Next-Gen Consoles: Solid Release Dates, Fluid Machines

by Mike Futter on Oct 31, 2013 at 08:25 AM

Over the past few weeks, we’ve started to learn more about the features and user experiences we can expect from the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. We’ve heard a lot of buzz about game resolutions and frame rates, day one patches, game delays, and features that will be included (and left behind) at launch. These are all big issues right now, but in a few years, they'll be a faded memory. The systems you bring home in a few weeks won’t look the same when their product cycles end.

Let’s look back at the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. While the PlayStation 3’s XMB interface is largely the same now as it was when the system launched, there are a number of features that have been added along the way.

The XMB wasn't always accessible from within a game (you initially had to quit out entirely), and trophy support wasn't added until 2008. The PlayStation Store has received a complete overhaul, and if virtual worlds are your thing, PlayStation Home came along after launch. PlayStation Plus first enabled users to access cloud saves and automatic updating (now a feature accessible by all users). Netflix and other video services that stream directly to the system were also added after launch.

The Xbox 360 has experienced more dramatic changes. Prior to the reveal of the Xbox One, we shared with you a detailed history of the Xbox Live service, but if you just want a refresher on the original “blade” interface and early improvements made to it, check out this video (courtesy of YouTuber “AceParty1”.)

Along the way, Microsoft changed the dashboard a number of times. Avatars were added, external storage options became available, and Microsoft partnered up with Netflix and other video services to enhance the entertainment options of the console.

Many users have likely forgotten that the party feature, game installations, and the ability to access the Xbox Live Marketplace from the Internet weren’t available at launch. These were all introduced with the first major dashboard revision, the New Xbox Experience (NXE) in November 2008, three years after the console first hit retail.

This long console cycle has clouded our memory, and it’s easy to forget that the conveniences we enjoy today weren’t even conceived of when the boxes first launched. With that in mind, think about the lists of features we’ve seen for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. 

There are a number of innovations and, yes, some drawbacks. Not all of the features we want at launch will be enabled, but then again, they rarely are these days. Early adopters pay a price for jumping aboard early. That day-one achievement or trophy dated November 15 isn’t just a mark of pride, but also a battle scar.

As for the games, if you look back at the launch lineups from this generation (as senior editor Matt Kato did yesterday), you'll see few games worth returning to at this point in the lifecycle. On the Xbox 360 side, Kameo and Condemned still have some appeal. For PlayStation 3, Resistance: Fall of Man and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance stand out. It is not hyperbole to suggest, though, that none of the launch titles for either system come close to matching what has been possible in Grand Theft Auto V, BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us, or a number of other fantastic titles released just this year.

Early adoption isn’t for everyone. There are those that want a fully formed product, an extensive game library, and other consumers to be the guinea pigs. If that's you, it's okay to wait a few months.

Both consoles will continue to evolve over their life cycles. If you’re okay with that and would prefer to see these systems grow and change, then hanging onto your pre-order is the right decision. Just understand that you’re taking the good with the bad. 

Launches are exciting, but they also have the tendency to be a bit rocky. Provided you go in with the proper expectations next month, you are likely going to be in for a good time. If you anticipate perfection though, disappointment is likely to follow.