Next gen game consoles still a few years out

I suppose now that we have a Playstation Vita launch date (February 22nd) and Nintendo has put us on standby for more Wii U info until next year's E3, it was inevitable that the speculation on Xbox Next and Playstation 4 would start up (neither of those names is official, by the way).

So which company will strike first? Launching a new console is something of a game of chicken. On the one hand, the company that launches earlier can secure an audience and lock out the competitors. This is part of what hurt Sony in this current generation. The Xbox 360 had a year head start and gamers eager to upgrade to something new and shiny took the plunge and were happy with what they got. (The Playstation 3's exorbitant launch price didn't help, either.)

On the other hand, launching too early can mean that the competition can deliver more powerful hardware and leave your 'current' generation looking a little bit lackluster. There's some speculation that Nintendo is making this mistake with the Wii U. Depending on who you ask it's anywhere from slightly less powerful than the Xbox 360/PS3 to slightly more powerful, but no one is saying it's a vast leap in horsepower over the current generation of hardware. Will the unique controller be enough to lure in gamers, or will they sit out and wait for the next generation of hardware from Microsoft and Sony? It's far too soon to tell.

So back to Sony and Microsoft. We had rumors on both platforms last week. For Sony, Develop Online says that early work has begun on some games for the Playstation 4. Now that can mean almost anything, and Develop sites a single 'trusted source.' Further, Develop says "Few in the games business expect a new PlayStation to launch before 2014" So if you're a PS3 owner you may as well get comfortable because you won't be upgrading any time soon.

Develop has a rumor for Xbox fans, too. This one seems a little less whimsical as they site "Multiple sources across the industry, from processor chip manufacturers to middleware firms" All these sources are pointing to an E3 2013 reveal with the console going on-sale during the Christmas 2013 season or early in 2014.

So taking these rumors at face value (and of course there's always a danger in doing that) it sounds like Microsoft was happy with the results of launching first and is planning to do so again with this next generation. That said, neither company seems in much of a rush to ask consumers to shell out several hundred dollars for a new console – given the state of the economy their hesitation is understandable and arguably even laudable.

On the other hand, this will probably give Wii U a year or more of unopposed 'latest generation console' marketing opportunities. And there's also the question of whether OnLive or one of the other streaming gaming services will get enough traction to cause gamers to think twice about owning their own hardware. So far streaming gaming has failed to capture the attention of most gamers, but a lot can happen in a few years.

If you're a gamer, chime in. Are you ready for a new generation or do you think your current hardware has plenty of life left in it? Any thought of skipping dedicated hardware and going with a streaming service? Or just ditching consoles in favor of PC gaming? Use the comment form!

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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