Opinion: Do We Want Hardware Updates?

We’ve seen this happening for quite a few generations now, but the trend has become more pronounced this time round (to my mind at least). I am of course talking about hardware revisions and updates, about repackaging a console in a new (usually smaller) form and making it quieter or cooler.

Of course, the 3DS XL is out here in less than a week, and, if you didn’t know, the PS3 looks set to go through its second redesign. Although the renders that have been created of the new beastie (based on a set of supposedly leaked photos) do make it look quite cool, I wonder if hardware revisions serve a real purpose.

[drop]Whilst Sony have got a few hardware revisions in recent years, they really have nothing on Nintendo when it comes to updating their consoles.

Just look at the Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Light, or the DS, DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL, as well as the aforementioned XL update to the 3DS.

Nintendo’s strategy in that regard actually bothers me a bit, largely because the revisions can make older versions of the same console seem obsolete.

To some extent the DSi actually did make the older console unusable, by adding the camera, but even going from the DS to the DS Lite smarted a little bit.

Although it’s brought up less, it’s worth noting that the PSP had its fair share of revisions during its existence. Perhaps the fact that Sony made less of a fuss with the release of each revision than Nintendo did with the change from DS to DS Lite and so on is why they, seemingly, catch less flack for putting out updated version of the same console, but who knows?

These hardware revisions may annoy, or even enrage, some customers, and sometimes you can see why. Compare it to the phone market, another area where hardware revisions and new versions come out at a fairly rapid pace, in some cases more than once a year.

The reason that phone manufacturers don’t seem to attract as much ire for their practices is that they, generally, offer you a substantial hardware update when they bring out a new phone. The iPhone 4 and 4S may share a near identical body, but what’s under the hood is pretty different in terms of power.

[drop2]The same can’t be said for console hardware revisions, at least not in a lot of cases. When the 360 update was released it didn’t update the hardware in any meaningful way, it was just a smaller box that was a bit quieter.

The same can be said of the various slimmed down versions of the different iterations of PlayStation, and of some of the DS revisions.

They may update the battery, change the screen size, or make it a bit less power hungry but it’s fundamentally the same machine under all of that.

That’s what, at least to me, causes friction amongst some people when a console manufacturer announces a hardware revision.

Of course we can’t expect them to have a way to make their altered designs possible when the console’s first announced, not with the rapid pace of technology, but maybe people would prefer it if they were working on bringing out something genuinely new, rather than modifying and repackaging what they already have.

That may seem against the whole console ethos, a stable platform that lasts long enough for developers to have confidence in, but it might serve consumers better at some level. You also have to look at the dates of the home console updates.

The 360S was released four and a half years after the original Xbox 360. That may not seem like a long time, but consider the fact that the Xbox was only on sale for four. The PS3 didn’t make it as long, a little under three years to be exact, but I do wonder if they’d held out a little longer would they have been able to pour the same resources into bring the PS4’s release forwards.

That’s the ultimate question really, would you rather have a hardware revision or a new console? It’s a tricky question to answer, and one that I suspect will vary from person to person, but I’ve still got an original model Xbox 360 (although it has gone back to Microsoft once for the RRoD) and PS3, and they work perfectly fine.

I’d much rather have the next generation of consoles than update what I already have.



  1. I never bothered with any of the updated designs of Home consoles, they’re simply not has important as a next gen console.

    • Me too, I buy the product and use it till it stops working, only then do I update to a newer model if another “next gen” product isn’t coming out for a while.

  2. I honestly would prefer hardware revisions to a new console inside of 4 years. There’s PC gaming if your gaming tech absolutely must be updated to the cutting edge that often.

    I don’t like seeing revisions after less than 30 months though, and when they do come out I don’t want them rendering some games unplayable on the older versions- the DSi example you gave with the camera, and the store for example.

    I’d like it if they could upscale existing games, make screens better, battery life longer, make a difference to the weight or size, that sort of thing. I’d never upgrade my console to a better version of the same console unless it was drastically different- the only time I have is when my Fat PSP broke and I replaced it with the PSP-2000, but although I appreciated the slightly longer battery and better screen, I wouldn’t have done it if the fat one had been working- as my Gameboy Advance, and my fat Playstations, 1, 2 and 3 can testify to.

    But when you come to a console party late, it’s nice to know that not every part of your new machine is 4 or more years old, as was the case when I bought my DSi.

  3. is it really about what we want it is the same console just cheaper for new adopters that is a good thing imo.

  4. Revisions are perfectly fine by me. In fact, I think that revisions could be even ballsier.

    Imagine, if you will, that the PS3 Slim could have launched with an extra 32MB or 64MB of RAM, and the extra SPE, that was turned off to improve yields in the original launch, enabled? Just think what that would have been able to do for the user experience with the in-game XMB, loading and storage of Friends lists, and even Cross Game Chat?

    It would have been a must-have upgrade for so many more people.

    But even just “smaller, lighter, brighter” style upgrades are perfectly good too. It lets the manufacturers streamline the design after a few years on the market, and bring down costs, helping them on their way to price drops, which allow them to reach a larger audience.

    So yes, hardware revisions and updates are a good thing for the industry as a whole. Although, revisions of handhelds do come out just a bit too regularly to hold much meaning, if you ask me.

    • When it comes to PS and Xbox refreshes, you’re the only person to get the main (and really only) point of these hardware revisions.

