Over the weekend, my wife and I chanced to see an advertisment on TV for Dead or Alive 4 on the Xbox 360. I asked her for her thoughts.
"Looks like another boring fighting game," she said.
"What about the graphics?" I asked.
"They're alright, I guess. Not Resi good," she replied, referring to Resident Evil 4, which we recently completed on the GameCube.
The GameCube didn't (quite) have the graphics power of the original Xbox, let alone the 360, and yet all this power failed to produce any sort of positive response from my wife. In fact, the 'inferior' (in terms of power required to produce) GameCube graphics were being lauded as the superior graphics!
We shouldn't be suprised. With the Xbox, Microsoft's marketing announced to the world that "this is the point that photo-realism begins." When you have photo-realistic graphics, all that better hardware provides is longer draw distances and more objects (both welcome, but not necessarily impressive to the eye of someone not extremely clued up on games). When you are telling people that if you don't see your console's graphics on a HD screen you won't notice the difference, you are admitting you've just built an expensive boytoy for tech-heads.
We have already reached the point where the use of the graphics in a game are substantially more important than the raw power of the machine used to create them. The PS2 is long overdue for an upgrade, but the Xbox 360 is an anomaly: an overpowered upgrade to an already overpowered machine. It's purpose: to duel with Sony over market share.... and personally, I can't see anything in Microsoft's current strategy that will grow their share significantly in this generation of machines. Perhaps the Xbox 4000 will have something new to offer.