceivably want to be a gamer is now a game. The days of ever-soaring sales are behind us; but development costs continue to escalate. So we get battles between developers and retailers, between developers and customers and between retailers and customers.

I suspect that fairly soon, the only option will be for something to give on pricing and for the price of at least some games to increase significantly. Nintendo has tried this with the Wii-U, where many games are retailing at 50GBP; unfortunately, it's not working for them (and is probably one of the reasons behind the Wii-U's poor sales performance). That said, that may well be because most Wii-U games at the moment are either crap or extremely short lived - and hence can't justify the price tag. Sony tried (and continues to try) differential pricing on the Vita, which has a much wider range of price-points than other console platforms for its games. Unfortunately, with the Vita seemingly dead in the water (I suspect the days of dedicated gaming handhelds are gone, outside of Japan), there's no meaningful data as to whether that works.

So yeah, not a great time to be in the industry; as manufacturer, games developer or retailer.

Re: Consoles aren't profitable? (4, Interesting)

Mabhatter (126906) | about a year ago | (#43838715)

The truth is that Microsoft forced $6 billion into the system to try to takeover... When there was NEVER $6 billion in profit to make back without knocking Sony or Nontendo out and gaining back control.

Basically nobody LOST which means in a good capitalist system there isn't that much profit to go around... Even though Microsoft was trying hard make it a non-free market which is where they were pulling all their numbers for investors from.

Re: Consoles aren't profitable? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838883)

This is part of it, but he's also wrong on game prices in that the GBP market was being totally ass raped for a number of years. Similar to current software prices in australia.

Games I bought ~1995-2000 were 39.99 as a maximum figure for a AAA title. Diablo 2 and Diablo 2 LOD come to mind, console games were more expensive due to licensing fees but I never saw anything north of 49.99 with maybe a few sports games etc as exceptions.

Accounting for inflation gets us to around $66 per title, which is roughly in the middle of triple a title prices these days. Development costs have risen, but the results for cost is insanely out of proportion. I shouldn't be able to buy an indie game that cost $500k to produce today that had an equivalent cost of $50+ MILLION just 3-4 years ago to produce. This trend seems to be proportional to the rate of larger studios snapping up smaller ones and I have more than a sneaking suspicion that there is a LOT of hollywood style accounting involved for these 100m+ budgets. I mean, even big stars are only reporting getting paid in the neighbourhood of 100-200k to do voice overs in a video game. At that sort of rate, for 50 million dollars every video game I play should have a star list similar in length to the expendables in it, or be as vast in scope as Skyrim.

Man-hour costs should be the largest expense in any software project and going by average salaries and numbers of devs on a team plus length of development you often can't even crack 25% of the supposed budgets of a lot of these new titles, while being incredibly generous in salary and dev number estimations in many cases. Some barely make 10%.

Re: Consoles aren't profitable? (2, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#43838911)

When there was NEVER $6 billion in profit to make back without knocking Sony or Nontendo out and gaining back control.

As far as gamers are concerned, Nintendo *DID* get knocked out of the console market. While they had considerable success with the Wii, it wasn't at their competitors expense. Nintendo had to create a new far more casual market in order to continue doing business.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838935)

Maybe if companies started to release something new sales would grow again. I'm not buying CoD 23 or Gears 9. I've played those games already multiple times, I'm not going to buy the latest and play through the same thing over and over. You can't keep rereleasing the same game and then wonder why the sales figures don't grow.

I don't think single device gaming is dead, I think the problem is these devices are jack of all trades and we don't have a single decent device for it. I mean look at the 3DS, Vita and Wii U. They're all new consoles with absolutely no games to play on them, They hit a release date a then had no flow of games afterwards, so you have no reason to keep them in your head space and go looking for new titles for them. I like my 3DS, but I have like 3 games for it and nothing but a Wii game without the waggle is even on my radar for upcoming games.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (2)

wienerschnizzel (1409447) | about a year ago | (#43839041)

On the other hand, the software development industry has moved on significantly since the early 1990's:

.
- development tools are more reliable, languages more fool-proof
- there are extensive frameworks available - graphics, communication, logging - myriads of well tested libraries for pretty much anything
- development processes are better understood and are readily supported by various development tools
- automated testing and building software is much better
- operating systems are much more robust

These are all things that make development much cheaper and more stable.

