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The Tech Of The Next-Gen Console Wars

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the duking-it-out-with-heavy-tech dept.

Microsoft 45

Sergey writes "Ars Technica has an inside look at the next-gen console wars, with a focus on what we know about the hardware in the PS3, Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Revolution. In particular, the coverage of the Nintendo's Broadway processor is the most thorough and best-compiled available right now, and I think it shows that the Revolution won't be nearly as weak as its opponents suggest." An interesting sidenote from a Eurogamer article: the Revolution's specs may never be fully revealed by Nintendo. They consider the information irrelevant.

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While this seems a little foolish (5, Insightful)

Kazzahdrane (882423) | more than 8 years ago | (#13925836)

I suspect that technical specs only really matter to one group of people: the developers. I need to know the specs of my PC so I know what games it's capable of. A console has a defined specification that doesn't change during its lifetime (unless you buy a "core" system....), so you know a game for that console will run on the one you have at home. Also, much of the specs released for the Xbox360 and PS3 are gibberish to laymen. Having said that, I do like to know little things like this, but then I'm a developer. If Nintendo's console is more powerful than rivals are suggesting maybe they should release them and say "Told you so!"?

Re:While this seems a little foolish (2)

freewaybear (906222) | more than 8 years ago | (#13925930)

The specs for all consoles are meaningless, since all they do is run stuff made for them anyway. But, I'm speaking as a non-dev, just as someone who only cares if it runs what it's supposed to.

Re:While this seems a little foolish (3, Insightful)

/ASCII (86998) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926215)

Since it looks like the Revolution will be _much_ easier to develop for, because of it's old-school design with few cores and a lot of cache, the first generation of Revolution games might look noticably better on the revolution than on the 360 or PS3.

Re:While this seems a little foolish (2, Insightful)

higuy48 (568572) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929653)

Wait a second... I don't understand how they could have made the system so easy to develop for if the controller is so different. I'd love to see the interface on their devkit.

Re:While this seems a little foolish (1)

Edgewize (262271) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934712)

The Revolution will come with a "shell" that essentially converts the wand into a classic two-handed multi-button controller. I'd bet that most developers with cross-platform plans are targetting that.

Re:While this seems a little foolish (1)

vexx0 (915665) | more than 7 years ago | (#13935141)

They are talking about the scripting and low-level functions. Programing for a new type of controller will seem like a walk in the park compared to hellish CPU functions. Besides Nintendo said they would help developers adapt to the controller in their games sort like they did to the MP demo they had.

Not just developers... (2)

higuy48 (568572) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926487)

I'll tell you who else they matter to: The Nintendo of America Marketing Department. As we all know, some people DO base their console buying decision on wanting "the most powerful system" or at least knowing what their getting.

Here's an interesting PR suggestion. Nintendo can say now that they believe that console specs are irrelevant. Say it a lot. Say it so that it gets in every piece of press or publicity imaginable. Then choose either the PS3 release or the Xbox 360 release. In releasing the official specs, cite either "developer demand" or "popular demand." Nintendo maintains street cred and dampens one competitor's thunder with something that Nintendo doesn't even care about.

How about it?

Re:Not just developers... (2, Insightful)

Kazzahdrane (882423) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926599)

Perhaps the Nintendo Marketing Department should stop believing that gamers need to be told *how* to play games. Nice suggestion though, it'd probably go down a treat and the fanboys would be able to say "Look, Nintendo listen to their fans! Aren't they so great!"

Revolution Interests Me (1, Troll)

hattig (47930) | more than 8 years ago | (#13925915)

Why? Because they're trying something different, it might really help gameplay in ways that haven't been thought of.

However I do want to know the specifications, because I'm curious. I know it isn't relevant for a closed-box system, but that doesn't sate my curiosity!

Anyway, wasn't the PS3's PPE redesigned (resulting in a larger PPE) recently? Does the XBox360 utilise three PPEs from the earlier design? Will the Revolution use v1 or v2 PPEs? Or WayFaster(tm) 750 variants like the GameCube's Gecko processor?

