Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Out with the Old, in with the Neo

Phil Spencer, lead dudebro of Microsoft's Xbox division, recently announced that the Xbox 360 will no longer be manufactured, paving the way for its eventual retirement. He claimed the system will continue to be supported by Microsoft in the immediate future, but it's hard to say how long it will be before the Xbox 360 is orphaned completely and perks like online support and Games with Gold dry up.

The latest (and last)
model of the Xbox 360.
I've had unkind words for Spencer in the past, but he's right to look back fondly on the 360. It's still my favorite last generation game system, and although I haven't played it very often lately, I can't count the number of hours I spent with it over the last decade. It was the first system to bring epic Japanese shooter Radiant Silvergun to an American audience (and I can honestly use that term... the game is an hour and a half long, which is enormous for a shmup), and many of gaming's greatest hits came to the Xbox 360 first, or remained there as exclusives. Mass Effect 2 is one of the best games ever by my estimation, and for nearly a year, you couldn't find it anywhere else. Even a decade after its launch, developers are still striking gold with the system, as the well received ports of Metal Gear Solid V and Rise of the Tomb Raider illustrate.

So Xbox 360, I salute you. You may now officially be history, but you'll always have a home in my entertainment system. (Unless you red ring on me. Then there's gonna be trouble.)

Destined to replace the Xbox 360 on store shelves are turbocharged versions of the Xbox One and Playstation 4. The Xbox 1.1 is still a rumor, but it seems likely to happen now that the high-performance Playstation 4, codenamed Neo, has been confirmed (and grumbled about) by developers. They'll be expected to make games that work with the classic PS4 while offering enhancements on the Neo, a frustrating juggling act that will bring added cost and stress to game production. (And lord knows there's plenty of the latter.)

On the plus side, this should make the Nintendo NX a more tempting proposition to publishers. Before, it was put in the awkward position of being a next generation game console released years before its competitors, but now, it'll be just one of several new systems, without the added burden of cross-platform development. It's unlikely the NX will support features like 4K resolution and virtual reality, but unless you've got tons of money in your bank account and a Jumbotron in your living room, who the hell cares?

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