      Cheaper to manufacture, cheaper to ship, cheaper to store = cheaper for consumers + more profit for the OEM.

      Sure there are sometimes a few feature additions, but it’s really not about what we would ‘prefer’ as consumers, it’s all about making profit on each unit sold and ultimately attracting new customers.

    • You covered what I wanted to say. It’s in their interests. I want the companies that provide me hardware to be profitable. Good on them. It lures in more folk and also gives us another option should they (heaven forbid) bring out hardware that has a manufacturer’s fault and we want to avoid like the plague second time around.

    • Well, revisions could never be ballsier, cause if they would most early adopters will feel left out. It would be bonkers if a company would upgrade the core hardware. Mainly because of development… yeah we could bring this game ot for a X360s, PS3 slim, but the game won’t work on an original X360 or PS3…

      • That’s not what I said. All games would and should be compatible with all consoles, but the PS3 Slim could have vastly improved the XMB’s experience.

        All consoles would still have had the same number of processors, the same amount of RAM and the same GPU to play with, but the underlying XMB operating system would have a little more room to breathe in, and could lend a couple more features to users.

    • Great points and absolutely spot on the money ;)
      It would have been impossible for Sony to have continued making the Phat PS3 with the financial loss that it originally made at retail compared to the real manufacturing cost of it.
      This is probably the case with most new console releases, probably just a part of the cycle that console manufacturers/providers have to bear in the short term.
      So hardware updates/revisions are pretty essential I’d have thought for the long term.

    • So long as there are never such revisions as with the PSP – going slimmer and lighter was fine, but after the cost of upgrading once, I got pissed that they then integrated the camera etc….it’s quite annoying when you’re a “loyal” or decent customer and keep buying the latest versions, only for them to be improving on it very regularly.

  5. I would say that I prefer a hardware revision upgrade. Since it won’t render my PS3 games collection obsolete, unless they shut down servers for the online part. Revisions that make the loading of a game go faster, solid state discs / more RAM, let the console go run quieter and cooler etc.

    Hell, I would pay for that.

  6. I liked the cycle Sony did with ps3 and psp. The revision came about 3 years after the original. That was enough time to get used to the hardware and think of improvements on the company and consumer side.
    I for one have much more faith in my ps3 slim that it’ll survive, and am happy that it supposedly uses less power. The psp could have done with going straight to the 3000 stage but there we go. DS to DS Lite was a great upgrade. The others, IMO, we’re excessive.

  7. If it ain’t broken why fix it………..it’s all about a cash cow as long as we hand over the cash there will always be revisited bigger or smaller or more of one console. Look how many times the ZX Spectrum changed and that dates back to the 80s different body same under the hood…………color clash anyone lol.

  8. Nintendo’s handheld revisions tend to get a bit ridiculous, especially when adding new major features. Other from that, the revisions of said consoles, such as the PS3, bring down the expensive prices (£400) all the way down to the mass market types (-£200). In that sense, these revisions are the last defense of consoles against the mobile market. Because who’s gonna buy a £400/£300 PS3, when they can get an iPad/decent pc.
    Sure, an iPad might not be for gamers, but I know a lot more people who had one of these before a console. One friend only got an Xbox a few weeks ago, but their family’s had an iPad for a while longer.
    And as for gamers, they’d buy a reliable PC, instead of the first generation, unreliable RROD/YLOD Xbox/PS3.

  9. I don’t get it. The article builds up so nicely but than the author goes onto home consoles and the argument simply brakes down. It causes “friction” when a home consoles get a hardware revision? Why? Unlike the DS and the PSP there ARE NO hardware upgrades that ruin it for first adopters. In fact hardware revision on consoles shouldn’t cause “friction” exactly because the updates don’t change the functionality of the console. (and by that I mean they won’t include more RAM like in the PSP) They will work exactly the same way as a previous revision. Only they’ll be cheaper to manufacture and hopefully to buy.

    In that case why care? Why should I, you or the neighbour be bothered, discomforted, enraged or even threatened by the new PS3 when it doesn’t offer anything new?

    If home consoles get redesigned and in the process become cheaper, it’s a win for late adopters with no effects whatsoever for people who already have a previous hardware revisions.

    So I’m okay with revisions as long as performance wise they remain the same. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a point. Just get a PC if you want that. Consoles are bought specifically because of this reason. You know that during their life cycle you won’t have to bother about “oh, gee, will this game run for me?” because the devs will develop specifically for that standardised piece of hardware.

    With mobile phones it’s completely different. You can’t even compare handheld and home consoles to them. The manufacturers are in a race to put out the best, strongest and biggest. You could compare them with PCs and their components, but not with a console whose performance will remain the same for 6+ years. Enjoy your iPhone 5 in 2018…you won’t, but you’ll still use the PS4.

    • I forgot to say. Once console manufacterers decide to do a performance upgrade they might as well just release a new generation instead of screwing with first adopters. So I can’t say I agree with the first part of @teflon’s comment.

    • Agreed. It was a bit “apples and oranges” in a way.

      Although I find Nintendo’s hand-held after hand-held approach strangely fascinating. The average gamer (of their mobile consoles) probably sees everything that’s superseded it as a plethora of options to continue playing their games library with something a bit newer and shinier (but nothing more than that).

    • Damn it, replied before I read your comment and you wrote it down better than I did…. (damn the scottish whiskey..)

  10. Well I want a new PS3 as the phats are unreliable and the wifi is super slow compared to the slims.

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