Re:Revolution Interests Me (1)

Filiks (578065) | more than 8 years ago | (#13925967)

That's Power Processing Element [vagusnet.com] for everyone who doesn't know Sony marketing-speak.

Re:Revolution Interests Me (2, Informative)

/ASCII (86998) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926282)

It is not yet know if the Revolution CPU will be based on the PPE design or the POWER4 design, though the Ars article makes it seem likely it will be PPE-based. But either way, it will with a 100% certainty be a custom made chip, just like the PS3 and 360 PPEs differ. IBM do this all the time, the 970 (G5) CPU is a stripped down POWER4, for instance.

Re:Revolution Interests Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13930923)

Why was I moderated as a troll?

Looks like someone's got a bone to grind with me!

Nintendo's got it right (4, Insightful)

Gothic_Walrus (692125) | more than 8 years ago | (#13925932)

They consider the information irrelevant.

And why shouldn't they? You're not going to be hacking into the Revolution to make it run Linux; I'd suspect the controls would make for a slightly wacky computing experience. You're never going to need to upgrade the system.

More importantly, as the last gen showed us, power doesn't mean much anymore. The three systems were able to offer very comparable experiences with the consoles differing in power, save for the fact that the Xbox versions of titles tend to be prettier than PS2 or GC ports. Hell, there were plenty of tri-console titles even in the last generation; even if the PS1 version of Spider-Man, for instance, was uglier, it still played the same as the Dreamcast version. If the specs didn't matter then, why should they now?

If I buy a console, it's for the games. Not for the specs. The era of classifying systems by bits is over.

Re:Nintendo's got it right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13926023)

I'd suspect the controls would make for a slightly wacky computing experience.

And the XBox controller was so smooth. Oh no, wait, people had keyboards and mice. Right, I guess you forgot about that.

Re:Nintendo's got it right (1)

CoffeeJedi (90936) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926182)

"Hell, there were plenty of tri-console titles even in the last generation; even if the PS1 version of Spider-Man, for instance, was uglier, it still played the same as the Dreamcast version."

Just a tiny edit, the Dreamcast is actually the same generation as the Xbox, PS2, and GameCube. Sega's entry into the PS1/N64 battle was the Saturn.

Re:Nintendo's got it right (2, Informative)

AndreiK (908718) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926324)

Personally, the main reason I believe Nintendo is not releasing the specs currently is a negative publicity thing. If they release just the numbers alone, then everyone would compare them against the PS3 and 360, making people think on whether they really want to buy a weaker console a year later.

However, if they release footage of games (Mid-november would be a good time, but unlikely), then they can show that they really do know what they are doing.

Re:Nintendo's got it right (1)

mushroom blue (8836) | more than 8 years ago | (#13927041)

you'd be right, if the Revolution wasn't very much up to the task of producing visuals comparable to Xbox360 and PS3. you might want to read Hannibal's Analysis [arstechnica.com] of the Revolution specs that were leaked.

Re:Nintendo's got it right (1)

AndreiK (908718) | more than 8 years ago | (#13927515)

You might have misread, but I know that. That's why I said they should release video footage instead of raw numbers.

Re:Nintendo's got it right (2, Informative)

mushroom blue (8836) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926993)

save for the fact that the Xbox versions of titles tend to be prettier than PS2 or GC ports.

this is not a fact at all. usually, Gamecube ports looked the best. Xbox could do higher resolution (Halo on an HDTV is pretty), but framerate and image quality was usually higher on the Gamecube.

Sound, however, was where the Xbox shined.

Re:Nintendo's got it right (1)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929111)

"You're not going to be hacking into the Revolution to make it run Linux; I'd suspect the controls would make for a slightly wacky computing experience."

