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What's Wrong with Modern Console Design? 87

Next Generation is running an article looking at the design of the next-gen consoles. Article author Eric-Jon Rossel-Waugh argues that the new systems have lost their sense of identity, due to high monetary stakes and the need for consoles to 'say something' to the consumer. From the article: "In May, I finally saw a PlayStation 3 up-close - and dear lord. It looks like a space ship based on the template of a waffle iron. Whereas the Sega Genesis looked like you could top-load a CD into it, the PS3 looks like you could top-load a side of bacon. It was around this point that I realized, on the surface, none of the forthcoming-generation consoles really strikes me as a game machine. Building on the PS2, both Sony and Microsoft have chosen to outwardly craft their systems to resemble nothing so much as random hunks of pop electronics."
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What's Wrong with Modern Console Design?

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  • Synergy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Thursday August 03, 2006 @02:56PM (#15841747)
    Whereas the Sega Genesis looked like you could top-load a CD into it, the PS3 looks like you could top-load a side of bacon.

    So Sony's next marketing gimmick is obvious: The George Foreman PS3.
  • by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Thursday August 03, 2006 @03:02PM (#15841800)
    I couldn't help but notice all his favorite consoles, excepting the Wii, are top-loaders (the NES gets this dubious distinction because of its door). Top-loading was a stupid idea that made consoles a pain to fit into entertainment centers. Using this particular metric, modern console design has gotten infinitely better - this generation, no one's got a top-loader.

    I also think the 360's "ring of light" is both attractive and functional, so I'm not sure why he bags on that console so much.

    • I couldn't agree more... He complains that modern consoles look like random hunks of pop electronics.. but since when have they NOT looked like that. Consoles have always gone for pop styling. If they were going for the mundaine they'd look like my DVD player or my surround sound reciever. Rectangular in shape, 19" wide, Circular metal feet, tray loading with a standby light and an LCD. Consoles are still distinctivly consoles. They always followed the cultural stylings of the time, it just happens that our
      • When looking at last generation, comparing the XBox, PS2, and GC, I have to say I like the GC the best. It's a lot lighter and smaller than the others, and is great if you want to bring it to a friends house. The XBox is huge and clunky, and the 360 isn't any better. I've also known a lot of people who had problems with the XBox and PS2 DVD drives. Not sure if this is due to the tray loading design, but the GC was much more dependable. However, Nintendo loses marks for releasing the original GC in purp
    • he rags on the 360 because he's a bitter Sega fanboy. The entire article is about how none of the modern consoles look as cool as the genesis and dreamcast in his eyes.
      • by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday August 03, 2006 @03:48PM (#15842174)
        he rags on the 360 because he's a bitter Sega fanboy.

        I'm normally skeptical whenever someone accuses a writer in the mainstream gaming press of being a "fanboy", but then I read this:

        If any one company has really reveled in contemporary console design, that would probably be Sega. The Master System, Genesis, and Dreamcast all glory in their forms, the former two being off-kilter, ornate, attention-grabbing, and plastered with huge logos. Likewise, with its brilliant white shell, orange decorations, four controller ports, and sleek-yet-bubbly facade, the Dreamcast both declares defiantly, in a no-nonsense voice, that it is a game console and that it is meant as a conscious reversal of Sega's fortunes - sort of a new start for the company. (White and orange are the opposite of black and blue.)


        Okay, I like most of Sega's designs well enough, but there's nothing any more special about any of them than anybody else's. And the Dreamcast was probably about as innocuous and nondescript as it gets; it's a plain white box of a top-loading CD player. (Besides, if the design declared such a bold "new start" for the company, it obviously didn't do a very good job of it.)

        I've been around video gaming since 1977 when Atari's VCS hit the market. (No, I can't claim to remember the days of the Fairchild Channel-F, unfortunately.) I've seen, and in fact own, pretty much every console that's come along since then. I don't see how today's systems are really any different than systems of the past; consoles have always tried to capture something about the essence of the era in which they're produced while at the same time seeking to stand out from the pack. They've also always been consciously designed such that they don't fit in with other electronics in a standard rack system; the idea is to make the system the center of attention, without making it so gaudy or unreasonable that customers resist it.

