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Next Generation Console Comparisons Fail Math Test

Fun With NumbersI've seen several statements floating around the Internet today regarding the next generation of video game consoles and how this console is that many times more powerful than some other console.  Considering all of the comparisons being offered, it seems to me that we can use some basic math to determine just how powerful a given console may be.  It's time for your algebra homework for today.  Let's take three statements regarding Microsoft's current Xbox 360 and upcoming next Xbox (informally dubbed the Xbox 720 in the gaming community for now) and see how they stack up to quotes about the Nintendo Wii U's power.  Are these comparisons realistic or just numbers made up for sensational headlines?  First, the declarations of power:

"In real terms, the Xbox 720's raw graphics processing power is expected to be six times that of the Xbox 360 and will yield 20-percent greater performance than Nintendo's forthcoming console, the Wii U." - IGN

"Nintendo’s next generation hardware will be roughly twice as powerful as Microsoft’s current system, the Xbox 360[.]" - Develop

These statements are just imprecise enough to draw you in and let you interpret them however you like. Are we comparing graphical power or total system power?  Let's assume all three comparisons to be true for now (because that's what everybody seems to be doing).  We can come up with some equations based on those statements. 

  • X720 = 6X360
  • X720 = 1.2WU
  • WU = 2X360

Since the reports don't say otherwise, now let's assume that all of these equations are measuring the same kind of capability and that it's possible to set one comparison against another.  Now we can see if these statements hold up across both sources.  First, let's consider how the Xbox 360 and Wii U compare:

X720 = 6X360 = 1.2WU

so 5X360 = WU

So the Wii U is five times as powerful as the Xbox 360 according to IGN's numbers.  However, the equation we have from the Develop quote tells is that the Wii U is only twice as powerful than the Xbox 360.  These comparisons aren't crunching mathematically.  The real takeaway from all of this is that whenever you hear that Console A is X times as powerful as Console B, remember that these are rough estimations that make for a good headline and may not actually represent consistent and/or nonconflicting facts.  Take them all with a grain of salt.  Better yet, ignore them entirely and wait to judge hardware based on the quality of the games that are in the works for it.  Fun always beats fractions.