Well firstly, like sibling post said, there's Linux on the Xbox. Now for my post:

Anything that uses a mouse without needing a keyboard would be as good, scratch that, better on a Revo controller. Point where you want to mouse cursor to go, use A and B as your mouse buttons (and d-pad down for the middle button I guess). It's possible that some company is going to make a keyboard attachment to the Revo controller (just for a game, not for Linux) and then all of the pieces will have fallen into place.

I mean, laying down on a couch, running Firefox on my TV, just pointing at links? Mmmm mmmm, I'll take some of that :D

(Then again I am lazy... yeah, so lazy that sitting up at a computer is just too much effort)

Re:Nintendo's got it right (1)

Scooba_steve (912247) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929883)

Revolution has USB ports on it, too. Why bother making a "special" revolution keyboard, when you can plug in a standard USB keyboard?

Re:Nintendo's got it right (1)

vexx0 (915665) | more than 7 years ago | (#13935226)

Only if a game developer would release a live CD as a game. They would strike gold. Even if they release a version a linux they could still provide the source code on their website free to download, and still sell the discs because nobody would be able to burn them on a rev disc and we would basicaly pay them for the packaging and support. Even people who has never even known about linux would buy it.

Specs ARE irrevlent. (4, Interesting)

kinglink (195330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926007)

Look at AMD and Intel, both are now going in different ways to say "we're better". AMD has used more multipliers, and Intel is trying to get more gigs.

I mean why does my 2.4 AMD run faster then a 3.0 Intel?

At the same time tell me why I'm stilling playing PS2 and not interested in the Xbox or GCN games (I own a GCN but I buy easily 10 times as many games for PS2) PS2 brings out hit after hit yet it's a weaker system? odd.

The fact is the game is what matters, NOT the hardware. Apple has constantly been a better computer number wise then a PC, Great for graphical and physics but let me ask you this? why is it that all "gamers" own PCs? Because the Mac doesn't have the software. Yes they get some games, but rather then have a couple games why not get access to all the games that come out. Why is it that Japan doesn't by the more powerful Xbox over both the GCN and PS2? Because they get many many more games for BOTH systems then the Xbox.

So I have to say that Nintendo's opinion is pretty correct. That the Specs doesn't matter. I think the big hurdle Nintendo has is to prove the worth of the controller, and they can to most but the most stubborn fanboys, as long as they get the games this time. Once they accomplish that, it should be an easy ride, and COMPLETE backwards compatibility? definatly going to make fans happy.

Re:Specs ARE irrevlent. (2)

Botia (855350) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926115)

The specs are only irrelevent if the systems specs are good enough. I agree to some extent that specs don't matter, and for the next generation (XBox 360, PS3, etc.) they are all close enough. While I'm curious because I'm a geek, they won't decide which system I buy. I can tell you, though, that I will buy an XBox360 because I want to play PGR3.

Re:Specs ARE irrevlent. (2)

kinglink (195330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926261)

Exactly my point, because Xbox 360 is the only one who will have PGR3, you'll get it, I'll likely get Revolution for Zelda (and other Nintendo games) and Sony's PS3 for GTA (assuming they get first party support) and the other japanese games. I have yet to buy an xbox because the games on it doesn't really interest me (though Forza did get me a little interested, as well as a couple others)

I don't think you're going to see the Revolution be radically lower, in fact the proc speeds arn't going to really be an issue, though Revolution should at least have 3 threads on it's system (whether through a mutli threaded proc or a couple procs), you'll see more of a difference because of the thread count now than the speed, though it'll probably be 3-4 years before you see the threads used at maximum capacity, not just for better AI, but for better everything. Multi thread programming is a headache and a half.

But if anything else will matter for these games it will likely be the drive capacities and the media. The Blu Ray may definatly be the reason why the PS3 rises even higher, depending on how they use it, but again it's the programmers who can make that shine or suck, not the console designer, assuming it's implemented in a decent way.

