Friday, March 9, 2012

Will The Next XBox Use CARTRIDGES??

You may recall that I've been in favor of such a thing since last year; so obviously I'd support the HELL out of any company that actually tried what MCV claims Microsoft might by trying with the next XBox: Ditching disc-based games entirely in favor of "solid state" storage - aka the return of games on cartridges (or, more specifically, some kind of proprietary SD Card-esque format.) Wouldn't that be something.

It almost sounds crazy, but consider the difficult situation for Microsoft otherwise: Downloadable and/or "cloud" gaming is the wave of the future to a large degree (and whatever else the "NextBox" is, you can bet it'll be optimized for that), but physical media isn't going all the way away anytime soon; and the physical-media of choice for the forseeable future is Blu-Ray... a format owned by their competition, Sony. Given that, it's understandable how MS could at least be considering a potentially risky move like this.

What I want to know is, IF this goes down... do the others follow suit?

Sony, certainly, is unlikely to abandon Blu-Ray outright for the innevitable PS4... but if solid-state "carts" looked poised to catch on as a legit alternative (obvious benefits: low-to-no loading times, durability, on-board saving/writability) would it be that hard to "add a slot" to the machine just in case?

Similarly, though the WiiU is already in-production with a scheduled release of later this year, I could easily imagine otherwise-cautious Nintendo jumping on this theoretical bandwagon - if there's any game company bound to become almost sexually-aroused as the prospect of returning to proprietary cartridges it's Nintendo, after all...


Anonymous said...

As much as I like the idea their's no doubt the increased production cost of carts would cause the already high price of games to increase further. But if it means less loading time i'd happily pay an extra $5-$10. It's the little things.

Pentium100 said...

I don't get it - what is so good about cartridges? They are much more expensive than a disc and do not offer anything that is not available otherwise.

Yes, loading time could be shorter, but the disc drive could be faster too and games are quite linear in their loading. Also, why do you think that Microsoft will put fast memory in those cartridges?

Now, I understand Microsoft's position - they do not want to license Bluray or make their own disc, so this could be Microsoft's only option. Still, it would suck, not just because of the expensive games, but also because the Xbox won't be a media player (this can be a problem to some people).

Solid state memory isn't a good alternative to discs for video games. Fast memory (that is, faster than a Bluray drive) is expensive, writability problem is solved with an internal hard drive (and in my opinion it is better to write to the hard drive instead of the game media).

As for cartridge durability - yes, old carts were really durable, but modern ones won't be. USB flash sticks fail all the time and I don't think this game memory will be any better. Why/ Two reasons:
1) less durable is cheaper to make.
2) when it fails you have to go buy a new copy of the game.

Anonymous said...

Sony doesn't OWN Blu-Ray. The Blu-Ray consortium does, of which Sony is but a member.

Sabre said...


The pro cart movement seems to come mainly from 3 places. One of which is the Retro gaming scene who have a dream of games returning to the Snes era days. That's where I think bob is coming from on this.

The others are pirates/emulator fans, who can easy move data back and forth, and parents, who don't have to worry about getting jam all over their discs.

Also durability is an iffy one, because, while it means less scratches on those frail discs, the same effect could be achieved with disc caddies. The trade off is that carts die, eventually. Most of the original pokemon carts don't work, or at least have no ability to save. Whereas discs last much longer with even basic care.

Pentium100 said...

Sabre -
I understand the retro fans, after all, I am a retro fan (but of electronics, not of retro video games). I am a PC gamer that likes modern games - mainly FPS (Bioshock style, not CoD style), adventure, action RPG (like Borderlands), JRPG (not that a lot of them are available for PC).

I don't think that a proprietary memory chip format is that attractive to pirates or emulator fans. The chips cost a lot (if they are available at all), you need to build a device for reading/writing them, instead of putting the Bluray in your PC, though a proprietary disc format would be worse for pirates than memory chips, since building a memory card reader is easier than building a disc drive.

While parents no longer have to worry about jam on a disc (which should clean off), jam in the connector or plugging in a wet cart can be much worse.

Also, as I said, the old carts were durable, just like any old equipment because it was made like that. Modern carts will have multiple layer PCBs and really fine traces that can develop a crack quite easily. And worse if the save game was on that memory chip - at least you can buy a new disc and continue the game from where you left it.

Sabre said...


I have my own tastes in games, but I am mostly a PC gamer, and tend to prefer new stuff to old stuff. Although I'm a fan of usability and reliability.

The "jam on this disc" thing isn't literally jam (though it can be) and more to kids not being careful with stuff. Leaving a VHS or Snes cart on the floor isn't a big deal, for a disc, it is.

