Feasibility of an upgradeable or forwards compatible console *spawn*

Discussion in 'Console Industry' started by RudeCurve, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. RudeCurve

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    Now to the topic of next generation console tech, what I'd like to see is a modular console with stacking ability. For example you have a main unit then you could buy optional expansion "processing unit" that you "stack" onto the console through some kind of highspeed slot. Think of a console where you could add additon GPU modules to double graphics processing or CPU/GPU coprocessors. The software would be "forwards compatible" taking advantage of the extra hardware for those who opted to add them. The developers only need to develop one version of a game but it would look and perform better on these user upgraded consoles. For instance if you only have the main console with no upgrades you get the standard 1080 30fps with 5.1ch lossy sound game while upgraded consoles would allow higher resolution textures, high quality AA, 60fps, 7.1 lossless sound etc.
     
  2. tongue_of_colicab

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    Right... so buying a pc isn't a convenient option but building a console where you can stick a whole bunch of expensions on is?

    I guess that is why Sega had so much succes with that.
     
  3. RudeCurve

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    Who said anything about "building" a console???? Did you build your little Wii Wii by adding HDD, SD cards, memory cards???

    You BUILD PCs you don't build consoles...lol.

    Right....because I'm gonna go spend $300 on a videocard to plug into a $500 PC but still can't play Gears of War 3...lol...yeah pretty convenient.

    SEGA didn't have any games that was "forwards compatible"...but nice try...:wink:
     
    #3 RudeCurve, Jul 6, 2011
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  4. hoho

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    Maybe because no one with at least half a brain wouldn't waste time and resources on things that most likely won't pay off? How many old games are there for PC that are half-decently "forwards compatible"? Sure, you can run them at ludricous resolution with highest AA but underlying art and shaders are stuck on whatever they were on release.
     
  5. RudeCurve

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    The question isn't about old games, the question is about NEW games that benefit from having better hardware. Don't have highend hardware, game drops down to average detail, framerate, physics etc. Have highend hardware, game runs at max resolution, details, framerates, physics, lighting etc.

    Not Rocket Science...

    Similar to PC games but without the PC complexity. Upon booting, the game will recognize if you have the "upgrades" and will configure setting automatically..basically Plug N Play.

    Another option would be using two consoles linked with a highspeed external bus working together like AMD/ATI Crossfire.

    Most importantly you won't have fragmentation, because everyone who owns the main console will be able to play X game.

    Theres also the added benefit of owners upgrading when they feel like it and not having to have to wait until the next round of brand new console launches while keeping manufacturing costs and R&D low. Cost of entry could be low too if that is part of the console manufacturers strategy.
     
    #5 RudeCurve, Jul 6, 2011
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  6. hoho

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    My point was when developers can't rely on having those external "upgrades" they most likely won't waste time and effort supporting them.
     
  7. RudeCurve

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    Then why do PC developers support them when not every PC gamer will have the best hardware on the planet? Why do PC games only have minimum system requirements and not maximum?

    Think Outside The Box.....

    Your head is still wrapped around the Fragmentation Myth that doesn't apply to this type of model.

    Look at games like BF3 and Rage...those are good examples of games that would benefit from this console business model.

    Also allow developers to put a special stamp on their games just like they do today ie instead of stuff like 1080P and DD 5.1ch they could add "Enhanced Performance mode when used with X option".
     
    #7 RudeCurve, Jul 6, 2011
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  8. hoho

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    They do? I wonder why pretty much all the console ports come out with just somewhat higher view range and rarely little bit better textures but still far from being remotely taxing for the high-end setups. Pretty much the only game that could be classified as "forwards compatible" is original Crysis and perhaps some user-made mods for other games.
     
  9. Rangers

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    The fragmentation argument is very valid. One reason consoles have increased in stature over the years while PC's have slipped imo.

    That's the assumed contract you get when you buy a console, "this box will play the games released for it forever".

