Solving The Console Hardware Cycle

I was pondering this question last night. Having toyed with an XBox360 for some months (since never owning a proper gaming console in my life – the Wii doesn’t count) I wondered how frustrating it must be for a developer to constantly strive to push hardware that was now 7 years old? The slim 2010 version didn’t upgrade the core hardware either (CPU/GPU) but tweeked reliability and brought forward periphery components.

Why aren’t consoles running on the same hardware cycle as Smartphones? Revenue from hardware seems to buoy Apple, Samsung and a host of other manufacturers – why has hardware been a millstone around the neck of Nintendo, SONY and Microsoft? A lot of journalists predict  another disaster for the next-generation of consoles, as “consumers don’t seem to be crying out for new hardware” – but is this the case? How can the iPhone 4 fly from shelves (a mere hardware upgrade of the iPhone 3), followed by massive sales of the iPhone 4 S (a mere hardware upgrade of the iPhone 4), and now queuing-around-the-block sales of the iPhone 5 (a mere hardware upgrade of the iPhone 4S)?

What if Microsoft gave away the XBox720 when taking out a two-year subscription for £20? At the end of the two-years you either upgraded to a new XBox (tweeked hardware) or kept your old one and carried on paying a lower-price sub? Would this obfuscate the price of the console, as it does with Smartphone handsets? Would it see a reduction in the price of games, more in line with PC versions? Would having this hardware-refresh every two years invigorate the demand for consoles?

The Smartphone and tablet market seems to have reignited the rush-for-the-summit demand in consumers, to have the latest technology, for technology’s sake – is it time for the console to jump on that bandwagon?

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