Every five or six years we stand on the cusp of a new generation of gaming hardware, a shift that sparks excitement in gamers’ hearts while striking fear in our beleaguered wallets.
We’re not quite there … yet. But it’s within sight. In fact, 2012 will be a transitionary year, when we get our hands on some new gaming gear, hear about what else is just around the corner and possibly witness a few surprises.
Sometime this year we should get preliminary word of new consoles from Xbox and PlayStation, though they certainly won’t show up on store shelves before 2013.
In the meantime, here are four new — or sort of new — gaming platforms to keep an eye on over the next 12 months, and why you should care about them.
Sony will be re-entering the portable gaming arena in late February with the PlayStation Vita, a new handheld gaming system that will replace the aging PlayStation Portable (a device that never really set our world on fire to begin with). Vita is packing some seriously meaty tech, from the 960 x 544 pixel touchscreen to processors capable of doing near-PlayStation 3 visuals to the Holy Grail of portable gaming: Twin thumbsticks. While handheld gaming is being transformed by small, cheap titles for smartphones, Vita will land on the opposite end of the spectrum, offering powerful (if pricey, starting at $249) gaming on the go.
We heard very little about the Nintendo Wii in 2011, but that’s not too surprising: With both Sony and Microsoft diving into motion-controlled gaming in a big way last year, the once-dominant Wii lost one of its main competitive advantages. Nintendo is hoping to get its mojo back later this year with WiiU, a new, high-def gaming system that will feature an innovative tablet-like controller, allowing players to direct the action on two separate screens. The demonstrations we saw at last summer’s E3 gaming expo were exciting, and it will be interesting to see if WiiU can replicate its predecessor’s success. If nothing else, it will be backwards-compatible with the existing library of Wii games.
Apple iPad 3 and iTV
OK, we’re entering the realm of speculation here. But it’s a given that Apple will release a new iteration of the iPad this year, and it stands to reason it will be more powerful than the iPad 2, making an already excellent tablet gaming experience that much better. As well, rumours are swirling about an upcoming line of standalone HDTVs to be offered by Apple (“iTV” is the oft-used nickname for these yet-to-be-revealed products), and these things will certainly be able to run apps, including games. The TV all by its lonesome could suddenly become a viable gaming platform.
With the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 getting a bit long in the tooth, the venerable Windows PC has vaulted ahead to become the most technologically advanced gaming platform available. With newbie-friendly but monstrously powerful rigs such as Dell’s Alienware Aurora (starting at $1,999 via alienware.ca) and virtually every new game available as an easily accessible digital download (including a ton of amazing independent games not seen on the consoles), 2012 could be a well-deserved renaissance year for PC gaming.