I frequent quite a few news sites, tech sites, game sites (Gameinformer is still my favourite, to let you all know), and forums of various games. One question I find that gets brought up once in awhile is this. What is ahead? The software or the hardware? This question varies on what we talk about. When we talk about computers (you Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux), our consensus is that the hardware is ahead. Mobile devices like tablets and phones, the software.


       What I have yet to encounter is the question, what is ahead for video games? The fact is, I have barely a clue. Let me delve into the back of my mind to find an answer. Right now, I want you guys to think, is the hardware (consoles, PCs) ahead or the software (game engines, game clients, operating systems)?



Hardware Dictates Limits


        It is true. The hardware in our boxes in front of our televisions do say what the maximum potential of a game is. Whether that be only a million particles can be shown at once or 24 maximum per a server, hardware establishes limits. Believe it or not, the hardware in our consoles are six to seven years old! In the PC realm, that number can vary greatly. Sticking to consoles, the limit has been set and finite for quite some time. How is it that a few years ago, a game like Battlefield 3 was considered impossible but today, has been accomplished?



Software Evolves

     The great thing about software is that it isn't permanent. Think of software like a pencil. If you mess up, you can always erase mistakes and continue on. Life is good. When you use a Sharpie and screw up, life becomes your worst nightmare. Software also bears the amazing property of Play-Doh. If I stuff it in a circle, it becomes a circle. When I stuff it in a square shape, it becomes square. Think of evolving software as Play-Doh. When the market trends favour something different, the software makes up for the hardware's inability to change and fix itself. 


    This is why we had a huge jump in graphics from Call of Duty 4 to Modern Warfare 2. Coders saw an opportunity to take previous limits and stretch them. The limits were there all along. It is the software limitations of the era that weren't able to realize the hidden potential. With newer and newer game engines being developed and knowing a better understand of the current generation than at release, they are able to maximize the potential that their game technology can bring to the game.



The Final Product

       Oooh.... Shiny new PlayStation.... *ehem* In the gamosphere we all live in, what matters the most is how the delivered product by the studio feels. Does the game feel fluid? Does it give off that lustrous graphics so desired? Overall, does it deliver on what was promised to you and expected by you? When developers release a game, they try to make it as polished as possibly before you get your dirty hands on it.


       We took a hit in graphics but the game pushed the rendering limits to have 64 players show up simultaneously on a map (MAG). The engine brought some of the best graphics the world has seen on a console. Sadly, framerates drop to allow such a compromise (Battlefield 3). The amazing graphics and story telling were fulfilling for any player. Despite the long loading times to render each area, we enjoyed it (Skyrim).


     These games all have one thing in common. They pushed the envelop of the hardware limits on our machines. There is also another trait they have to solemnly show. They all made a compromise in one area or another.



Back To Square One

   DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200! Wait a second...

      Ultimately, what is the answer to my question?  Unlike other tech, it is a very complex answer. We do know that consoles are approaching the end of their cycle. At the same time, they are also have left over potential that has yet to go tapped by developers. After taking clunky, immature software and replacing it with very mature, streamlined coding, it breathes new life into the aging hardware. So to answer my question, I believe that the video game industry is in a constant push and pull between the physical machinery and virtual lines of software. What do you think? Is the hardware ahead or software? Could it be they are both evolving in a mutual relationship? Could it be that without optimized game engines, the hardware leaves unlocked potential? tell me what you think in the comments below.