There have been a lot of hardware announcements in the last few months, and the expectation is that the new PS3 and 360 will be announced at this year's E3. Plus, with Kickstarter, some more innovative designs are coming to the fore. We've put together a small round-up of all the hardware coming your way in the next year or so.
What it is: The successor to the PlayStation 3, a dedicate home gaming console. Thumbs up: Great hardware specs, which you can check out here. Not much is known about benefits but people are speculating on the possibility of some cloud gaming features, though these might not be as good in Australia. The additional hardware power would enable more units to be on screen, and better power 3D, 4KHD, and split-screen gaming. Thumbs down: Sony have patented technology that would lock a disc to your console, limiting piracy and used game purchases. It's unclear whether they'll actually use this technology, though.
What it is: The successor to the Xbox 360, another dedicated home gaming console. Thumbs up: Microsoft (and Sony too) has included more and more non-gaming apps into its dash, increasing its functionality, even if no one really wants to Facebook from their Xbox. It shares possible benefits of cloud gaming, and great specs. Thumbs down: There will obviously be lots of sales on launch, but there might be a bit of caution, given the long history of the Red Ring of Death problem from before.
What it is: A handheld console based on Android, consisting of a controller and an upward folding screen. Thumbs up: You'll be able to play high end games, portably. It's Android-based, so you won't be playing Windows games like the two tablets below, but it's powerful enough for serious gaming. Thumbs down: The low battery life of only 5-6 hours may severely limit how portable this thing truly is. Its 32GB of storage capacity may also turn out to be quite small when installing the latest games.
What it is: High powered Windows 8 device aiming to be a cross between a tablet and a gaming laptop. Thumbs up: Will run high-end Windows 8 games normally, or in a touch screen capacity, which hasn't really been done before. For slower paced games, this could be quite fun. Thumbs down: $1299.99 USD, and only an hour of battery life during high-end gaming. Its side paddles also look gimmicky.
Microsoft Surface Pro
What it is: Similar to the Edge, this is a high powered PC without a mouse. A keyboard flips over to type with, and it takes USB input. Thumbs up: While the specs aren't as good as the Edge, this will again allow you to play Windows 8 games that could normally only be played on PC, but with the option of using the touchscreen. It's also cheaper than the Edge, and can output to larger TVs. Thumbs down: The specs aren't as good as the Razer Edge — the core i5 is still great, but you might chug on the highest tier of games. The Windows 8 platform might also limit your gaming somewhat.
What it is: Different manufacturers will be able to come out with different "Steam Boxes", though Valve's own version of the Box will be on Linux. Thumbs up: Access to Steam's massive library of games, made possible by their tweaking of Big Picture mode, even though some will obviously run better than others in a living room environment. Valve's box is set to feature eight HDMI ports in the back, for local play on separate TVs. Thumbs down: It's hard to think of a real downside without knowing all the specifics of the individual versions that companies will make, but given the hardware and features that are being talked about, you can expect it to not be cheap. As in, not too much less than a PC.
Release: March/April 2013
What it is: An Android-based console on which everything is free to try. Thumbs up: It's $99, and open to hacking, modding, or whatever you want to use it for. Great for indies, and great for those who care less about graphics and more about gameplay. Thumbs down: An early model of its controller has been described as disappointing, and some think its open nature may offer less protection against indie copycats, malware, and account hacking.
What it is: A controller that plugs into any TV via a HDMI connector. All game and Android OS data is within the controller and connector. Thumbs up: No additional hardware is needed, and it's completely wireless. It's $69 currently through Kickstarter. Additional peripherals can be plugged in, and if their stretch goal is reached, they'll include micro SD cards as well. Thumbs down: Many of the current games on the Android app store probably won't look too great when blown up on large TVs.
Release: TBA What it is: Head-mounted virtual reality setup that will show you 110 degrees diagonally in 1080p, for PC and Android. Plugged in via HDMI, DVI or USB. Thumbs up: Advances are being made in terms of the latency required to make head-mounted displays work, driven by people like Gabe Newell and John Carmack. From a technical perspective, this should be very capable and beautiful with the right games. Thumbs down: Many games probably won't be a good fit for the RIft, and it'll take a bit of getting used to. Some might just plain not like it — it'll be a "try before you buy" thing.
What it is: A motion control device much more accurate than Kinect, especially for the finite movements of fingers. Thumbs up: It's incredibly accurate, and only $69.99 on their site. While not intended for gaming, it does a great job of it. Thumbs down: You might not want to hold your arms out for the lengthy amount of time necessary to play a first-person shooter. And even casual games like Fruit Ninja might get tiresome after a while.
Which are you most excited about? Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments below!