        So he doesn't like the PS3 or Xbox 360 (I didn't even read what he said about the Wii). Fair enough. But throughout history, for every console design success, there has been a corresponding failure. Whereas the Coleco Vision was an all-American hot rod of a look, the Atari 5200 was just a big, bulky triangle of a machine. He seems to have liked the NES, but he's apparently never seen the original red and gold trimmed FamiCom, one of the ugliest systems ever produced, with curves and edges in all the wrong places.

        And so it goes. I don't think any of this is specific to any era. There are only good designers and bad designers, and personal tastes to go along with them. You may or may not like today's consoles, but they're no better or worse - and certainly not fundamentally different in concept - than the designs of yesteryear's consoles.
        • They've also always been consciously designed such that they don't fit in with other electronics in a standard rack system; the idea is to make the system the center of attention, without making it so gaudy or unreasonable that customers resist it.

          True, that. I think this is one of the (many, many) things that dragged down 3DO. It looked like a regular CD player. Hell, Nuon devices were regular DVD players, with a half-assed "game console" grafted on.

          Consoles are all about being trendy. In each generati

    • The ultimate console design has already been invented. You've probably seen pictures of it. Heck, most likely you're indirectly using one right now.

      Presenting The ultimate console setup [kambach.net]. One's a Wii 2 (is that 'Number 2', or 'Wii-wii'?), one's a 720, one's a PS4.



      Lights tell you what's going on. Red for bad status, green for good status.

      Optical tray drive on the left. (Like a normal CD drive, Xbox, Ps2, NOT LIKE THE MAC MINI.)

      Controllers plug in to the front face or the right.

      Switch on the sid

    • I think a lot of NES enthusiasts would disagree with this.

      The cart goes in sideways on the door'ed models. There's an actual top-loader (the cart fits in from the top like the genesis). It doesn't have the 10NES lockout chip, but it's downside is an apparent error in the PPU resulting in a bad vertical bright line every 8 pixels.
    • I agree. My 360 sits upright next to my television, and unlike any other console I've owned, actually adds to the aesthetic of the entertainment center. It looks GOOD, it looks COOL, and I don't care if it's not instantly recognizable by everyone in the world as a game console.
  • Sony (Score:3, Informative)

    by sesshomaru ( 173381 ) on Thursday August 03, 2006 @03:05PM (#15841819) Journal
    Sony made this distinction, to a large extent, not so much through original design or perspective or technology as through psychology. Their message: videogames are childish, uncool garbage. What we have to offer, it's barely even videogames. It's more like movies, or some other kind of entertainment. They reinforced the premise by generally refusing "old fashioned" 2D games on their systems, unless explicitly labeled as a retro package; through putting a heavy emphasis on "mature"-themed games, and by funneling Sony's limitless funds into years of blanket advertising - rarely showing actual game footage if CG was available, emphasizing the cinematic and familiar. The implication was, the less videogames in any sense resembled what you and I think of as videogames, the better. -- What's Wrong With Console Design? [next-gen.biz]

    Well, this is something that goes along with another quote I read recently:

    Are you still dicking around with lovingly detailed 2D sprites? Enormous Gouraud shaded triangles are the wave of the future! Glazed, emotionless eyes! Hair that's been hacked out of stone! Giant 3D booger men in diapers are what today's gamers want, and we'll give you the tools to craft those horrendously ugly damn creatures. Someone perfect time travel already so we can just bomb 1994. -- Worst Video Game Ads comments [1up.com]

    This is why I get irritated whenever anyone says Nintendo censors (oh they do, and in very irritating ways) and Sony doesn't. Sony loves to censor, and they have from the beginning, but they are good at projecting an image, I'll give them that. You suck, Sony!

    • Parent is not a Troll, and shouldn't have been modded as such. It simply quotes two articles that have shown up in Slashdot Games recently, one of which is the very article I'm commenting on.

      I guess the Sony fanboys really are scared.