And then we see the presentation of the new Call of Duty and its great new innovation is the inclusion of a dog. Where exactly do the $100 million (or whatever the ridiculous amount is) go?

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838717)

I think the submitter has been smoking something and it has addled his mind. I can't think of any possibility that an industry standards body could be anything but a HUGE backwards step. I think this must purely be someone that wishes they had some open standard to write to so they could profit off the industries work.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#43838867)

*blink* *blink* No... I'm pretty sure Sony and Microsoft are making lots of money off licensing, game sales, and content distribution. The point is that the hardware itself doesn't need to be profitable.

Well, the Wii made Nintendo a ton of money. Mainly since they didn't take a loss with the 99 million consoles they sold. As for MS & Sony, I don't care. They choose the path they took, and if it didn't pay off, good. Not my fault.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838995)

Don't forget the accessories like the Minect and Move, and the shovelware associated with each. There much be massive profit margins on these things. As well as all those novelty shaped handles for the Wiimotes.

Re:Consoles aren't profitable? (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year ago | (#43839007)

actually yes it does. Otherwise those shareholders will sell sell sell.

What They Want (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838547)

They want:
- top dollar for their hardware (even if it is lacking in horsepower or hard drive space)
- high game prices (of which they want a higher percentage)
- high monthly fees for the privilege of playing those games
- lots of DLC that they get a piece of
- draconian DRM & no used game sales
- customers who won't complain about the shitty service and performance of their oversold networks

Not to mention that they want none of this for their competition.

Re:What They Want (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year ago | (#43839037)

I would so mod you up. This is why there is a console death spiral. I seriously want Sony to die and devoured by Google or somoene else. I want Microsoft to go through what IBM did in the 80s and be blocked from ever putting the crap they are doing now. I so want their gaming section to be bought off and broken into parts like they did to so many other companies.

About to change (4, Interesting)

neokushan (932374) | about a year ago | (#43838555)

It's probably not a coincidence that the PS4 and Xbox One are both running x86 chips inside them. Aside from a few choice bits, developing on each machine should be incredibly similar to the point where it's just a different API for either.

The best part is that this should translate equally well to the PC industry. If Valve does the SteamBox right, we might just have that "standard" the article is clamouring for. If Valve mandates that a certain level of Steambox has at least an 8-core x86 CPU with a GPU of equivalent power and 8GB of RAM (or better yet, convinces AMD to release an SoC similar to what's inside the PS4), we'll have 3 very different platforms that are easy to develop for, even easier to port to and a golden age of gaming where your platform of choice won't massively impact the games you can play.

Re:About to change (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#43838585)

golden age of gaming where your platform of choice won't massively impact the games you can play.

There will still likely be developers that exclusively release for one console; mainly the console makers themselves -- i'm thinking Nintendo

Re:About to change (2)

neokushan (932374) | about a year ago | (#43838607)

Hence the "massively" part. There will always be exclusives, hell there are games on PC that are "exclusive" to Steam or Origin. That will never change but I think we'll see a LOT more multiplatform games because it's so easy (i.e. less costly) to port between them.

Re:About to change (1)

some old guy (674482) | about a year ago | (#43838679)

I rather think, and hope, that the smarter route would be a trend toward universal cross-platform functionality while coping with the inherent strengths and weaknesses of hardware based on customer preference.

Granted, there are currently some hellish obstacles. Low-latency ISP connections for the console crowd to support intense server-side processing is just one that comes to mind. Better native PC OS support for analog controllers and other input devices for PC's is another. There are more, of course.

If the gaming industry's goal is to maximize profit, doesn't it make sense to include the widest possible player base?

Smedley, Ballmer, and you lot. Are you listening?

