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New Game Systems Hit 'Upper Limit' of Graphics, Penn State Behrend Professor Says

Get ready for a 500 GB Christmas.

New video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft will top lots of gift lists this year. They aren’t cheap – Sony’s PlayStation 4, which went on sale Nov. 15, costs $399; Microsoft’s Xbox One, available Nov. 22, is $100 more – but both are loaded with new features. The PS4 can stream Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video. The Xbox One, which comes with Microsoft’s Kinect camera, can recognize individual family members; its launch menu will offer game and video recommendations tailored to that person’s preferences.

Matthew White, lecturer in game development at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College“Both companies are marketing these as one-stop shops for everything you do with your family and friends,” says Matthew White, lecturer in game development at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “They’re essentially selling you your living room.”

Console games are a $24.9 billion business. This year’s top seller, “Grand Theft Auto V,” earned more than $800 million the first day it was available. That’s twice the box office from the year’s biggest film, “Iron Man 3.”

The new consoles come with marquee games. “Killzone: Shadow Fall” and “NBA 2K14” are eerily realistic. The characters sweat and smirk. The camera angles pan and dip and zoom.

“We’re reaching the upper limit of what we can do, graphically,” White says. “It’s just an insanely high quality of realism. So much so that, in the future, something else will have to be the focus.”

The next generation of gamers might not even want a console. Casual gamers already have migrated to simpler, cheaper mobile games, which are played on tablets or phones. Others have jumped to Steam and other cloud-based services, which allow them to access a full library of games on a variety of devices.

For now, however, consoles rule the living room. Demand for these new systems will be strong from the start: According to Sony, More than a million people bought the PlayStation 4 in the first 24 hours it was on store shelves.