  • Seems like the human psyche, especially in gamers, is fascinated with the future. So put your console in what looks like a box that should come from the future and what you've got is a device with capabilities which are artificially inflated to be better, merely because it looks like it's from the future. Which makes people think it's even better than it really might be. It's just marketing and business, and I think if you look around you'll see the same trend in almost every product. Look at boom boxes
    • I should repackage Dreamcasts in aluminum ovals -- "Hey, what'cha got there?"
      "Oh, this? Noooothing... just... FUTURE-BOX-STATION -- it's only the most amazing game machine ever. ...from the future."
      "Ohhhh shiny, I WANT!"
      • Heh the ovals would be worth more than the dreamcasts :P

        Hell I would buy a couple, just for the ovals. Not sure why, but something about an aluminum oval just says "I AM FROM TEH FUTURE" and I want one.

    • Except really, that's the look of now. The look of the future will be stranger still, and designed to conform to what the perception of even further in the future will look like.
    • So by that logic Sony will sell millions!!!
      it hast the largest shiney surface area, much betterer than that lame no shiney Xbox 360 and that possibly shiney but we don't know Wii thingy!
  • Fascinating.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBraynard ( 653724 ) on Thursday August 03, 2006 @03:07PM (#15841835) Journal
    Were it posted on a thread here, it would be modded -1 troll ('One man's opinion on console design'....)

    But submit that -1 comment as story and it gets a green light.

    A lot of work went into the design and shape of the 360. It actually has an intentional theme (though that theme is not so clear if you lay it on it's side as I'm sure most do). I do not know about the PS3, but I saw a vid on the designers working throuh the aesthetics of both the box itself and the on-screen interface and it's pretty fun and functional.

    If you lined a bunch of these devices up in a row and asked a chick to pick one, I think the 360 would come away with a plurality.

  • by Valthan ( 977851 ) on Thursday August 03, 2006 @03:09PM (#15841856)
    Blah Blah Blah... Sony is the suxx0rz I
    Page Load

    Sony is horrible blah, Nintendo is OK, but not as good as Sega and MS

    Page Load

    I hate Sony, the never do it right, blah blah, Nintendo tries, I guess, but they still fail when compared to the best ever MS and Sega... blah blah

    Once again another useless Zonk Post...
    • by grammar fascist ( 239789 ) on Thursday August 03, 2006 @03:56PM (#15842227) Homepage
      Give Zonk a break. He covers games. There's not much useful out there right now.

      Anyway, from the article:
      The Wii, meanwhile, is simply inscrutable: a scant, featureless rectangle with an eerie blue glow. At a stretch, you might confuse it for an external DVD-R drive.
      So it looks like something you could put a DVD into. Isn't something similar what he thought was cool about the Sega Genesis?

      The article is just a useless rant against nothing.
  • by kinglink ( 195330 ) on Thursday August 03, 2006 @03:15PM (#15841905)
    He's a hater pure and simple.

    Apparently he doesn't like the NES design
    Or the Xbox
    Or the Gamecube,
    Or the Ps2
    Or the Ps3
    Or the Xbox 360
    Or the Wii
    Or the Jaguar.

    But apparently the Gensis, Master system and Dreamcast were great for him. That's wonderful, except Sega's not around for a reason, Sega might knows how to make a good looking game system, but if you can't make a good game system under it you get screwed.

    Personally I think anyone who thinks any of the current systems needs a redesign might be right, but let's be honest. The best looking system can still not work. I owned a genesis and a NES, a Super Nes, A N64 (which was "sleak" but crap) a Gamecube, a PSX, a PS2, and a Xbox 360. And if I had to go back in time but not get one of them, guess which one it would be? The Genesis.

    Gamers arn't looking for a good looking game system, gamers are looking for a good playing game system. Genesis is the most game system looking out of my list, but the fact is that it didn't help it be a good actual game system in the least is the real problem.

    I mean look at the grandfathers of our industry. The Atari with it's ugly ridges and huge switches. Oooooh baby.+
    • Nah it's not just that. SEGA actually had some good games. SEGA however had a very very bad planning department.. -_-. By the time Dreamcast rolled around SEGA had already did a good job of destroying SEGA from within.
    • The Jaguar looked like a futuristic comode. Other than that, I've never had a problem with most system designs since the SNES...

      But I honestly don't understand what all the fuss is aboot. I mean, you could put it in a generic black VCR box and I'd buy it if it had good games. I mean, you don't usually spend a whole lot of time admiring the looks of your consoles. Most gamers spend their time admiring the games themselves.