Re:About to change (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#43838937)

If the gaming industry's goal is to maximize profit, doesn't it make sense to include the widest possible player base?

Yes... console oligopolys benefit the device manufacturers though. They enable them to extort per-unit licensing fees out of developers for the capability to develop for their platform; which funds the development of the platform in the first place.

I'm sure the publishers would like their games on as many platforms as possible; but it costs money to develop for multiple platforms -- console licensing fees are part of that cost - so is adapting the code to run on every system, and the SDKs are different.

I'm not so sure that similar underlying hardware will translate into much less heavy lifting for publishers wishing to support multi platforms.

Re:About to change (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838595)

Well, I fail to see difference between console and PC in case of steam. Linux Ubuntu as base distro. I am pretty sure you will be able to do everything you could on normal PC.(in oher words limitation is hardware, not OS, as usual) Probably it will be trivial or relatively easy to install your own distro anyway.

Re:About to change (1)

neokushan (932374) | about a year ago | (#43838617)

I guess the main difference will be the amount of control you'll have. A SteamBox should just be a PC, ultimately. Steam has no reason to lock down the underlying hardware in any way, so yeah there is a difference between that and the consoles.

Re:About to change (2)

slim (1652) | about a year ago | (#43838639)

Well, I fail to see difference between console and PC in case of steam

The fact that it will Just Work. On a Steambox, if the game is available, you should expect that it works, and works well: no slowdowns, freezes or graphical glitches.

On an arbitrary PC, or one you've built yourself, you'll need to check the recommended requirements for every game, apply some reasoning, to decide whether it'll work on your system.

For example, I got the game "Closure" as part of a Humble Bundle. the requirements for which state "512MB with support for OpenGL 2.0, older or integrated cards may not work". As it turns out, for my integrated graphics, "may not work" == "does not work".

The Steambox user doesn't need to know what a graphics card is. Assuming it's done properly, the only games available to buy will be games that definitely work on the platform.

Re:About to change (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838709)

Well, I fail to see difference between console and PC in case of steam.

The big difference is a fixed setup.
The only reason I can think of for choosing a console over a PC is that the console have (Or could have if the console manufacturer documents things properly.) a very fixed hardware and firmware.
This means that the developer can test on a single setup and utilize it to the fullest, knowing that they if "it works here" then it works at the customer.
In a reasonably perfect world the end user will get a much tighter game that just works and will be trimmed to run at full framerate.

This is however not true.

Re:About to change (4, Insightful)

slim (1652) | about a year ago | (#43838613)

It's probably not a coincidence that the PS4 and Xbox One are both running x86 chips inside them. Aside from a few choice bits, developing on each machine should be incredibly similar to the point where it's just a different API for either.

The faster CPUs get, and the better optimising compilers get, the less likely anyone is to code directly in assembly. I think APIs are probably much more significant to games developers than the underlying chips.

Re:About to change (4, Interesting)

neokushan (932374) | about a year ago | (#43838643)

That is true, but there's always been more to it with consoles. While people don't necessarily drop down to assembler as much these days, it's still worth getting to grips with each console's underlying design in order to get the most from it. Take the PS3, its well known that it has CELL chips but writing code for it can't really be left up to the compiler to sort out, you have to know when to use the CELL over the PPC chip, you have to know the best way to package that data and send it, when it's optimal to do so versus when it's going to hinder performance. It has two different types of RAM and it's worth knowing which is best to use and when.

Even the Xbox 360, although much "simpler" to develop for, has a few exotic bits you don't find on the PC - like the ED-RAM on the GPU that can boost performance considerably as long as you know how to use it effectively. I believe both the PS4 and the Xbox One have a few subtle differences that'll be worth paying attention to, but they're a lot closer to the design of a regular PC than previous consoles (with the possible exception of the Xbox).

Re:About to change (1)

slim (1652) | about a year ago | (#43838703)

Yes absolutely. But

  - these are concerns for a handful of engine developers
  - that PS4 and Xbox One both have the same CPU family, doesn't mean there won't be other architectural foibles the more bit-twiddly developers can exploit. Even differences in the various levels of CPU cache are interesting to those guys.