    HOWEVER :razz:

    I can think of one sneaky little way you could use the upgrade to sneakily shiv the competition.

    Put a RAM expansion in your console, for sake of illustration lets use current gen. Lets use PS3. Sony puts RAM expansion slot in PS3. doesnt tell anybody it's plans or what the slot is for. Releases PS3.

    One year later, Sony announces 512 MB RAM expansion module. Ships with technical showcase, Killzone hypothetical edition, RAM expansion required. For 69.99, every Killzone HE comes with the RAM expansion. Further, it's available as a stand alone for just 39.99 at any corner store. Even further, all new PS3's sold ship with the expansion, as well as several marquee titles over the next year.

    Eventually, you end up with a scenario where almost all PS3's have the expansion, and you begin ignoring the few that dont. All new games are expansion pack required. It then becomes the defacto standard, and you just one upped the Xbox. Whereas, if you simply announced you ship with 1GB RAM, MS might have matched it, as they did your original 512.

    Yeah, sneaky :razz: I should run these companies.

    Other companies like Nintendo have done this, but as I recall it's usually near the end of generations, where that console is getting lost in the shuffle of next gen anyway. My plan needs that you do it early.

    The one question I have is, is it even technically feasible to include something like a RAM expansion slot anymore?

    As I understood it the speed and complexity of the traceroutes now is such it might not even really be viable, all that stuff needs to be on the motherboard and near the CPU and GPU.
     
    #9 Rangers, Jul 6, 2011
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  10. hoho

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    So how many games are out there that require XB with HDD or at least memory stick? Both would improve experience quite a bit by allowing streaming (and not crashing when driving fast in GTA4 :p)
     
  11. RudeCurve

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    Every new PC game have a minium system requirement...whether its DX9 or whatever that does not mean using a DX11 card will not gain you additonal performance. That is the model I would like console games to follow along with a modular console model.
     
  12. RudeCurve

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    Your idea Fragments the market, my idea doesn't read it over again.:razz:

    Or to look at it another way. You sell a complete Enhanced console (main module+addon module) for $400 and sell the main module by itself for $250. All released games will work on main module which is "minimum system requirements" but not at max quality. Only main + addon will work ant Max Enhanced quality.
     
    #12 RudeCurve, Jul 6, 2011
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  13. hoho

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    Yea, additional performance isn't bad, just that you'll still get games optimized for the lowest common denominator as that's what users are content with.

    You can't really increase pixel-pushing power with a snap-on unless you create a link with tens of GB/s throughput with low latency (pretty sure thunderbolt won't cut it). Same with extra CPU power. Pretty much the only thing you'd have is extra RAM (on a slowish connection with high latency) but you'd also need extra horsepower to make decent use of it.
     
  14. Rangers

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    But it fragments the market in a good way, whereas your idea fragments the market in a bad way :razz:

    More to the point it doesnt really fragment the market, at some point after most consoles are already converted, Sony can even announce "send us your PS3 UPC to this mailing address and get free RAM upgrade" or whatever just to deflect criticism. MS did something like this with NXE actually.

    You want to make the RAM upgraded console the only standard, rather than have multiple standards out there.
     
  15. RudeCurve

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    My idea doesn't fragment the market...read it again dude. In my model EVERY console can play EVERY game without needing any additional purchase. Your model has been tried and did not work, my model has been tried in the PC space and it works. The problem with PC hardware is that there are TOO MANY configurations and too expensive for highend graphics cards, with my model there is only two configurations which also allows lower price of entry for the basic non-enhanced console.
     
    #15 RudeCurve, Jul 6, 2011
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  16. Rangers

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    Your plan would limit the games though.

    At some point the old consoles will hold the devs back. I cant tap powerful configuration Y to it's full abilities by designing my game ground up for config Y, if I have to also support old configuration X.

    Just as if, there was a minimum spec that couldn't move on PC.

