It's clear that the next generation of RPG's will capture the hearts and destroy the schedules of millions of people. The newer games are being designed to appeal to more than the hard core gamer. People just beginning in RPG's can, without confusion, jump right into Final Fantasy as opposed to putting up with Pokémon. There is no doubt that RPG's have a bright future. The question is, who's console will have the pleasure of bringing our favorite games to us?
Will it be Sony's Playstation 2? With DVD and internet playability, the psx2 will be useful for more than just games. It's a movie theater in a small package, with optical and coaxial outputs for digital sound, and it's price will be better than many of the popular DVD consoles. As far as gaming goes, however, they could have done better. It's low memory count and the fact that the graphics processor shares it with the cpu troubles me. It has already been tried with PC's and it doesn't work. However, I believe the games make the console sales, not the name. Super Mario Bros. made NES a big seller, Sonic the Hedgehog did it for Sega Genesis, and Playstation had Grand Turismo and of course Final Fantasy VII and VIII. Several people I know purchased a Playstation for the sole purpose of playing Final Fantasy 7. I believe this trend will continue on a somewhat lesser scale for FF IX,X, and XI, and despite it's hardware problems the psx2 will be the leader. But that could change.
Will it be Nintendo's Dolphin? The Dolphin boasts a 400MHz CPU with copper links made by IBM, a graphics processor that has on-die memory and uses S3 texture compression for improved texture resolution and performance, and of course, DVD. I think Nintendo will be back in business with this console provided they learn from their mistakes with N64. One mistake was sticking with cartridges instead of discs. Although the cartridges provided increased rendering performance, FMV was either not possible or didn't perform well. We all know how important movies are in RPG's, so the dolphin's DVD player will fix that problem. Another mistake Nintendo made with N64 was the mandate for 3d Graphics. Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda do not lend well to 3d. Although The Ocarina of Time was a fun game the extra "space" was not filled and the game seemed hollow. If 3d graphics are used in an RPG they should be limited to where a player doesn't have to be trained to use the game. Lastly, Nintendo needs to realize there is a large amount of post-adolescent gamers out there who love RPG's whose difficulty equals their intellect. Provided they fix their problems, look for Nintendo to get back in the race.
What about Sega's Dreamcast? Where's their advertising? I heard about the other consoles before I knew Sega had a new console. As far as hardware, the Dreamcast can compete but is nothing special. My prediction is that Sega will try and reclaim their reputation as the sports and comics game system. I do not expect the Dreamcast to be in the running for best RPG system.
Will Microsoft's X-box be able to compete with the Japanese consoles? My initial guess is no. American game developing companies are excited about the X-box but so far there has been no Japanese feedback. The product is still in its early development stages so this may change. The X-box boasts the best hardware of any of the afore mentioned consoles. It includes an Intel 600MHz CPU, the fastest so far. Nvidia received $2 million to develop the X-box's graphics processor, the NV25 (which doesn't exist yet). The 8GB hard-drive will eliminate the need for external memory cards, a big plus. With the 100mbit/s network adapter, it's clear that Microsoft's focus will be on internet play. The market for 3d interactive virtual worlds is expanding rapidly so financially this is a good direction to take. The problem is, or perhaps isn't, directx. Directx for PC's is a joke. Even though it's hardware accelerated and program development is easier, we have to put up with crummy load times and poor performance compared to Silicon Graphics Inc.'s graphics package, openGL. However, I think this will not be a problem with the X-box because there is no operating system overhead. Most of the system's resources can be used for directx so performance will be much better than it's PC counterpart. Will the hardware be enough to sell the product? No. Microsoft will have to devote a lot of its marketing energy toward game companies and not just American ones in order to gain support for its product. Microsoft will be a contender eventually but not in this race.
And the winner is? I'll let you decide.