The point has been made before, that even direct ASM programming isn't writing "to the metal" any more; all the branch prediction (etc.) that's actually happening on the metal is abstracted away from the ASM programmer's control. The really hardcore optimising programmer has to target those CPU features without having direct control over them... in the same way as an optimising C programmer has half an eye on what he imagines the resulting ASM will look like. Even a Java programmer can use their understanding of CPU architecture and code in such a way as to minimise CPU cache misses.

Re:About to change (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43838755)

"in the same way as an optimising C programmer has half an eye on what he imagines the resulting ASM will look like."

I havent seen a programmer that had a clue as to what the ASM output will look like in 2 decades. Where are you finding these Uber level programmers because they are not coming out of American Universities.

Re:About to change (1)

slim (1652) | about a year ago | (#43838795)

I haven't any direct contact with that kind of programmer either, because they are not relevant to my particular field of programming. But they do exist, and they're sought after in certain niches.

Niches including:
  - fine-tuning the inner loops of gaming engines
  - software for high speed financial transactions (where a microsecond could mean the difference between profit and loss)

Embedded too (1)

nten (709128) | about a year ago | (#43839107)

We are in the embedded sector as well. With the added constraints on these systems its always good to have what will be generated in mind. We aren't all procedural dinosaurs either, Knowing the assembler generated for OO and functional patterns is important too. I find knowing how to read assembler for your platform can still be important just for debugging purposes. Writing it not so much, as the optimizers have gotten so good. Those same optimizers are kind of screwy at times though, I've heard of cases where moving a statement with no effect on the other statements on an inner loop around within that inner loop dramatically altered performance with the VS optimizer. PPC optimizers are not quite as smart, but they are (slightly) more predictable as well. Also PPC assembler isn't as painful to read, though there are at least 3 ways to do anything, there have been chips that reduced the redundancy, but someone would always complain.

Also the game modding community, my dad does that, and he can look at x86 assembler and see c code.

As far as instruction goes, schools still teach courses using 68000 and MIPS assembler at the university I went to, at least a couple years ago anyway.

Re:About to change (1)

metamarmoset (2728667) | about a year ago | (#43839057)

The workflow for writing embedded software for microcontrollers, such as a PIC16/18/24/33, is often C -> compiler -> decompiler -> ASM (for optimisation) -> assembler.

Important and frequent optimisations in assembly often get injected into the C code directly. I agree that if you don't work in embedded systems, you will not meet many assembly-trained programmers, but embedded software is a huge market, and this is where optimising C programmers usually start out.

Re:About to change (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43838691)

It's probably not a coincidence that the PS4 and Xbox One are both running x86 chips inside them. Aside from a few choice bits, developing on each machine should be incredibly similar to the point where it's just a different API for either.

The faster CPUs get, and the better optimising compilers get, the less likely anyone is to code directly in assembly. I think APIs are probably much more significant to games developers than the underlying chips.

with 360 and ps3 good api's probably were pretty different to program for. whereas game engines are probably going to be much simpler to tweak for either system now. both systems have about the same memory as well and ps4 just being a bit faster.

Re:About to change (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838955)

Not really. GPU APIs all expose the same basic functionality, and can be effectively wrapped. The APIs game developers swear by (as in "this f*cking API sucks") are all the system APIs like savegame, cloud save, store access, update notifications, trophies, blah blah blah. These APIs tend to differ completely (e.g. MS has an async file-based API for savegame; Sony has a synchronous and truly bizarre API for this, which can't be run concurrently with various other, unrelated APIs). But those APIs are usually handled by junior developers or "system specialists" (aka shmucks who deserve our sympathy). (By the way, if your favourite game is late, it's not because of any core problems with the game, it's because the developers are jumping through hoops trying to operate the stupid custom system APIs in the "deemed correct way".)

Faster CPUs don't mean less assembly code, not if you're pushing the envelope. Better optimizing compilers might, but they tend to promise way more than they actually deliver. There is less assembly code, but only because fewer companies are pushing the envelope, because the cost-benefit analysis doesn't work out.

