Rumors about Microsoft’s follow-up to the Xbox 360 and Sony’s next PlayStation have populated throughout cyberspace for months. The rumors have grown in intensity as likely dates for the yet-unannounced launches approach; prompting concerns and speculation among gamers about possibilities such as mandatory always-on internet connections and other anti-used game/piracy measures, strange new controllers, a focus on casual gamers over legacy gaming enthusiasts and a lack of backward compatibility in the new hardware units.
With hoped-for revelations about Sony’s successor to its PlayStation 3 coming within weeks, and with months before Microsoft unveils the (unofficially titled) Xbox 720, gamers gathering to count down to the launches have been arguing about what the upcoming next-gen boxes might and might not feature and why. We nerds hate to fight but love to argue, and there’s nothing easier to argue over than something that none of us really know anything about.
But rumors can also sow disappointment, or diminish the appeal of upcoming titles or features through brand burnout caused by oversaturated hype. Some potential new additions, such as robust anti-used game measures that could change the way gamers purchase and consume games, even divide gamers on the related social issues of ownership and buyers’ rights. But it’s best to take a breath, step back and realize that, well, we don’t know what we don’t know.
Rumors can be fun, but they can impact gaming in negative ways. The best way to handle the console reveals is to enjoy imagining the possibilities without getting wrapped up in proving or refuting things that will be revealed soon enough. The future of gaming–and the world–is in our increasing online interconnectedness through interactive applications like friends lists or Skype (rumored to be a central part of Microsoft’s next console). If debates gamers are too impatient to delay until they can be officially settled become too heated, those friends lists could be rather barren right at the time in a console’s life where befriendings explode.
Given another rumor that may already be truth, games for the upcoming generation will offer multiplayer more often, as a way for developers to build fan communities for their products and to encourage gamers to buy new titles at the expense of used. So we all might need each other just to keep experiencing the games we love. A little patience seems a small price to pay to keep playing.