22 May 2013

Thoughts on the Imminent Xbox

The new Xbox is set to be announced tomorrow. Or today I guess, as it is in the United States that things will take place. But it is tomorrow for us, at 3:00 a.m. Microsoft is set to announce what can only be the latest generation of their gaming console; and I am pumped!

It is odd to realise that a central part of my entertainment is still being provided by a piece of tech that is around 8 years old. Eight years! Think about it; eight years ago, there was no such thing as an iPhone.

Sure, I guess now it is a sign of our times that we think new technology must be purchased the instant it debuts, and old technology shunted to the kerb; but 8 years seems a phenomenal time to still be using the same bit of tech.  Especially when you consider how much the experience has advanced over the years.
Just look at this comparison of Oblivion and Skyrim; same machine, same game series, wildly different experience.

Now, if I were to expect the same things of, say, my mobile phone, I would want my old 2005 era Nokia to be able to fill the boots of my current iPhone 4s. That means storing the whole discographies of my favourite bands, letting me watch my favourite shows and movies, connecting with family and friends, taking high definition photos, listening to voice commands and downloading thousands of amazing apps. Or at least instead offering me a fraction of this experience as the older Xbox did compared to the current.
Instead I would have been relying on this:
State of the art
Earlier today a couple of friends and I were musing over the difference that the console itself has gone through over its almost decade on this earth. There were the ugly ‘blades’ that were out gateway to the Xbox dashboard, or its initial inability to play media stored on an external hard drive (or even in such common formats as avi or xvid).
Check out the theme; so mid-2000's
Its older than Facebook, than Youtube (pretty much), and than Android.
Whats more mind bending from my point of view is its older than my son! Hell, its even older than my career (if you can call it that). 8 years ago, when it was finally time to upgrade from my humble old Xbox to the newly released Xbox 360, life was very different for me. For starters I had to scrape together money and ask for my mums help in being able to afford the thing! At least now I wont have to do that. Instead I will scrape together money and get my wife's help in budgeting this into our family’s expenses. Oh times how they change.
Debt remains debt it appears.
There was no financial crisis when Xbox 360 appeared. Few people could tell you what sub-prime even meant, and if pushed, I would have grasped at straws by mentioning Autobot hierarchy.
I guess as a lesser Prime he could be considered a 'sub-prime'...
There was a lot of hype around the new console, it managed to live up to much of its potential, but other parts of the state of the art machine have long since lost their relevance. Has anyone seriously been buying faceplates for their machines over the years? I did’t think so.
Thought this one is certainly worth investing in
The wait seemed to go on forever. I remember receiving my hideous blue faceplate in the mail a week before the console itself arrived on our shores, as well as a DVD of gameplay, and videos showing what the graphical user interface would look like. Watching it over and over as I dreamt of the amazing future that included things like, wait for it, wireless controllers!

It is also worth pointing out that the console I finally obtained on that day isn’t the same one I have today, though it is practically the same beast. Us Aussies had to deal with the crap end of Microsoft's roll out, first of all having our machines delayed when demand exceeded supply, and those Xbox 360s which had been destined for the land down under were appropriated by other interests. Then to add salt to the wound, the machines we got were more prone to suffer death via red ring. I had paid an extra $50 for the ability to swap any malfunctioning equipment with EB Games, and it was a decision that more than paid for itself (though note literally of course).
Within a week of getting my Xbox, it was dead. I replaced it in a day, and all was well. Until two weeks later, when the red ring fairy visited again and shut me down once more. Luckily third time was the charm, and the machine that hums and expels copious amounts of heat into my living room today is the same one that replaced the second try all those years ago.
Repeat screenings available...
One last thought.
I know sometimes it can be tedious to hear parents relate all their experience through the prism of parenthood; but I cant help feel that this next transition from seventh generation console to eighth will be an amazing thing to watch my son go through. During the previous transition between Xboxes he went from two disjointed human cells, all the way up to a cogent, sentient awesome little man. 
With a god damn green belt!
I remember playing Oblivion while he sat in a bouncer next to me, struggling to tell the difference between the world around him, and the fingers at the end of his hand. I remember introducing him to the world of gaming, and watching as he marvelled at the ability to shape events happening on a television screen with the press of a button.
When he was only two years old I would tentatively play Grand Theft Auto 4 with him on my lap (ensuring I obeyed the speed rules and caused no pedestrian harm), and was amused when he berated me for not putting on a helmet while I drove my motorbike around Liberty City.
If we can expect the same useful life out of this next console, then it will be the year 2021 when we next have to fork out a large sum of money and send it Bill Gates way. My son would be 15 years old on that day, in Year Ten, and living in a world who's fads and pastimes haven’t even been invented yet. Most likely he will play games between then and now that in some way will shape his life, his growth and who knows what else. He will experience movies and television shows that will stay with him forever. Through this conduit so much of our culture and knowledge will be available to him, in a way to shape who he is; and the thought of that really gets me excited.
Bring it on Redmond!


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