The problem I have with OP is that he fails to notice that all of this already happened with the last generation of consoles (broadly similar CPUs, broadly similar GPUs, and the weaker platform had crazy Cell shit to make up for the weaknesses). It just gets more mature this time, because there's no crazy Cell shit, so the source codes will be more convergent between platforms. OTOH XB1 has significantly slower memory than PS4, and since other things are more of less equal, there is a clear technological winner here, already, even before further information comes to light. What that means for "most games being on both platforms" isn't clear yet.

Re:About to change (3, Informative)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#43839017)

This. Having spent quite a lot of the last month trying to beat compiler output with hand-crafted assembly for vector math operations, I think I can confidently say that it is possible but almost certainly not worth it. The possible gains are minimal, even with the (fairly mediocre) VC++ 2010 compiler, and the effort required to get there is astronomical. Face it: the compiler knows, much better than you ever will, which instructions are faster, which combinations of instructions are faster, which ordering of instructions will be faster...

Re:About to change (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838651)

If Valve mandates that a certain level of Steambox has at least an 8-core x86 CPU with a GPU of equivalent power and 8GB of RAM (or better yet, convinces AMD to release an SoC similar to what's inside the PS4).

ugh, please make it so that the awful "atom-of-AMD" CPU wouldn't be made the new baseline for PC gaming.

Re:About to change (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838655)

It's probably not a coincidence that the PS4 and Xbox One are both running x86 chips inside them. Aside from a few choice bits, developing on each machine should be incredibly similar to the point where it's just a different API for either.

That's like saying developing "should be incredibly similar to the point where it's just a different API" for Windows, Mac & Linux because they all run on X86 chips and similar hardware "aside from a few choice bits".

Re:About to change (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838697)

A couple of years back the big buzz was convergence and the expectation was that all electronics would merge with ease. Instead we are seeing divergence. Apparently Intel is phasing out the X86 in favor of ARM for servers. Developers have been pulled away from desktop PCs and now write software for smart phones and more platforms for smartphones are appearing. Apparently we are only on the edge of the electronic era and things are about to get complex.

Re:About to change (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838899)

a golden age of gaming where your platform of choice won't massively impact the games you can play.

Um, that age started in 2003.

Re:About to change (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year ago | (#43839055)

This will happen when Muslims and Jews agree to live in peace and harmony. Sony and Microsoft hate each other and delight in making their games so hard to code for so you dont do cross platform games. There will never be a golden age of gaming, unless you are taking about japanese handhelds.

Irrelevant peasant consoles (0)

geirlk (171706) | about a year ago | (#43838557)

All consoles are irrelevant.

Obey the PC Master Gamer race!

Re:Irrelevant peasant consoles (0)

some old guy (674482) | about a year ago | (#43838693)

Keyboards are for secretaries and pianos.

Re:Irrelevant peasant consoles (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about a year ago | (#43839075)

And mice are for playing an FPS properly.

Re:Irrelevant peasant consoles (1)

slim (1652) | about a year ago | (#43839195)

... which leads us to an ideal FPS setup of a mouse under the right hand, and an analogue stick under the left thumb.

However, personally I prefer to do my gaming slumped on an armchair - so a mouse isn't practical. And I prefer my games not to be FPSs.

PC + Steam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838559)

We already have that, it's called a PC. All you need is to tweak the OS a bit. Guess who is working on that? Steam. Remind me again, why would I want a console?

Re:PC + Steam (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43838735)

Remind me again, why would I want a console?

Because my 70" TV is far more fun to game on than your tiny little laptop.

Re:PC + Steam (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838797)

> 70" TV
Plug the computer into the tv...

Re:PC + Steam (2)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year ago | (#43838851)

My one year old Ubuntu 12.10 laptop plugs into my TV through HDMI 2.0. With a wireless keyboard and mouse, or using my PS3 controller, it's far superior to my PS3, and has better hardware specs than the Xbox One.