Even if this all comes to light I'm sure even the "aging" PS2 could go a couple more years with the preformance we've been getting. It's interesting because for the first time it's not console lag that's making next gen systems, but the fact it's expected.

Re:Specs ARE irrevlent. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13927369)

I would argue that specs still do matter, though this is probably the last generation of consoles where they are going to. The demos I have seen of actual in-game play have not made me think that this is the best that can be done and this is "it". There is still a fairly fake look to everything, particularly people. This might change though as the limiting factor right now may just be developer/artist skill, not hardware limitations.

Come 2010 or whenever the next generation after this is, I would agree that pure processing specs are going to be something of an afterthought. The focus will shift onto features like a blu-ray, HD capacity, and what it can do for you other than playing games.

Re:Specs ARE irrevlent. (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933455)

Why does your 2.4 AMD run faster than a 3.0 Intel? Because of the specs! That's why specs are so important!

Nintendo (4, Interesting)

Phantasmo (586700) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926122)

As I get older, I find my tastes in games changing. When I was a kid, I'd be perfectly happy with good graphics and lots of blood (Doom). In my early teens, I favoured games with great online play and lots of mods (Quake, UT, HL).
Now I'm 21 and I want games that:
  • load quickly
  • have elegant controls
  • have great music
  • can be played for an hour, then set aside for later
  • and are consistently fun, with low grind

  • My first thought when I saw the Revolution promo was, "Man, Wario Ware is going to be awesome." This is not a series that is known for fantastic graphics.
    So, I think Nintendo is going to be okay if they stay just behind the cutting edge in the graphics department. Especially if it lets them seriously undercut MS and Sony.

Re:Nintendo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13926172)

As I get older

Now I'm 21 ..does..not..compute...

Re:Nintendo (1)

/ASCII (86998) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926186)

He's a hu-man, he is using hexadecimal numbers. That would be 100001 years old in your native binary.

Hexadecimal? (1)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929127)

There must be some insider joke here I'm missing?

Humans usually use decimal numbers, he'd be 10101 in binary.

Re:Nintendo (3, Funny)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926278)

...and are consistently fun, with low grind

Gee whiz, Methuselah -- I guess I play too much Tony Hawk, because my first thought was to wonder why on earth anyone would want less grind! Hey, check my one-footed switch Casper!!!

Specs? Who cares? (2, Insightful)

Lord_Pain (165272) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926439)

Although hardware specs are nice and can contribute to a game it is the games themselves that matter.

Without quantity AND quality a system will die. It's simple.
Show me where the good games are and that will be the system that I will buy.

Re:Specs? Who cares? (1)

the computer guy nex (916959) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926595)

Show me where the good games are and that will be the system that I will buy.

Quick, name every game on PS2 or Xbox that isn't released on the other system.

I bet you didn't think of many. In this day in age nearly every game worth buying (save Nintendo) is released on every platform.

I went to gamerankings and found only 3 games in the top 30 released on only either PS2 or Xbox. Halo, Halo2, MGS 2.

Re:Specs? Who cares? (1)

Kazzahdrane (882423) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926704)

One could argue that lots of good games are released on more than one system. I see a lot of Nintendo fanboy friends sticking to stuff that's exclusive to their system because they believe it must be better than the "rubbish" you get on PS2 and Xbox. I feel very sorry for them :P Also, three series I like that are PS2-only: Jak (and Daxter), Ratchet and Clank, Final Fantasy (the newer numbered ones). If Naughty Dog (J&D) and Insomniac (R&C) stay Sony-exclusive and FF games keep coming out on the PS range, I'll probably stick with Sony next-gen.

Re:Specs? Who cares? (1)

VendingMenace (613279) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926783)

well, i for one almost think it is worth the price of an (used) xbox for ninja gaiden alone.

But if you want others, then there are;
Otogi
Otogi 2
Crimson Skies
Halo
Halo 2
Burnout
Dead or Alive

and i think there are more, just not ones that I can think of right now.

