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What I’d like to see on the Next Xbox

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Rumours are starting to heat up that the next Xbox is coming in 2012. While some think that the sales success of the Xbox 360 & Kinect guarantees that Microsoft will wait a few years before releasing the next generation console, I think that the market that is buying into the Xbox 360 ecosystem now are people that aren’t interested in the bleeding edge of technology. So I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what I want from the next Xbox.

I think from a hardware perspective, the next console could approach a point where resources more than hardware will constrain how good a game looks. Some argue that has already happened, but we still aren’t able to have great looking open world games such as Assassin’s Creed, without them having major pop-in issues. That being said, hardware isn’t the only thing when it comes to a console, as the Xbox 360 has shown us by reinventing it’s dashboard multiple times since it’s launch in 2005.

I could make a list of dozens of things I’d like to see from the next generation Xbox, but I’ll boil it down to the three most important points to me for the sake of brevity:

1. A more robust marketplace. Currently, there’s no system in place for bundles and discounts based on content you already own has only been limited to the Summer of Arcade sales thus far. If you look at Steam, some of their most attractive sales involve bundles, so its clear publishers are willing to offer the packages, but the platform currently can’t handle it. It has also lead to janky situations such as NeatherRealm Studios offering a Season Pass on the Dashboard for DLC characters, but then to actually get the DLC that you already paid for, you must launch the game to get the option to download it.

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2. Automatic downloads of patches and free DLC content. Steam already does both and PlayStation Network is offering the former as part of their PSN Plus package now. The fact that there’s no easy way to distribute free DLC has lead to the situation where DLC content cannot be available against all online opponents. Frankly, it stifles the amount of cool things that developers can do with DLC in online modes. Also, patching of DLC content itself needs to be supported to avoid situations such as the one with Mortal Kombat 9 where games were desyncing because some people had the old version of DLC content and others had the newer version of it.

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3. Go big with storage media. While some think next-generation consoles may omit physical media, I think its necessary as games have the potential to become extremely huge in the next generation as development processes get streamlined and technologies such as Team Bondi’s MotionScan provide much more realistic human actors at the cost of an incredible amount of space. In fact, even though LA Noire was spread across 3 DVDs on the Xbox 360, the resolution of the various actor’s faces were still relatively low. If these textures were brought up to 1080p quality and applied to a full body capture instead of just a head capture, the size required could easily increase by tenfold if not more. id’s RAGE is also an example of a game with an incredible amount of source data (apparently in Terabytes) due to their MegaTexture technology, but again suffers from lower resolution fidelity from is textures due to the lack of storage space in current generation physical media. I do not think that 50GB Blurays will be enough to allow these types of technologies to be optimally be utilized. There have been companies which have claimed to have created 1TB versions of the Bluray format, and thats the type of size I’d like to be considered for next-generation console storage media.