Sorry console loses again.

Re:PC + Steam (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43839191)

And, what games can you get on your Ubuntu laptop? Tuxracer?

Because it seems to me that while you might indeed have better specs, your choices of games would be much smaller.

You're not getting any of the big game titles, so are you ending up with a better gaming setup with shittier games? At which point, is that actually an improvement?

Re:PC + Steam (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about a year ago | (#43838985)

Because we haven't had ways to hook a PC up to a TV for like 15 years?

Simple answer. (1)

psychofox (92356) | about a year ago | (#43838561)

No.

Why wouldn't 'we' let the free market decide?

Re:Simple answer. (1)

Meneth (872868) | about a year ago | (#43838621)

We are doing that. This is just a recommendation of what the big companies should decide.

Re:Simple answer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838627)

No.

Why wouldn't 'we' let the free market decide?

Because "gamers" are stupid, 100% stupid.

Re:Simple answer. (1)

cbope (130292) | about a year ago | (#43838763)

Because the free market decided that selling console hardware as a loss-leader and trying to make up for it in game licenses and market share was a good business model. The problem is, it was a horrible business model and was doomed from the start.

You can't base a whole business on a bad model and expect it to be successful. The console manufacturers should have settled on a small but reasonable profit on the hardware and lowered game prices. The problem is, "people" want a cheap console and don't appear to be fazed by rip-off game prices. This has been proven over the years. Exactly how much longer would you expect the manufacturers to keep taking a loss on the hardware? How many years would you run a business that essentially makes no profit?

You can't leave this up to the "free market", because everyone wants (expects?) something for nothing.

Re:Simple answer. (4, Insightful)

slim (1652) | about a year ago | (#43838825)

Because the free market decided that selling console hardware as a loss-leader and trying to make up for it in game licenses and market share was a good business model. The problem is, it was a horrible business model and was doomed from the start.

...

The problem is, "people" want a cheap console and don't appear to be fazed by rip-off game prices. This has been proven over the years.

Don't those two statements contradict each other? As long as people want a cheap console, and don't mind paying big money for games, then selling hardware as a loss-leader is a very sound business model. It worked for at least three generations of hardware.

It may cease to work in the current climate, but I think that's because people's desires have changed, and gaming has become cheap and practical on ubiquitous general-purpose hardware. That is, people buy an iPad or an Android tablet for other reasons, and find they can buy adequate games for less than $2 a pop.

Closed ecosystems are thriving (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838623)

The only story here is that Apple's closed i-device ecosytem is outcompeting Sony's Playstation and Microsoft's Xbox closed ecosystems.

The death of closed platforms is a nice fantasy, but it won't happen as long as typical consumers continue to be lazy asshats who would rather buy an app from an app-store than write one themselves.

Re:Closed ecosystems are thriving (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838659)

The only story here is that Apple's closed i-device ecosytem is outcompeting Sony's Playstation and Microsoft's Xbox closed ecosystems.

Outcompeting them in what areas, exactly? Casual toilet gaming? Being able to ask consumers to pay ludicrous price for their stuff?

Re:Closed ecosystems are thriving (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year ago | (#43838765)

Outcompeting them in what areas, exactly? Casual toilet gaming? Being able to ask consumers to pay ludicrous price for their stuff?

One point where Apple is outcompeting Xbox without even trying: In the last few quarters, Apple sold more units of AppleTV than Microsoft sold Xbox units. And I don't even want to know what you are doing in the toilet.

who has the money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838647)

seriously, who has the money nowadays to waste on gaming equipment? i'm just trying to avoid eating dogfood casseroles

Re:who has the money? (1)

Novogrudok (2486718) | about a year ago | (#43838757)

Well, I have the money (a SW developer). Of course, I have never bought, not intend to buy a console. However, I am perfectly happy with wasting €500 on a new GPU for my ridiculously powerful PC.

They need sanity. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43838729)

From what MSFT is pulling with the Xbox One all I see is the end of console gaming.