That is not to say that all the other systems suck, far from it! Rather, i am just pointing out that there are some really good games that one has to have a xbox (or one particular system) to play, that is all.

Re:Specs? Who cares? (1)

the computer guy nex (916959) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926826)

You can add Project Gothem Racing, Forza Motorsports, Elder Scrolls series.

Re:Specs? Who cares? (1)

Delphiki (646425) | more than 8 years ago | (#13926922)

Were the first games in the DOA and Burnout series both Xbox exclusives? Because I have Burnout 3 and DOA 2 for my PS2 (I think DOA2? I'm not sure which, but it was definitely some DOA).

Re:Specs? Who cares? (1)

xx404 (755873) | more than 7 years ago | (#13930373)

There are actually many games that are exclusive to each of the consoles. If you are interested in the complete list for each system then I have one here [iinet.net.au] . There are some on each of the lists that are not entirely exclusive due the the basic algorithm I've used but the overwhelming majority are.

Re:Specs? Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13935154)

MGS2 was released for the XBox.

You know (2, Interesting)

DingerX (847589) | more than 8 years ago | (#13927217)

Everyone here seems to be concentrating in Nintendo vs. the world crap.

But damn, that there's a truly insightful article. I mean, I know that it's Sony vs. Microsoft for control of the living room, vs. Nintendo for video games, and I know that Sony's position as pure content and closed-system appliance provider dictates their system, while Microsoft, as pure medium (soft or hard), has to cut a different path, but this here article spells out what their strategies translate to in real terms.

Yeah, this is a "me too" post, but come on folks, y'all are talking like you got statues of mario in your backyard. Yes, the article here gives a big window for Nintendo, lets Microsoft have a shot, and suggests that Sony's gonna be selling a White Elephant. But like any good journalism, it leaves that interpretation open to the reader. Who knows? It's Sony's game to lose after all.

I'm glad I don't play consoles (yet). Watching them come to market is entertainment enough.

Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13927808)

I think I really dig Hannibal's analysis.

Basically, he thinks that the PPE used in the PS3 and 360 will be the core for the Revolution. Why? It has a much better integer math performance compared to the PPC 970 (G5). The PPE has a flaw of its own though: poor(er) branch performance. But this flaw can be fixed by having a large L2 cache (think, Pentium M). So Revolution will drop down to 1 or 2 cores and load up on the L2 cache for two reasons: 1) Lower power consumption and 2) Greatly improved branch performance. Personally, I think they'll go with 1 core and maybe beef it out in other ways.

So, PS3 and 360 will have tons of raw computational power because they just plain have more computational real estate. BUT! And this is a big "but," they will actually have lower branch performance compared to Revolution. What's that mean? What good is that anyway? Branch performance means physics, AI, and game logic. A meatier gameplay experience.

If this pans out in the benchmarks I think Nintendo may have its coup. What good is all that processing power in the PS3 and 360 if you can only play back 3D benchmarks and decode HD video streams? Aren't these supposed to be GAME consoles?

Reactions (2, Funny)

arose (644256) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928037)

the Revolution's specs may never be fully revealed by Nintendo. They consider the information irrelevant.

Ken Kutaragi: "Chiken! Pok-pok-pok!"
Steve Ballmer: "I'll fuckin' bury Nintento no matter what their fuckin' specs are!"
Gamer: "This all just shows how immature Nintendo is."

Processor is not the criteria for best console (1)

rahulkool (927588) | more than 7 years ago | (#13930377)

as John carmak said in one of his interviews that maybe PS3 is better than 360 in all aspects but still 360 has better developer cummunity so 360 wud be better than PS3 and wud sell more than that ..... so, i think when it comes to consoles the developer thind matters most coz u can't run games developed for some machine onto another .......

Hannibal and Ars Technica suck (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13930652)

Why? Because their articles are full of unfounded speculation disguising otherwise. Oh, but it's fun to read their silly articles after they're debunked as false.
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