      Unless, of course, you're a case modder... then I guess that I could understand to
      • But the case modder themselves shouldn't give a crap about the case, because they're going to change it anyways.

        I fully agree with you, it could look like a dog crap but give the performance of full VR and people would buy it. Because they want that functionality. I've never seen someone say "I don't want that system because it looks ugly". I've seen people make fun of the Xbox's size, but that's just because it's Microsoft, and it was a giant system. Personally I made those same taunts. But it could
  • Enough FUD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lally Singh ( 3427 )
    Congrats, Zonk! You just made my killfile!
  • They don't have any wings.

    Things don't fly well without any upward force under them. I know. You ever tried to make a Gamecube fly?

  • Alright after skimming through tfa I realized he has no actual comments on the look of the consoles, mostly because with the exception of minor differences tey all follow the same theme a box that looks like a computer tower, and a glowing element, his comments against sony are more to a degree just a shameless spamevertisment for his beloved nintendo. And you wonder why nintendo fans get a bad rap as rabid fanboys...
  • Seems like to many consoles designers had Hardware Wars [wikipedia.org] running on the TV.
  • It would be cool if the PS3, 360, Wii looked like part of your component audio system, but they don't. For a couple reasons. First, wired controllers would be a big problem coming out of the cabinet in the corner of the room, or the cabinet under the TV. Second, there would be almost no product recognition. Sure, it may say in small silver print, PS3 or what have you on the front, but that's not what console makers want. They want people to walk in the room and say, "Hey, you've got a 360, sweet."


  • The Dreamcast was the last game console that actually looked like a game console. I guess the article is right: the looks of Sega's systems almost scream "I'm a game console and PROUD of it!"
  • After reading the entire article, I have no idea what the author was trying to say. Did he like the old designs, or hate them? Did he actually imply that the Jaguar was good for looking like a toilet seat, and the X-Box's "enormous X" appearance was stylish!?

    Three pages full of talking, and yet he said nothing at all.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday August 03, 2006 @03:40PM (#15842112)
    I think the idea that modern game systems don't "look enough like game systems" is silly - what it is is a box with a design that can fit in with other home electronics. That's because gamers have grown up. If a case came out today identical to the Sega, I'm not sure it would far as well.

    Game systems also have to hook into more advanced AV equipment now and that simply means they have to somewhat adopt the look of that whole electrnocis ecosystem.

    Personally, I am fine with how the 360 and the PS3 and the Wii look. All interesting designs. If all the console makers were really smart they would have arraanged the designs of the three consoles so that they could lock together and with all three you'd have some funky cool shaped thing, or a transformer or the like.
  • It looks like a space ship based on the template of a waffle iron.
    The PS3 looks like Soldier Field? :)
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday August 03, 2006 @03:49PM (#15842178) Homepage Journal

    ...as to why no one has made a video game system that integrates into a standard stereo system. It seems to me that making something as large as the Xbox and not putting it into that form factor is the work of a complete idiot. It would make the device desirable to whole classes of people who would not otherwise be interested.

    • That the xBox or some other console doesn't have an installable cabinet model the way car stereos come with after-market versions?

      1) The closest the modern console comes to this in any way shape or form is the Skinny PS2 by virtue of tinyness alone.

      2) There is no 'Cool' factor available with doing this, and so the console manufacturers just aren't interested in something that cn barely be seen (unlike, say, nVidia which is cool with the idea).

      3) The 'Modern cabinet' is seen as whatever fits under or over th
      • There is no 'Cool' factor available with doing this, and so the console manufacturers just aren't interested in something that cn barely be seen (unlike, say, nVidia which is cool with the idea).

        You are so wrong. This has been proven wrong time and time again, in different settings. You point out car stereos - they [typically] fit into one of two form factors, but the manufacturers have managed to drive sales one way or another through the design of the faceplate. Sometimes it's colored, sometimes it ha

    • Look up the prices of the Pioneer LaserActive [psxfanatics.com] and its various modules for Genesis and TurboGrafx-16 (and karaoke?).
    • Obviously you never saw a 3DO system. =]

  • Wow. Three pages to explain why when Sony does something, it's evil, but when Nintendo does the same thing, it's good. And when Sega does one thing, it's brilliant, and when it does the exact opposite, it's still brilliant. Seriously, try to find the Sega Saturn in a bin full of Genesis' (Genesii?) and Master Systems. Apparently the Dreamcast look, opposite of the early Sega consoles was brilliant. Oddly, I see no mention of the white(-ish) toploading PS1 in the article. Cough. Can't believe he made
  • So... the new $600 PS3 will play my favorite games, AND make a plate of crispy delicious bacon?