The piracy thing I disagree with. GBA, DS and 3DS had alot of piracy due to things like the R4 cart, and other hardware. Part of the reason (imo) is that carrying a bunch of games around is a pain in the arse, but mostly because you can re-use them. 100 games can live on your PC and just a quick a drag and drop will get you whatever games you want without having to buy blank discs, worry about firmware ect. or at very least it's a minor issue.

Megabyte said...

1) Carts will be more durable, at least for video games. The reason? How often does the game data change? It's not like a USB where you will delete and reuse the space the game took. You will play the game on the game's cart. If the data updates, it's because a patch came out for the game.... not THAT often, so they wont put half the wear a USB drive gets. Saves are different, but can be handled by reserving a much smaller part of the cart to be much more durable to rewriting. (Or allow HD saves... your call).

2) Caddies as an answer? Really? Did you forget both the CD-ROM drives that did this and the PSP? PSP was a death-trap here since the UMD case was a pain in the ass to replace.. if dust got in, you were going to lose the game disc... that about summed it up. And the disc caddy for CD-ROM was worse. No design to hold the disc up so the case itself would scratch discs. No... caddies are a BAD idea.

Pentium100 said...

Megabyte -

I have seen quite a few USB flash memory devices fail not because the memory chips wore out but because one of the traces in the PCB developed a crack (for some reason it's usually the internal layers that do this - no way to find which track and patch it up).

As for caddies - they can be good, as long as it is possible to take the caddy apart and clean the dust out. Minidiscs are in caddies and I have no problem with them.

antecedentless said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
antecedentless said...

>Sony doesn't OWN Blu-Ray
Technically, they do not, but in effect, they do. For the previous two optical formats Sony was forced to co-operate with Philips and others. Blu-ray was a big middle figure to the DVD consortum. This is why you will not find games on DVD9 for the PS3, even though they would load faster and most dev studios have no use for that much space.

Sony has a bad history with formats they either create or have had a major stake in, and slow blu-ray adoption shows this painfully.

Graham said...

Wow. Jumping the gun a bit, don't you think?

This is just a rumor, so it might not even turn out to be true. Even if it is, Microsoft could be planning some other format that we hadn't considered, or just skipping the middle man altogether and leaping straight into the cloud.

I think it would be interesting if you made a follow-up to episode 51, but it would be best to hold off on it until we have more information.

Aiddon said...

I think SSD could be a neat stopgap as the tech has been advancing rather quickly. It could also help curb pirates

Doghealer said...

I'd be GLAD to see any form of cartridge over a disc. Because, lets face it: discs have a really short life span. It doesn't take much handling -- even gentle and careful handling -- to scratch a disc enough to make the game partially or completely unplayable. I've never had that problem with carts. Yeah, the XBox 360's installation feature definitely helps, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having a disc in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Good lord, think of the game prices in Australia if they do return to cartridges!

Nokout21 said...

Hey wait. If this does turn out to be true. What will happen to backwards compatibility on the 360?

Either way, I don't think cartridges will eliminate load times all together. Some 3DS games and most PSVita games have load times. Those systems still use cartridges.

However, I do see an upside to this. Remember when Nintendo was bragging about the Super FX chip on Star Fox? Imagine if the new consoles utilize something similar, by installing actual hardware in the cartridges. It might be possible to make games like Skyrim and Battlefield look closer to their PC counterparts.

I think the Neo Geo played cartridges like this.

Lord Zed said...

@ anon b4 me:

Cheaper or even more expensive?

Joe said...

This is all assuming the console manufacturers see hardcore gamers as their primary market. I don't think they do. Sony and Microsoft are both trying to sell the all-in-one home media device. This was apparent from the launch of both PS3 and 360.

There were statistics released last year indicating the bulk of Netflix subscribers stream content through a game console. Anecdotally, I know several people who own consoles primary as media devices: they're an XBox gamer who has a PS3 for their Blu-ray player (when it launched, it was the cheapest BD player around) and the occasional PS3 exclusive, or they're a PC gamer who uses their XBox to stream media from their PC or the web to their TV, etc. And if the tablet explosion has scared a lot of manufacturers into abandoning the desktop PC market (which I think it silly and short-sighted, but could happen), there will be a place for an all-in-one living room media device.

Why would any console manufacturer want to scare away the customer who says, "I don't play a lot of games, but I can always use it to play my collection of Blu-rays and DVDs"? when the hardcore console gamer doesn't have many alternatives?

Anonymous said...

@Lord Zed

Much, much more expensive.

Eze said...

Thoughts, Overthinker?

Sabre said...

Caddies were a good idea poorly executed. As already mentioned, mini discs.

Jumping straight to the cloud is unlikely. The main reason being that not every country is America. I live in England and here, capped internet is still common. It could happen, but I doubt it will. About half the people I know who own a Xbox don't have it online.

