What to expect from the next generation

The next generation Xbox will launch this year with PS4 to follow in 2014, according to analyst IHS Screen Digest.

We asked senior principal analyst and head of games 
at Screen Digest Piers Harding-Rolls what to expect from the next generation of consoles. This is what he told us.

The reveals

“They’ll be at E3 for sure if not before, if either company feels they will get better exposure from an announcement at a standalone company-specific event.”

Expected launch timings

“We currently have next generation Xbox launching this year, with PS4 following in 2014. It’s possible that Sony may go head-to-head with Microsoft but we do not expect that to be a global launch if it does.”

Expected functionality

“To remain ahead of emerging competition in the TV gaming space I’d like next generation consoles to make it easier for third-parties to publish content, to offer gamers instant access to high-end digital games content through progressive download on-demand solutions, to persuade publishers to release more day and date digital content along with boxed product, to adopt freemium content more aggressively and to engage users on other platforms more widely through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. This is what we would like to see from next generation consoles for them to make an impact.”

Pricing

“We believe that subsidised pricing will be more widely adopted by both Microsoft and Sony. This will keep the platforms relatively competitive. Nintendo will be late to adopt a subsidised pricing strategy but could be forced to examine it if Microsoft and Sony push forward with it.”

Future hardware updates

“Let’s not forget that current generation consoles are updated regularly through updates to their firmware probably on a par with smartphones and tablets. Hardware updates to consoles include increased storage, different form factors and new accessories such as Kinect and Move. Current generation consoles have been through a lot of changes since launch. Maintaining the same underlying tech over a five to seven year period has its advantages: publishers have a clear road-map of investment in tools and middleware to publish content and the devices become cheaper over time as manufacturing costs fall. This is good for both platform holders and consumers still waiting to adopt. Console lifecycles really depend on the investment needed to bring that platform to market. If the investment level drops then we may see a manufacturer appetite for more regular hardware updates.”

On Steambox and new indie consoles

“Generally I see these devices as seeds of disruption for the TV gaming space. I don’t expect them to compete on a mass market level at this time and not directly with dedicated high-end consoles, but there will be adopters for sure, which means that these devices will co-exist in the market and start to generate some disruption over the next 12-24 months. This disruption will probably accelerate the strategies of major non-console CE vendors, such as Samsung and LG, in relation to games content on connected TV devices.”

Where the next generation leaves Nintendo

“We believe Nintendo looks increasingly isolated in the market. It does not have the luxury of a wider device ecosystem play such as Sony, Apple or Microsoft and it is behind the curve in its online and cloud content strategies. We would like to see Nintendo be more aggressive in ‘hinging’ off its devices using its online platform – Nintendo Network – onto third-party devices as Microsoft is starting to do with Xbox Smartglass and Sony is doing with PlayStation Mobile. Neither of these solutions is significant at present but it does show that these companies are willing to engage users on the most popular third-party connected devices to drive relevance for their own products.”