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Console Wars: Meaningless Power

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VG247 has served up a report earlier today that revealed the rumoured computational power of the upcoming PlayStation Orbis (that's the name I am going with) and the Xbox 720, codenamed Durango. And I quote:

"Developer sources, speaking after meetings at CES, have told VG247 that the next PlayStation, codenamed Orbis, will have a run-capability of 1.84 teraflops. Conversely, the next Xbox, codenamed Durango, will be able to achieve 1.23 teraflops.

If true, these numbers mean PlayStation 4 will have a 50% raw, computational power advantage over Xbox 720."

I would just like to ask, if that bit of text means anything to anyone? Now granted, I expect that to those of you with a background in IT or engineering, the benefits of having more more teraflops than the other guy are immediately apparent, but if you'll indulge an educated guess, I guarantee that for the majority of potential consumers for these devices those numbers mean nothing. They are but the first salvo in an unnecessary dick measuring contest between Sony and Microsoft that will have no bearing on the ultimate sales performance of either one of these consoles when they eventual come to market.

I have been gaming for the entirety of my adult life and the greater portion of my childhood and if there was one thing about gaming I have never enjoyed it's a console war. And within a console war, the worst weapon has always been and remains Numbers. Whoever has the biggest Numbers has the better console. Apparently.

So in the past we've had arguments about which console had more Bits and Rams, which ones was Hertzing faster and whose Cache was larger. We argued about these measurement as if they had meaning to us and it was infuriating. And ultimately, like so many things in life, it was never the size of the tool that mattered, it was how you used it. Proof? The war of the Fifth Generation of consoles.
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While not necessarily the most competitive - I think we can agree that the battle between the the SNES and the Mega Drive takes that title - the Fifth Generation console had the most competitors. The 3DO, Atari Jaguar, Amiga CD32, NEC PC-FX and the Sega 32X all took part in the fight, but the war was dominated by the Sega Saturn, the Nintendo 64 and the Sony PlayStation. The clear victor in that battle for the living room was the PlayStation which outsold its nearest rival, the N64, by 69 million units. In terms of processing power, its CPU ran at a paltry 33MHz compared to the N64's 93Mhz. In addition its graphics processing was built into the main CPU whereas the N64 had a dedicated Graphics processor running at 62.5 MHz. And yet all that power was meaningless, because ultimately the PlayStation had a number of other advantages that had nothing to with power. Ease of development and better corporate relations for instance.

And its always been this way. Rarely has the Numbers had any bearing on the success of a console - see the Wii as another example - and yet at the start of every generation the pie charts and graphs get pulled out and a meaningless array of Numbers are funneled into the receptive eyeballs of fanboys everywhere instigated even less meaningful arguments about which console is going to win.

If there is one benefit to the decline of the video game magazine, its that I will never again need to see an eight page article detailing the most mundane of minutiae about the "next-gen" console and how its soooooo much better than what the other guy is doing. Talk to me about the games, talk to me about unique feature, talk about developer support, but don't talk about the Numbers.

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