Is Nintendo’s New Machine The Death Of The "Console Generation"?

Is Nintendo’s New Machine The Death Of The "Console Generation"?

So, Nintendo has finally confirmed that a new console will be out in 2012, six years after the release of the Wii. With Microsoft and Sony not due to release consoles until 2014 at the earliest, is this the death of the “console generation”?

For decades, video game consoles have been released in generations, similar devices competing for market share until they’re replaced at the same time by more similar devices. For every SNES there was a Genesis. The N64 was joined by the PlayStation and Saturn. The PS2 shared shelfspace with the Xbox and GameCube.

Nintendo releasing a new machine so far ahead of their competitors, though, perhaps signals a move away from this.


Of course, you could argue the Wii has already killed the idea of the console generation. While released alongside the Xbox 360 and PS3, it was relatively under-powered, and relied on an innovative control scheme to cover up its antiquated hardware. It was, in the end, a very different machine to its competitors, something that had never really happened before.

A console release two whole years ahead of the competition would be something else entirely. It’s rumoured that Nintendo’s new machine is more powerful than the Xbox 360 and PS3, which will give it temporary superiority on the hardware front. There will be games on the new Nintendo machine, taking advantage of this, that you may not be able to play on older hardware.

That dominance won’t last forever, though. Microsoft and Sony will eventually release new hardware, and unless Nintendo is years ahead of the game – and this is where the wild speculation comes into it – you’d expect those consoles to in turn be more powerful in turn than Nintendo’s machine. As is usually the case when consoles are given a year or two to advance on technology, as faster components become cheaper to include.

(This is assuming, of course, that Microsoft and Sony continue their current strategy of bigger, better, faster. Ever since the Wii broke off from that arms race, though, anything is possible!)

We’d get a repeat of the Wii, in essence. Consoles out of step. Only this time, instead of simply being out of step technically, they’d be out of step technically and in terms of time. Killing the idea of the console generation.

(Imagine the Dreamcast taking on the original Xbox, for example. If the Dreamcast had actually lived long enough to do such a thing.)

What would this mean for gaming? More than you think! It would mean absolutely squat for Nintendo games, because Nintendo games are made for Nintendo hardware. But Nintendo consoles have for a long time now suffered from poor third-party support, and having another console out of step with the competition would presumably do little to help rectify this.

While Nintendo’s new machine was the market leader in terms of hardware, third-party games would – unless specifically built – be presumably built to still be able to run on 360 and PS3 consoles, negating Nintendo’s advantage. And when successors to Microsoft and Sony’s consoles are released, we’d be in the same position we are now with the Wii, third-party games having to be built using “last gen” technology and looking poor by more modern standards.

It’s certainly an interesting move by Nintendo, almost as if the company is intent to upturn the boat it started rocking in 2006 with the release of the Wii.


  • The Wii wasn’t release with “antiquated hardware”, it was released with exactly the right hardware that it required. (including its cost to produce and therefore the price of the product). You’re talking about processing power, which is only one aspect of the hardware. The innovative control scheme was not there to ‘cover up the inadequacy’ of the processing power, the processing power was there to facilitate the whole point of the console, the innovative control scheme.

    To say it was ‘antiquated’ is like saying that a Lotus Elise is ‘antiquated’ compared to a Holden Monaro because it has less horsepower.

    • I think you will find that an Elise is still quicker around the track, and just as noisy. Whereas the wii is slower everywhere and gets trounced around the track

  • I wonder, if the Wii2 is more powerful then the 360 and PS3, how much more powerful can the 360-2 and ps4 really be then the wii2?

    We seem to be reaching a ceiling, sure FPS will be higher, view distance longer maybe but I havent seen any huge steps since crysis these last few years.

    • I agree it seems to me that we’ve already hit photorealistic graphics. I remember the day I bought my 360 – we’d been playing Lego Batman with the kids, nice game but not anything that couldn’t be acheived on an older machine.

      That night my wife comes in and asks me why this was supposed to be better than the Playstation (PS2) she couldn’t tell much difference (from Lego Batman). I put in a copy of GTA: San Andreas on the PS2, pointed out the cool effects like the lighting, the textures, the detail of the city. Then I turned on GTAIV, she was blown away by the difference.

      The incredible fidelity, the fluid animations, the sheer attention to detail and immersion.

      Think about the leap from Atari 2600 with it’s blocky sprites, to the NES and Master System. Think again about the quantum leap to the Genesis and SNES with their transparencies, thousands of colours and higher resolutions.

      Then think about the time you first played a Playstation or Nintendo 64, it was mind boggling, the scope of games suddenly seemed so much bigger.

      Then think about the Dreamcast, the first time you saw Soul Calibur with graphics that looked like the FMV animations from the PSOne Tekken (the ones so good that you would try to finish the game with each character to be able to see every one)

      Suddenly jagged edges were replaced with smooth natural shapes, faces no longer looked like warped hexagons and textures didn’t pixelate up close.

      Then the current gen replaced the mannequin like human characters with more natural looking models, animation was even more fluid than before and processing power was being put to work caluclating the physics of objects or the mulyiyude of split second interactions over the internet.

      Every generation has ivolved a quantum leap overthe last, but the next generation seems like it might be ore incremental and less consequential as a result.

      • If graphics were to stop being advanced upon, there’s always coding improvements that can be made with new hardware.
        Eg, being able to handle many more scripts for AI and make game worlds become so much more alive with 100 or so NPCs on screen all doing different things and reacting to their environment.

    • We haven’t seen any huge steps since Crysis because developers aren’t willing to go all out on PC and take a risk like Crytek did with Crysis. I personally do not think we’ve reached any sort of ceiling and I don’t think we will for another couple of generations. If it seems like things have slowed down, it’s because we’ve been so reliant on console hardware for so long.

