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Opinion: Let's postpone the next generation until 2022

We have what we need. We're just not using it properly, says Rich Cobbett...

Forget the PS4. There won't be an Xbox 720, or whatever it ends up being called. As of now, the PC won't get a single new upgrade. For the next ten years, gaming technology is frozen - no new consoles or computers until 2022. Doesn't that sound wonderful? The answer is yes. Really, it is.

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Unless you're a shareholder in one of the console manufacturers at least, it's the ticket to awhole golden age - an age in which nobody will be able to rely on simply throwing ever-increasing numbers of pixels and shaders at the screen, but will instead have to fight with ideas and imagination and raw talent.

Time and time again, the biggest games just aren't the most innovative...

It's not like the systems we have are underpowered. Assassin's Creed Brotherhood built a living version of Rome. Time and time again though, the biggest games - onany platform, not just 360 - aren't the most innovative, but the most technologically impressive. Space marines in space corridors in space, playing it so safe that just one look at the main character tells you everything you need to know about the entire game - up to and including the fact that he's 99% sure to be played by Nolan North. Boring. In the new golden age, games are forced to become more like Bastion - not third-person beat-'em-ups with narrators, but games that offer reasons to play beyond simply looking for a new set of guns and enemies to shoot.

Even so, it's not as though the state of the art will stop advancing. The hardware we have now will simply be milked for every scrap of power in the way that PC 'demo' coders routinely get magic out of just 64KB of code. The visual effects will blow your mind. Technical innovations like the way Hitman: Blood Money managed to populate Mardi Gras when everyone else struggles with two guys in a room will become standard practice. With suitable witchcraft, we may even get proper anti-aliasing! The sky's the limit.

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The only casualty here will be an end to multiplatform games, since such unoptimised code will never suffice. Still, that's no problem. As there are no new consoles, you have several hundred pounds that you haven't spent on upgrading your current system to complete the set burning a hole in your pocket. Maybe you'll even have enough for a Wii U too, which just sneaks in under the portcullis by dint of already having been announced, or simply ten years worth of snacks if you remain loyal.

COST CUTTER

And it gets better. One of the main problems for the industry is that every new generation means more expensive development costs. On a fixed system, that slows down. Development tools can be refined, and engines and assets more easily reused. The way to impress will no longer be writing something that can compete with Crysis, but with concepts. No longer will there be such a massive gulf between something like Psychonauts or Beyond Good & Evil and the cream of the technological crop - and if there is, it'll only because they too are bending what they've got in equally interesting ways.

Console creators won't be able to stand idly by either. As both Microsoft and Sony compete for mindshare in an increasingly fractured market, everyone's service will improve. With no next generation to hold back for, and core services becoming increasingly important, long awaited features like console modding support and free to play games become essential. Both will make use of an obvious loophole in the rules allowing for new devices like Kinect and Move and 3D support to come out, only this time they actually have to be good. That will be acceptable, at least untilsomeone decides to try sneaking in anew processor and is promptly struck down by lightning by the vengeful gods offair-play.

Ten years. Not a decade of stagnation and regret, but a brave new world where the cream gets to rise to the top, where nobody can simply coast on a sea of shiny shaders, and where a failure to evolve means dying it out. Ten years. It's not much. We can make it work.

And the new consoles we finally get in 2022 will feel bloody amazing.

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