    Seriously, I don't care what it looks like on the outside. It's what's on the inside that counts. My wife hates all my "ugly" consoles, anyways.
  • 40dB fans are what's wrong with them.
  • This is stupid. Why can't the AV makers of the world get together on a digital standard for home theater, and a standard form factor. I'd love a "rack mount" system that enabled all my components to fit in modularly and be hidden away in a piece of furniture or closet, and fit just right. They could all share a single internet connection module, a single dvd player module, single video output that fits with your tv, etc. Ah pipe dreams...
    • Funny i saw the subject of KISS and thought you were going to sujest to make a KISS - the band PS3 system. I would love a KISS system to go with the rest of my KISS posters and shirts and hats and all that jazz. ;) lol on your other point there "rack mount systems" with a unervisal plugs.. Have you checked out JVC's line of home therate products? i love my ALL JVC home audio system/TV. They have a thing called AV comp-u-link. this is a 3.55mm jack that takes of all things any male to male headphone cord. W
  • Why dontcha put the fucking power switch on the front of your consoles?
  • They live in fairly small rooms, everything has to be put away to use something else, so you don't really want them to stick out.

    The confusing thing is the xBox360, but maybe they thought changing the box would increase usage in Japan - won't work though.
  • They ARE random hunks of pop electronics!
  • by czehp ( 156215 ) on Thursday August 03, 2006 @09:04PM (#15843893) Homepage
    I can just hear the makeup laden pouty cheerleader now...
    "Come on, I know I look like some over-inflated piece of living pop art but it's what's on the inside that counts..."

    Seriously though, does any gamer (or anyone at all) really care that the Wii looks like a single slice toaster or that the PS3 looks like a George Foreman grill? I guess this guy is the last one on the planet who still buys the plain beige pizza boxes that used to be all the "rage" because he feels that buying a nice Lian Li would make his computer lose it's sense of identity.

    And speaking of identities... can we add any more hyphens to the author's name? Sheesh :)
    How about Eric-Jon "The Waffle-Iron" Rossel-Waugh?
  • Whats wrong with the way they look...when you say they dont look like console, you mean they dont look like consoles used to look.

    Maybe they dont want them to look like consoles...maybe they want something that goes in a sitting room and doesnt look out of place.

    This site is very retroist. Same subject over and over "the problem with 'todays' consoles is that they not yesterdays consoles', "the problem with todays games is that theyre not 2d platformers"..."where have all the proper games gone"..."t
  • Too big.

    Too complex.

    Not enough fun to balance out the "shiny" of the console design.

    Sony made their Playstation originally with all manner of ports and peripheral connector options. Eventually they just removed them all. What was the point of putting those interfaces on anyway? Added complexity.. the console is just trying to do too much these days.

    Even Nintendo I think have gotten it awkward, the Wii would be a super duper discrete console, and then you need to have 3 controllers to play all the games (Wii
  • Their overly-bloated prices.

    Hell, I bought a NEW XBox (NOT the 360) a week or so ago for 1/3rd the price of the 360. Add to that the fact that I'm adding a modchip and a 160GB hdd, and I'm STILL spending less.

    Now I need to backup my games before my youngest loses the DVDs.

    And since the 360 is out, the prices of the games for the original XBox should be dropping like SCO's ability to prove a case.

  • Maybe I like to pick at somewhat obscure flaws, but the problem that jumped out at me was that since the article complains about how the new consoles are not as cool looking as the old consoles, the author bears the responsibility to include pictures of the old "better" consoles. I mean I only saw 3 pictures, the PS3, the XBox 360 and the Wii. All of which the author decries as ungly trash. So, where are the pictures of these hallowed consoles of old that put the new consoles to shame?

    The obvious refusal

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan