Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Get in Line for Xbox 720

Here it is. You may now freak out.
It’s a four-year wait, so you might want to bring a sleeping bag and a PowerBar.

Just two days ago, ZDNet breathlessly reported that a designer's portfolio contained images of work he had done for Xbox 720, which he claimed is due out in 2015. Turns out it was total bunk.

I would love to look down my nose at the people who got into a lather over a dim abstract image, but I’m one of them. I’m just an impatient kid at heart, and I want something shiny and new. I want more processing power, more responsive controls, and a giant leap forward in graphics.

I want faces that don’t look like they're fresh from the mortuary. Even in games that are otherwise nearly photorealistic, some characters wander out of the uncanny valley straight into my nightmares. In the otherwise excellent Alan Wake, for example, Alan’s wife was nearly as terrifying as the shadow monsters chasing him. She looked like an animated mannequin on her way back from a Botox treatment.

‘Course, all that could come at a price, literally. According to THQ’s Danny Bilson:
It still costs us a fortune to make games on this platform. If they're going to up the scale, up the art, up the content, I don't know how to make that and sell it to anybody for under $100 a game.
Ken Levine, the creator of BioShock, said something similar.

Yikes. I can get decent graphics on my PC without paying $100 a game…but I can't get achievements. Is there no winning?

The original Xbox lived for four years. PlayStations 1 & 2 had six-year lifespans. Xbox 360 is now in its sixth year, but with Kinect setting sales records, there’s not much reason to think that Microsoft will retire the old girl anytime soon.

I guess I'll have to take comfort in the continuing stream of great games for the 360, creepy mannequin ladies and all.

Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft, but I don’t speak for the company. They don't trust me with important information like the release date for the next-gen Xbox.

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