Rumors have surfaced regarding Xbox 720 (Durango/Xbox Next) and Playstation 4 (PS4/Playstation Omni) hardware upgradeability. Unconfirmed sources have found details that the next generation of consoles could be upgradeable thusly extending their generational life. Fixed hardware limitations have long been something that kept PC games more graphically advanced.
There have been some console makers who have attempted hardware upgrades over the years. A fairly successful example of this is Nintendo’s N64 Expansion Pak which upgraded the console’s RAM from 4MB to 8MB. In doing this it increased the N64‘s overall abilities enabling some games to run with enhanced textures, higher resolution, improved frame rates, and other such things. Most games didn’t need the Expansion Pak so consumers were not forced to buy it, but in classic Nintendo style, the first part offerings for it were nothing short of 3 killer apps that did require it. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Donkey Kong 64, and Perfect Dark.
A less successful example is Sega’s Genesis 32X add-on which was actually a really great add-on not only improving RAM but also adding on 2 new CPU’s along with an improved sound chip. All of these changes made the console come very close to arcade hardware, which back then (1994) was a lot like being a high end gaming PC. Unfortunately, due to poor marketing and too many products to compete with, Sega was not able to garner enough support from developers which caused the demise of the promising add-on. Despite a few decent games such as Virtua Fighter, Knuckles Chaotix, and Doom, the system didn’t have enough games to compete with its counterpart the Sega Saturn, nor the Playstation, N64 and Jaguar. Similarly, Sega also released the Sega CD, which upgraded the beloved Sega Genesis with a CD-Rom drive allowing for bigger stages, CD quality music, videos and more. Once again, developer support fell short due to the units poor sales. There were also some failed and limited attempts for disk drives made by Nintendo for both NES and N64, neither of which made it stateside.
Playstation 4 and Xbox 720 upgrades could work if released at the right time for the right price (probably 100 dollars or less) and most importantly, as history has taught us, with several killer apps. The above information shows us that the cheapest add-on which had hit games made for it was the only successful add-on. If you wanted to play the new Zelda, you needed that Expansion Pak. If you wanted to play Perfect Dark, the spiritual sequel to Goldeneye, then you needed to pony up up the cash. It also helped that all you needed to do was plug it right into your console; a clean and simple installation.
Similar things can be done this next generation of consoles. Imagine, next year you get your brand new Xbox Next… 3 years elapse and the games are great made even greater by their graphics. Then the Xbox Next Expansion Pak comes out… for $99 dollars it adds a second GPU along with another 1gb of video RAM allowing for bigger textures, bigger levels and bigger fun. What better games to sell the add-on than Halo 6, the latest in the hit FPS franchise along with Gears of War 6, next big Epic game.. I may be just an unpaid writer, but that would be a pretty nifty way to stretch a system’s lifespan without needing to redevelop an expensive new console. The main points for success here are price point, plug and play upgradeability, and strong game support.
We’ll keep you updated on more rumors as they come and eventually, the official announcements for the next generation of Xbox and Playstation.