      Environments may be fairly well done nowadays (again, with Crysis, not with other games) but it still doesn’t take much to spot the difference between a real life picture and a rendered picture in a game. Many game environments certaintly don’t act like real life ones. People are still horribly animated and rendered and will continue to look non-realistic for a while (though L.A. Noir seems to be taking a step in the right direction with the animation side of things). It doesn’t stop with those basics either. There are a tonne of stuff you don’t directly notice with your eyes that can be improved on.

  • And in this new console they are using the R700 architecture if a previous post is to be believed, and this was the architecture of the HD 4000 series of graphics cards. The HD 7000 series cards are to be released this year! What does that say about how powerful this is going to be.
    Based on that same post, the new console will use a tri-core powerpc based processor. At the moment, that is what the Xbox 360 is running on (And a GPU based on R500)
    Really Nintendo’s new machine won’t be that far ahead, seeing as 2014 would be about the HD 10000 series if they kept the current naming convention.

  • I say good on Nintendo for being first cab off the rank. Im so over this generation, I want to see beautiful colours other than brown and grey in HD!
    It almost seems to me that Nintendo & Microsoft may be switching places. Now that MS seems focused on the casual market, Nintendo looks like they wanna take this opportunity to snag some of their bitter hardcore gamers.
    Now this is why I love Nintendo, you never know where they will take you. And I love that, I love being surprised and amazed.
    If Nintendo were like MS & Sony, gaming would be very dull indeed. (new controller for PS4, or no sale Sony!)
    Nintendo are the Radiohead of gaming (innovative & challenging), where MS and Sony are the Disturbed of gaming (decent, yet hollow. Loud noises makes pretty distractions!)

    • I loved my N64, and I loved Nintendo… WHEN I was a kid! My Wii has been left untouched for over a year now, and will probably remain untouched for months to come, know why..? Because Nintendo games will always be for little kids.. metroid.. zelda.. mario.. are all very games that lack any sophistication or depth. I speculate people just buy them for the sake of reliving part of their childhood. I realised that with this generation of nintendo releases.. and with that being said will probably never buy a nintendo console again. The Wii was a complete waste of money, with all it’s add ons, and stupid controller add-ons all gimics to milk the cow.

      Nintendo, will always be Nintendo.. same dumb games.. never anything better then another Mario kart.. or another super smash bro…

      IF MS and Sony WERE like Nintendo, then our gaming world WOULD be very dull indeed. With the early release of Wii2 it is clearly a sign that Nintendo is raising the white flag and bailing out on the console war..

      • What games do you propose actually have ‘depth and sophistication’? I wouldn’t confuse accessibility and fun for simplicity. I’m glad I still have the ability to enjoy great games regardless of their tone!

  • Nintendo aren’t rocking any boats here, nor are they doing anything unusual or different. Traditionally console generations have bee 5-6 years apart, and that’s exactly what they’ve done again. If anybody is doing anything different here it’s Sony and MS by trying to extend the cycle by several years. The games certainly aren’t showing any signs of drying up anytime soon, so I’m in no hurry to invest in new hardware.

  • MS and Sony will be doing the whole more power is better thing next gen, while Nintendo will be doing the average power different controls marketed at wider audience with a profit from console sales at release makes money thing.

  • @Spandex Armstrong

    Problem with Nintendo and the Wii is; those so-called “hardcore gamers” all left the Wii when it was evident the Wii was more concerned about its casual market. The lack of third-party games, like Soul Calibur, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy XIII, Assassin’s Creed, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, Super Street Fighter IV, Mass Effect 2, and so on is hurting the Wii and Nintendo’s reputation, which was dropping since the N64’s lack of third party support. Instead, games that replaced the above mentioned were things like: Cooking Mama, Ninjabread Man, Petz, Babysitter and what other crap developers could think of.

    The other, major, drawback the Wii had wasn’t necessarily it’s hardware, it was it’s control scheme. For every game released on all 3 consoles, developers could easily port to X360 and PS3 (and even PC), for the Wii, aside from using older hardware, it had to invent a whole new control scheme, going as far as adding elements in the game none of the other ports had, because the games didn’t have motion controls. This, to me, looked like the major turn around third party developers had when it came to the Wii. Older hardware + unconventional controls that needed to be designed specifically for the Wii and the Wii alone.

    Now, with PS Move, Kinetic and the Wii and presuming the Wii2, this barrier will possibly be broken, that is, if developers want to spend time and money developing a control scheme for controllers, then for Kinetic, PS Move and the Wii, all of them being different. It must suck being a developer in this day and age where there’s no “default” setup.

    • let the hardcore gamers be happy with their library of generic hardcore games.

      the thing about the wii was exactly being different. what’s the point of having 3 different consoles if they all have the same games?

      it’s just a shame the 3rd party companies don’t think they can’t make a decent game without being 3D hardware-expensive. it’s time to think differently because we’re now way past the 3D novelty — it’s nice, but it’s not all making videogames is about.

  • I think the lines have been blurred for a while now and it isn’t all about generations but moving towards playability. Did the 32X – Mega CD – Saturn and Dreamcast follow the rules of generations closely?

    Looking forward to E3 though, seeing what this console is all about!

  • I envision that it means consoles will be backwards compatible from now on.
    The leaked specs on Project Cafe indicate that it will be fairly compatible with 360 and pc programming, so I imagine that it will be around the same as ps3 and 360.

    I’d say consoles will go from generations to waves, Nintendo will release, then a few years later MS will launch theirs, and then after that Sony will launch one.

  • well wii dominated this gen,no matter how u look at it ps3 and exbox were raped and will lose again nxt gen

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