What will the PS4 and Xbox One redesigns look like?
December 26, 2013No Comments
The PS4 and Xbox One are fresh off the assembly line, and they’re both incredibly popular this holiday shopping season. That feeling of novelty and excitement doesn’t last long, though. After a while, sales will start to dip. Consoles will get discounted, and then the whole world starts to wonder when a redesign is coming out.
Hardware revisions for game consoles aren’t a new phenomenon. If you look back to the early home consoles released in the 1970s, redesigns are very much an expected part of the hardware cycle. The Atari 2600, the Intellivision, and even the Fairchild Channel F were all released in multiple configurations.
So, can we anticipate what the Xbox One and PS4 redesigns will look like? If we examine the brief history of game consoles, we’ll find a number of core reasons behind revisions. There are far too many hardware revisions to cover in this article, but I’ve selected a number of important redesigns to discuss. Before we try to predict the future, let’s make sure we understand the past.
Nintendo Entertainment System
The initial version of the NES was quite a quirky machine. It used a poorly implemented front-loading cartridge system for aesthetic purposes, and it was notoriously prone to technical issues. While many consumers resorted to blowing heavily into the cartridges, the problems were largely due to bad connections.
Bent pins, poorly aligned connectors, and other mechanical issues were par for the course. To make matters worse, this poorly thought-out design wasn’t even part of the Japanese original. Three years before the nationwide release in the US, Nintendo released the top-loading “Famicom” console with essentially the same internals as the NES. Not only did Americans get the Nintendo later, but we also got an inferior model.
After the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released, Nintendo eventually went back and redesigned the NES. Model NES-101 was released in 1993, and it featured a top-loading cartridge slot. The pretense of making VCR-like consumer electronics was swept aside, and the US market got to play their NES games without hyperventilating.
The PlayStation was an incredibly popular machine with a very long lifespan, and with that popularity came a non-trivial amount of modding and piracy. Unsurprisingly, Sony wasn’t very pleased about all that, so it continually modified the PlayStation to thwart these ne’er-do-wells.
Originally, the PlayStation shipped with a parallel port, a serial port, composite out, and a custom A/V port. Devices like the GameShark took advantage of these ports to alter the gaming experience, and system-linking was still considered a viable multiplayer strategy before online multiplayer took off on consoles.
By the time the redesigned PSone model came out, Sony ended up stripping most of these features out. The parallel port, serial port, and composite out were all removed from the back. In addition, the internals were changed in hopes of knee-capping the existing mod chip market. While some changes to the PSone were certainly made for aesthetic and cost-saving reasons, it’s clear that Sony was trying to lock things down for the entire run of the first PlayStation.
Many of the original PlayStation’s issues plagued the PS2 as well. Hacking enthusiasts used exploits and mod chips to run homebrew games and pirated copies of officially released titles, so Sony decided to play cat-and-mouse for another generation. Firmware was updated, the internals were tweaked to discourage mod chips, rinse, and repeat.
In 2004, Sony shipped the slimline PS2 to mixed reviews. This revision was smaller and quieter than the original design, and it came with an ethernet port built right in. However, it lacked support for the hard drive add-on, so some games were effectively unplayable with the upgrade.
The slimline PS2 wasn’t the only major hardware revision, though. In 2003, Sony released a device called the “PSX” exclusively in Japan. This short-lived device took a fully functional PS2, and combined it with DVR and DVD-burning functionality. Much like the oddball Panasonic Q variant of the GameCube, this beast was expensive, unpopular, and never made it outside of Japan. Even so, the additional features and the shiny new user interface were very telling of Sony’s plans for the next generation.