    I also see cost issues, 360 and PS3 were expensive and lost a lot of money. This would only exacerbate that, and very badly. For likely limited visual benefits as devs tried to juggle multiple hardware iterations while still supporting the lowest one. Would also increase complexity of coding greatly (though, still not nearly as much as PC, then again if you had multiple consoles doing this...)
     
  17. RudeCurve

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    I don't think much is going to change from the developer's perspective. Just look at the games currently available, not all games take full advantage of the hardware even though there's only one configuration out there. AAA franchises will ALWAYS look good and the only way to achieve that is to go beyond the LCD. Developers are already working with much higher quality assets anyway so it's easier to let the hardware do the downscaling. Not much code rework has to be done if the code was written to take advantage of the higher performance configuration.
     
  18. hoho

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    Also expanding an old console would mean that a new console would look rather "meh" compared to beefed-up old one so it's sales would probably not be the greatest.
     
  19. Shifty Geezer

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    Your way doesn't provide a true upgrade path, but an augmented high-end and cheaper low-end. You're effectively offering two versions of the console similar to two versions of a TV set or any other product. The only difference to any other generation is the option to buy into an 'accelerator' that'll boost your FPS from 30 to 60 (which would be cool, I admit!). It won't provide a means to combat advances in hardware across generations though, where to use that hardware needs completely new software. eg. Imagine Sony had an expansion port in PS3 and you could add a new DX11 class GPU in a box that the PS3 sits on. No games currently out would look like their PC DX11 counterparts without code being written for this GPU, and no-one's going to write code for this GPU without an install base. It's the old catch-22 situation that has always plagued peripherals and upgrades. There'd be a couple of flagship titles like Uncharted that'd target the upgrade specifically, and everything else would have minor improvements exactly like PC games have long been capped by lowest common denominators. A good example for me is the original Dungeon Siege on the PC versus Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance on PS2. BGDA achieved so much more and looked so much better, not because the hardware was better but because the PC hardware was never fully exploited. The only way the PC can cope with diverse hardwares that only need one code base is because of MS's hardware abstraction layer, but this introduces all sorts of bugs and issues. If you reduce the number of configurations as you suggests, then you limit the upgrade path so it's not a proper upgrade path.

    A system that allows a serious gamer to spend money on improving the performance of his games could make some sense, although I doubt it'd benefit the console companies much. One that can be upgraded over several years with new, improved hardware to keep up with PC progress won't work though.
     
  20. ToTTenTranz

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    I honestly there's a bit more thinking into the issue than an obvious "half-a-brain" answer to this question.
    The only console-related example I can think of is the expansion pack for N64. It actually sold well and it was supported by a reasonable number of AAA games and it sold.

    Enhancements varied from higher video resolution to increased model detail, so it was actually a bit like upgrading your PC's graphics card.


    Actually, I think the main reason for the medium success was that most of the games supporting it didn't require it but added functionality with the RAM expansion, so they were forward-compatible.
    Oh, and the expansion had a reasonable price, it didn't cost as much as 3xN64 like the Sega CD and 32x. The main reason for failure of the Mega Drive expansions was the ridiculous price, definitely. It doesn't matter how good and how many the games are if you're asking the parents of a little kid to spend some $600 on console upgrades.





    Look at Crysis. We know what happens if a developer releases a PC game that is "forward compatible" (as in, can only be maxed out in the future).
    It'll be heavily criticized for not being optimized enough because people with $3000 overclocked multi-graphics card systems can't play it maxed out.

    With a console, that wouldn't happen. You either have the upgrade or you don't.




    That said, I could see a console where a lightpeak/thunderbolt graphics card could be used to increase resolution, model detail, Anti-Aliasing, etc. Or even an external graphics card with the exact same specs as the internal GPU being required to play the game in stereo 3D. With each GPU rendering its own POV close to each other, performance should be fairly predictable.
     
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