Game prices are already out of control, $80.00 for a new release is criminal. $60.00 is borderline criminal. Couple with that the new "no used, no borrowing" stance the game companies desperately want to put in place and all I see is consoles coming to an end.

I will Tolerate no loaning and no used if the games cost $20.00 to me, but I guarantee that the next games for the new consoles will start at $100.00 for new releases.

Re:They need sanity. (1)

slim (1652) | about a year ago | (#43838779)

From what MSFT is pulling with the Xbox One all I see is the end of console gaming.

Game prices are already out of control, $80.00 for a new release is criminal. $60.00 is borderline criminal. Couple with that the new "no used, no borrowing" stance the game companies desperately want to put in place and all I see is consoles coming to an end.

I will Tolerate no loaning and no used if the games cost $20.00 to me, but I guarantee that the next games for the new consoles will start at $100.00 for new releases.

If they go through with the "no used, no borrowing" stance, and the "fee to enable a used game" thing, then the price of new games must come down.

That $80 price point must surely reflect the fact that in many cases it's not money from one gamer but from a chain of buyers (whoever buys it new, whoever he sells it to, and so on). Prevent that chain from happening, and you must bring the new price down accordingly. Also, the people at the back of that chain are people who can't/won't pay for full price games, yet their money trickles up to games retailers through the used game chain. If they want to get those people's money through a different route, they'll have to get them with earlier budget releases.

So, a sensible route, perhaps - $40-$50 for a brand new release (similar to the "$80, sell it later for $30" someone might bank on today). Price drops to $30-40 6 months later when the first surge of demand dies down.

I'll be really interested to see if that's what they actually do. Keeping prices high while simultaneously killing the used market, seems like commercial suicide, but they might do it anyway.

Re:They need sanity. (2)

damnbunni (1215350) | about a year ago | (#43838831)

You do realize that if you adjust for inflation, Pitfall! for the Atari 2600 was a $90 game, right?

And Secret of Mana for the SNES would be about $130 in today's dollars?

Ridge Racer for the Playstation would be about $75 today.

Game prices are lower now than ever before, which is why you're seeing so much DLC and the like trying to eke out a few more bucks on the same engine/game.

Re:They need sanity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838847)

I remember back in the 90s where I, as a wee bairn went to the shops to pick up a brand new game and the prices were in the 80-120 USD range. This is not adjusted for inflation. Now, salaries in my country are -much- higher than in the US so it wasn't as bad as it sounds but the prices have come -down- since then.

A new game on Steam costs me... what... 60 USD max?

So I went from paying 120 USD in 1995 money to paying 60 USD in 2013 money. Average PPP has also gone significantly up since then.

Games could go to 200 USD easy and it still would not be as expensive in actual money, much less hours worked, as when I was a kid and I'm not rich. I'm somewhere smack in the middle-class here. I think you seriously underestimate the salaries in EMEA.

You've maybe heard of inflation? (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#43839181)

Games now are cheaper than they were when they were on the SNES. $50 in 1993 dollars is like $78 today. Also budgets for games have gone WAY up.

Also I'm not sure where you are getting $80 for new releases (presuming we are talking US dollars). $60 is what games seem to be going for checking stores currently.

I do agree the no used games thing is bullshit, and I'm hoping someone takes them to task on that (sounds like the EU may) however the pricing is not out of line. Making a game isn't cheap, and they tend to provide pretty good entertainment for the money. If you want cheaper games, with lower production values, you can have that too with indy games and B-list publishers like Paradox Interactive. However with first flight games, well the cost has to be paid somehow.

Endtothesystem (0)

puddingebola (2036796) | about a year ago | (#43838863)

Endtothesystem. Endtothesystem. Endtothesystem. Endtothesystem.

W3C in charge of gaming? (1)

Horshu (2754893) | about a year ago | (#43838873)

That is INSANE. W3C moves at an absolute snail's pace to ratify anything, so handing over a market that is as bleeding-edge focused as gaming consoles would be suicide. The same would be true of just about any consortium formed to do the same. There would be too much red tape, and too many competing interests to make it work.

