The World Before and After Xbox 360
By: Vlad Zotta
My first computer was a 486 DX clocked at 66MHz. The beast was overclocked at 80MHz shortly after and it worked flawlessly. A few Pentiums and Athlons followed, but I lost my appetite. Things were getting messier, but then I went nuts and bought my beloved Northwood, which I managed to squeeze more than 1GHz out of. I felt alive again; I need to modify, tweak, overclock, break, buy and start all over again. I'm a PC guy and I hate closed software and hardware. I'm stressing components and their stress is my stress, but how can you strain a console out of the box? It's no wonder I don't watch TV, DVDs or play console games. I need .ini files, config files, mods, custom maps, homebrew software, DivX, registry entries, modchips, time and freedom to think. Don't get me wrong, I love new technology—any new technology, however, I only mess with it if I can achieve positive results. If not, then give me overclocked hardware, tweaked software, open source and freedom to play, break and decide…and I want all of that out of the box; no more pressure, just playing!
I love media, and every form of it, even though it has let me down more times than I can remember, but I still love it. I can even bet I'm not the only one. In the case of media it's kind of a paradox; you cannot force it in any way, but you can stress out many people with it. That's why media and technology are bundled together. They need each other. What's bad, though, is that they're never synchronized. Come on, how many multi-million-dollar campaigns are out there right now? I'll tell you. A lot. How many products deserving of these campaigns are out there? Still want me to tell you? Just a few. See, they're never synchronized. That's why none of these products are next-gen. With Xbox 360, Microsoft defined the next-gen concept and advertised it. What more could you possibly want?
Next-gen is not only gaming. New hardware is not next-gen. More polys will never show you next-gen. HD is not next-gen. Wireless controllers are not next-gen. Plasma or DLP TVs are not next-gen. 7.1 wireless surround systems are not next-gen. Then why is Xbox 360 next-gen? What is this ‘next-gen’? You don't just visit your favorite electronics retailer and buy a ‘next-gen’, attach it via USB to your old computer and enjoy the latest movies and games. It's not like any tweak, mod, or oc out there, although it seems like having a little bit of everything. Don't you get it? Next-gen is Xbox 360. No, not the console. The concept. It's not what you have in your hand that matters, but what you're dreaming about. It's the functionality of the device that matters, not the hardware and software behind it. Of course, you may alter functionality by messing with hardware and/or software, but still, if the results are remarkable out of the box, then you must at least admit it's an improvement over the previous failures. Say cheese!
I'm not worried that Xbox 360 will not deliver what they advertised—or at least I don't think Microsoft is that stupid. Things are still moving slowly, but even so, there will be 15 launch titles ready to ship with the console on release. Some of the promised games were delayed to early 2006, and right now Elder Scrolls: Oblivion seems like a good example. I'd give anything to play that game on a console costing less than the necessary video card needed to get acceptable frame rates on a PC. But I'm afraid this will not happen. I will not be able to buy an Xbox 360 because Microsoft Romania decided that my country is not worthy of an import. This is when my feelings go against Microsoft. I will probably sneak one in, mod the hell out of it and download all the games because if they are not importing the hardware, they are not importing the software either. Now, this doesn't seem ‘next-gen’ to me. Since not everybody is getting access to it, it means the Xbox 360 is a closed system that I cannot be a part of. I'm dreaming of a world where we could interact on any level we choose, and for this to become reality hardware should be the least of our problems. We have next-gen hardware and next-gen media to promote it, but we lack instant global distribution. What can I say? LOL?
Some time ago, when Nintendo unveiled the Revolution controller, I just felt next-gen at work. It's the kind of device that makes you dream with open eyes. That's why it all starts with Xbox 360. Imagine next-gen Xbox Live with streaming radio and TV featuring live gaming competitions, news, trailers, interviews, open chat sessions with developers, publishers and other industry types. Imagine playing the latest games with the best graphics possible without needing to tweak them for a widescreen resolution or search through daily beta drivers to improve performance and fix bugs. Imagine playing the latest video and audio HD content, streaming it, or broadcasting it to more devices. Imagine connecting all these ‘next-gen’ console formats and enjoying some cross-platform multiplayer right in the comfort of your own home, or garage, or huge LAN party. Some things are yet to come, but ‘next-gen’ is here and we're all still dreaming about it. Next week is next-gen for some of us. Good luck and may you embrace it with open hearts. You deserve it. Me? I'm just tired. My grandparents waited for the Americans for fifty years, while my parents lost hope until they finally came, orchestrated a revolution, and killed the reds. Now I’m just surprised to find out that history repeats itself. Damn next-gen! It’s messing with my wok. Peace!