Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Case for an Expansion Bay

Hey kids? Remember back in the back end of the 2nd millennium there was this ancient piece of interactive technology called the Ultra that only aliens with three hands could use, causing it's rival the Suny StationPlayer to sell waaaay more units?


Well that's probably because you don't live in the future and are looking back on this from some kind of warped perspective where the Nintendo 64 wasn't one of the greatest gaming devices ever invented. Seriously, I can't think of a single games console that made as much of an impact as this one. The original NES created the D-Pad, the PlayStation used discs, the Wii had motion controls but the N64 had a ton of awesome things, the first real analog stick, the C-Buttons that were used for camera control and later evolved into a second stick primarily used for camera control. The 3D graphics that at the time on the PlayStation people just couldn't make heads or tails of, were utilized by Nintendo in a Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and other games in ways that are still used to this very day. It gave us the first real trigger button with "Z" and GoldenEye was the game that launched a thousand FPS's. It had four controller ports built in, which became the standard on every console until wireless controllers came about. So why is it that the thing that impresses me most is something that simply isn't around on consoles any more. That's right, I'm talking about the expansion bay.

Not the thing on the back of the controller but the thing on the front. It's most used application was to use the  Expansion Pak to give the Nintendo 64, 4MB of extra RAM (shut up it was a big deal back then). With varying games consoles and rapidly increasing technology, it surprises me that home consoles don't come with an expansion bay any more. Like, seriously, you've got PC's which are way more popular than Macs among gamers because you can upgrade them, stick in some more RAM, a new graphics card e.t.c. Well one big advantage of consoles is that they are pretty much a standardised model for games, you don't need to worry "Will my game work on my PC?" because - YES, it will work. 

Every game you buy for a home video console will work for it. Sometimes you need a peripheral, like a Wii Remote Plus but the console will always play the game. However a major problem with a console like the Wii was that it simple couldn't graphically keep up by the end of this generation of consoles and as such really lost support. Sure there were some really incredible games at the end of it's life like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Xenoblade Chronicles, the combination of the two makes probably two of the best games this generation in my opinion. But generally speaking the Wii lost support, to the point that FIFA 12 and FIFA 13 are literally the same game with player changes. And I'm not talking like the incremental changes yearly released that FIFA, PES and Call of Duty make but I'm talking literally not a damn thing changed because EA just decided really, no one is buying this on Wii - why bother?

So why have something like an expansion bay on a home console if the reason people buy home consoles is because they are set standards that developers create for. Well the reason is this, on a PC nowadays many games have "lower settings" on graphics so people with shite PC's like my own, can play them. Probably the game that was most famous for using the N64's Expansion Pak was The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. It needed those 4MB of extra RAM to process the game. But now-days we've seen that games don't actually need to be a "set model", they can have varying graphical levels. Why not use an expansion bay to keep costs down. You can have the set model which plays all games but an expansion bay that will allow consoles to keep up with PC's on a graphical level without consumers having to pay literally hundreds potentially thousands more to get a better PC every couple of years. Look at The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim, the visuals on the PC version are infinitely better than they are on the 360 or even PS3. With an expansion bay, the game could be played at a lower version or an upgraded version. Take this to an extreme and a console like Wii could have even played it with an expansion upgrade.

And what happens when the next line of consoles come out. The Wii U despite being more powerful than the PS3 and 360 (and it is, the specs are very clear) will probably lag behind the next Sony and/or Microsoft games consoles in graphics, an expansion bay on the Wii U could have provided a way to keep up with the others. Even if an Expansion Pak U (yes I'm calling it that) costed $150 that's still cheaper than the alternative of buying a $400 minimum NextBox or PS4, games could still be played on Wii U, so long as they have a lower settings mode, which they're already programming on PC versions.

Now why a case for an Expansion Bay as such. After all they can still do this for the Wii U if it has a USB port right? Well, yes but it would be incredibly clunky and annoying sticking out of the back, attached to a wire, not to mention USB 2.0... not that fast by comparison to directly installed, there's bound to be hundreds of issues.

Hope this has been an interesting talk about random crap for you. Check out the other stuff I've written on my blog. I update it every Sunday afternoon.