Re:W3C in charge of gaming? (1)

metamarmoset (2728667) | about a year ago | (#43839139)

W3C moves at a snails pace, because stability is in the W3's (as a whole) interest.

Nobody is suggesting that the W3C should abandon their current work to reguate gaming consoles, just that unifying the console world might be a good thing.

If the big companies agree, they might set up a consortium which meets the needs of the industry, which would presumably include keeping things cutting edge - but this could be accomplished by planning forward compatibility into standards, and/or bringing out a new set of standards every couple of years.

Committee's don't have to be slow.

home loan calculator australia (-1, Troll)

MichealClark (2911021) | about a year ago | (#43838881)

Just select the car you want. Leave the rest to Iloans Direct. Your trusted best for Car Finance Loans in all car segments at affordable rates of interest. -- home loan calculator australia [iloansdirect.com.au]

fix a standard for companies to manage slices of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838885)

What does "to fix a standard for companies to manage slices of" mean? Fix an existing standard? Slices of what? This is remarkably garbled even for Slashdot.

Re:fix a standard for companies to manage slices o (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#43838891)

I believe that, in this context, "to fix" means to set, make rigid or permanent, or to make fixed.

A solution for the wrong problem (2)

Millennium (2451) | about a year ago | (#43838939)

The problem is not a lack of standards: even in the last generation, game makers managed to paper over that with cross-platform engines. The problem is that HD has made games inherently too expensive to produce. Even shovelware on the Wii turned out to be more profitable than even most of the blockbusters, which is why companies (most notoriously Ubisoft, but others as well) used it to fund their unprofitable HD development.

No amount of standardization will fix this, because while standards do fix a problem, it's not the right problem domain. The art department is incurring the big costs nowadays, not the code. This is like performing micro-optimizations in the wrong loops.

Re:A solution for the wrong problem (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43839051)

The same thing happened to special effects on TV shows and in movies, and the solution was to rely heavily on stock objects, textures and scenes combined with procedural effects that took the work out of hand-animating stuff. Combine that with excessive use of the shaky/blurry camera to hide the imperfections.

The equivalent for games to use an off-the-shelf engine like Unreal or Crytek and tools that take the high quality models developed for animation and degrade them to a level that can be used in a game. If you want a forest there is a plug-in for the engine that generates one, you just need to throw a few textures and parameters at it.

Destroying the value of their own products (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43838987)

The manufacturers may not realize it yet, but they are destroying the value of their hardware and games. That is, the customer's PERCEIVED value of what they are buying.

I still have a PS2 with a bunch of games, and it still gets plenty of use. It doesn't plug into the internet, thankfully, and none of the games need patching. It doesn't have features that might be disabled later, or adverts. There is no monthly fee. The console and the games are mine until they break, hopefully not for a long time. IT'S MINE.

I held off on buying a PS3 or Xbox 360 for a long time, mostly because I didn't like the idea of firmware updates, user tracking and monthly fees. These consoles could theoretically be bricked by the manufacturer at any time with a buggy OS update. The local multiplayer functions were stripped away from many games to promote online gaming. I only own those consoles and games at the whim of the manufacturer and the games publisher.

The Xbox One - forget it. Quadruple the power from the cloud indeed - more like "your games are guaranteed not to work once we switch our servers off". The statement "I bought an Xbox One" has become meaningless. "I bought a box of electronics that only plays games when I have access to a reliable high-speed internet connection, so long as nobody hacks Microsoft's servers, Microsoft don't go bankrupt, or Microsoft don't decide that I have broken their TOS and brick my console. Oh, and the games will only work if you follow a bunch of rules made up by the publisher, who can decide to stop any or all of their games working whenever they like."

That isn't a description of a game or a console that I can "own". This will filter down into the public perception, given the inevitable "geek rage" from early adopters. The "rent a game that we can switch off any time" business model will bite them hard, and the perceived worth of a games disc will plummet. Once non-hardcore gamers stop paying $60 for Call of Duty 16, the console industry as we know it is finished.

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