The rumour mill has been grinding for well over half a year, and it now seems all but inevitable that the next generation of consoles will dominate this year's E3. This being the case, we've drawn up our wishlists for the features we want in the next offerings from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
Tom Orry, Editor
I'd really like to see every game playable from the hard drive without needing a disc - whether purchased digitally or installed from a physical copy. I took my Xbox 360 to my parents over Christmas and the majority of games I played were those downloaded from Xbox LIVE - having the convenience of playing what you want without the disc clearly counts for a lot. There must be a way to make it happen without causing widespread piracy.
The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have both got some excellent titles available via Xbox LIVE Arcade and PSN, but in the iOS world we live in, a proper (well advertised) digital store for smaller titles, priced similarly to the Apple App Store, would be great. The Xbox 360 already has this to an extent via Indie Games, but the majority of those titles are sent to die and because of it the quality isn't nearly as high as on iOS.
Speaking of Xbox LIVE, the cost of the service (which I have been fully behind for a long time) is starting to grate slightly now that PlayStation Plus for the PlayStation 3 offers so much for your money. A similar free game and discount scheme for Gold members would be excellent.
The PlayStation 4 also needs to radically improve its update system. I'm fed up of having to sit through lengthy firmware updates all the time and wait while large game updates are downloaded when I just want to be playing. At the moment, if I know I want to play something on the PS3, I boot it up the day before to make sure it's got time to update ahead of playing it, which is ridiculous.
Due to the rise of YouTube some form of in-built video capture with direct upload functionality would be superb. Some games already allow this to some extent, but it's not supported on a system-wide level. PVR tech in consoles doesn't really excite me when it comes to TV (I have that through other devices), but recording game footage would be a nice addition.
The use of the Wii U tablet as a portable games console is a great idea, and I'd like Sony to really push hard to make the exact same experience possible between the PS4 and PlayStation Vita. Remote play in some titles is already there for PS3 games on Vita, but it should be an option for every title.
Having said all that, if I can get PGR 5 on Xbox 720, God of War 4 on PS4 and a new Mario game on Wii U close to launch, I won't really care what features each console has.
Neon Kelly, Deputy Editor
I want better pads from both Microsoft and Sony. The next Xbox controller needs a D-Pad that can actually be used for, y'know, games, and Sony need to overhaul the DualShock 3. I'm sure they'll keep the old design, but for the love of all that is holy, they need to fix those spongy L2/R2 triggers.
In terms of the actual machines, it's harder for me to make specific requests - when it comes to the next gen, it's the games I'm more bothered about. That being the case, I want the consoles to be as developer-friendly as possible; there's no point giving the consoles extra graphical clout if they're going to be a nightmare to work with. Let's make them more user-friendly for us, too - I echo Tom's plea to fix the PS3 update system.
Finally, it'd be nice if we could avoid all that RROD / YLOD bullshit this time. No more wrapping consoles in towels, please.
Martin Gaston, Previews Edtior
There's no point in getting excited about games (yet) because in all likelihood the first batch of software for the eighth-generation of consoles will be little more than a tarted up version of that year's Call of Duty or something entirely reprehensible like a Kinect-only Perfect Dark Zero 2.
Instead, I'd love to see some major inroads made for improving the consumer experience on a console. Things like DLC season passes and premium subscriptions are becoming hugely popular in the industry, but the core Xbox 360 and PlayStation Network frameworks were never made with this in mind - what we've got at the moment are dirty hackjobs that work, but going forward I expect a far more successful (and intuitive) implementation.
It's almost obvious, but the new machines definitely need to launch with better management of game libraries and new ways of managing DLC - now we just download DLC like it's synchronous to a digital title or a demo, which seems totally bizarre when you think about it. I'd also like to be able to view a game's DLC without having to scroll through 30 items of trailers and other junk, too.
As for the games themselves - updates should also download and install themselves in the background: the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 launched in an era where console patches weren't commonplace, which partially explains why the PS3 does such a godawful job at managing updates.
This generation of gaming has shown an industry desperately trying to move towards a service-based model rather than an individual product model, and the three console manufacturers need to understand this. Always-on Internet connections happened, constant patches happened, and publishers trying to squeeze us dry with post-release content also happened. There's no point in sticking our heads in the sand and hoping for simpler days; instead the console manufacturers should be looking at ways to make these features more pleasant and accessible in our day-to-day lives.
We're also seeing an ever-increasing push for our consoles to become all-consuming media devices, and this is definitely going to continue with the new machines. But the platform holders need to find a way to deliver these services in a way that doesn't overly complicate the experience for those who are just interested in playing games - or that games don't get in the way for people who just want to steam the iPlayer. Let's be brutally honest, both Microsoft and Sony are doing a bloody appalling job with this at the moment - these companies might be desperately chasing Apple's ethos, but their storefronts and UI's certainly don't sparkle with the same kind of pizzazz.
On paper these sound like tiny changes, but if the platform holders can incorporate these features into the core framework of their respective uber-devices they would have a dramatic impact on our gaming experiences in the future.
James Orry, News Editor
I'm not a heavy gamer, so it's the media functionality that interests me most. I like the fact that my Xbox can access content from Sky, but for it to be of real use I want the next Xbox to support full Sky HD functionality - not only HD streams and on-demand content, but the ability to record and pause programming in HD too.
After that, my main gaming comes from casual titles, but the space required for Kinect causes all manner of problems and forced living room manipulation. Motion controllers which require less space would be a great addition to the next generation. Voice control which can understand more casual commands - rather than the required military precision Kinect seems to demand - would also go down a treat, especially when linking up to a media player or Sky.
Emily Gera, Staff Writer
The recent rumour that the next Xbox would include DVR features that let users record TV, games, and DVDs piques my interest, particularly when the console is already clearly pushing toward becoming more of a multimedia device. I'm a big fan of all-in-one Swiss army knife-styled products, and it's already exciting to find myself using my Xbox as much to play my Last.fm list or to watch television as use it as a gaming console; I'll be interested to see how much further that can be pushed. Of course, my one true dream is cross-platform gaming but I won't be holding my breath for that.