I think Joe has a point about the all purpose media player. There was a rumour a while back of MS using HD-DVD.

Jannie said...

Hey, awesome, carts...I recall those from the ancient past. And like most of the ancient past it was horrible and bloody and everyone in my family died of cholera.

We could solve this problem MUCH more easily by going fully digital, giving the NextBox a retarded huge hard drive and allowing people to download games from some future version of Xbox Live...but there I go again being a wide-eyed, all-digital idealist with pie in the sky dreams about just getting rid of physical media and moving closer to cloud gaming so we can put all that other crap behind us. Ho-hum.

If this works, and frankly I could easily see it working, I still don't see this as anything but a setback in the long run. At the end of the day the longer physical media clings to life and refuses to just die like any other evolutionary blind alley the longer it will be before we finally embrace the future that EVERYONE has already accepted is where we're going.

At the very least, it will mean much bigger games, with more options and content, due to the huge amount of space on many flash systems now. So while it may hamper technology in the long term, in the short term I can see some good games coming out of it so...the next generation of games will rock but the technology we play them on will suck?

Off hand I say people need to just put money into building up the digital infrastructure and online aspects of gaming instead of pretending like we're still in 1993 and can make games the same way we did then--and I'm not even talking about carts, I'm talking about how companies need to realize the future is online, digitial distribution, maybe even going full-on "free to play" for all games and using micro transactions to build revenue. Imagine if the seven million people who own MW3 payed a say fify cents whenever they wanted a MOAB...that adds up FAST. I saw a guy do a "1000 MOAB" game once, and that's one guy.

But like I said, all digital idealist, pie in the sky dreamer, yaddah yaddah yo. We'll get there someday but I think there are some people in the industry that are missing the forest for the trees.


I'm sorry, I'd probably be able to express more than a weary shrug if I hadn't just finished "Dropping The Ball RIGHT AT The Ending Effect 3: Shitty Deus Ex Machina Edition" and frankly I'm kinda beat.

"LOL Synthetics and Biologicals fite all the times yo we need to make errbody cyborgs trolololol"

Fuck you Bioware. I want my five years back.

Jannie said...

Something else that comes to mind:

The return to proprietary carts also means a much tighter grip on gaming by the dreaded publishers who do shit things like SOPA to us. There is a reason why everyone, even Bob, who lived through the 80s and 90s will tell you what assholes Nintendo were and still are. They used this leverage to basically reign over gaming like barbarian kings for very nearly two decades.

Frankly, I'm not sure I trust modern companies with that kind of power when I don't trust the old dogs with that kind of power. And then of course, as others have mentioned, there is the massive (and it will be massive) price upsurge that will come about when and if this plan goes through.

I'm not sure if the relative few virtues of carts, like the alleged "superior durability", are going to offset the inevitable problems both economic and ethical that will arise from it. And they will, I assure you, arise from it.

The one good thing I can say is that maybe Game Genies will finally make a comeback. Anyone remember Game Genie? Hey, Project Rainfall, stop making Nintendo release crappy JRPGs over here and start a petition to bring THAT back! I want to make my own "codes" again that do wonky things and break the game physics and I don't have the patience for Garry's Mod.

Pentium100 said...

Doghealer -
"Because, lets face it: discs have a really short life span. It doesn't take much handling -- even gentle and careful handling -- to scratch a disc enough to make the game partially or completely unplayable. I've never had that problem with carts."

Old carts are durable. Old stuff is durable in general. Audio cassettes can survive more abuse than, say, CDs or hard drives or even some USB memory sticks. Records and magnetic tape also retain the recording much longer than, say, recorded CDs or flash memory.

Modern carts will be similar to USB flash sticks and those are not durable at all.

Smashmatt202 said...

Catridges? Damn, Bob, you really know how to predict gaming trends.

Misterprickly said...

I'll be laugh'n my ass of because I've been saying "it might happen" since 2008.

Skins Elliott said...

I like the sounds of this, You can fit alot more info on an SSD then a DVD also You dont need to have such a large space to house something like a SD card over a disk.

I see DL and cloud gaming taking over sooner then later but I dont see that happening on the next gen.

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jebug29 said...

I would love it if consoles started using carts again (although this means probable lack of backwards compatibility). And yes, taking care of discs is extremely easy, but small kids don't usually care (I know -- a few of my gamecube discs subjected to ultimate death), plus the drives don't last forever. Those seeking drives can only last for so long until they give out. I would certainly be in favor of carts -- just as long as the plastic is rugged enough for handling (and won't hurt it if there are some super scratches) and isn't crap.

kurt black said...

I have to agree with the comments above. Do not make things too complicated. cartuchos compatibles