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Happy Birthday Xbox 360. Now die.

Opinion: Tom Pakinkis is ready for the next generation...

The Xbox 360 turned five years old yesterday. Sure, I raised a glass and gave it a little congratulatory nod as it blew out the candles with its CPU fan, but I won't lie - I had one eye on the clock.

See, in console years, the big number five is around the time when the great scrap-heap in the sky starts to loom with an inevitable grumble. Look at the 360's old man for example; it had a good stint but had to tag out with half a decade under its belt to make way for the next generation. That's life-span, as they say.

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Now it's the evening after and, as I blearily Hoover the Pringle crumbs from the carpet along with the odd bottle cap, I catch a glimpse of the 360 snoozing in the corner. It ain't as young as it used to be, you know?

There's a lot for Xbox to be proud of in the 360 history. It was the first console to offer HD graphics, Xbox Live is still thought of as providing the best online experience in all of gaming and the satisfying tone of the Achievement hooked gamers so absolutely that everyone from PlayStation to Steam made sure they had an equivalent.

It's had its fair share of genre defining exclusives as well: The Mass Effect series pretty much sets the bar for story-driven RPGs, Gears of War popularised the cover shooter and the 360 is the only place you'll find the best of the Halo series.

But we've reached a bit of a plateau as far as wow-factor is concerned. I know, I know, graphics aren't everything - to a lot of people they're nothing - and the genius of a game depends on the genius of the dev team not necessarily the power of the platform they're working on.

More power does mean more freedom though; not just to create fleshier looking faces but more complicated worlds with flabbergasting physics as well.

And that's not all; like a paranoid pensioner whose day-to-day lexicon is peppered with subtle, somehow innocent, racism, it won't be long before the Xbox 360 finds itself starkly behind the times.

Not only is that DVD drive looking decidedly dated next to the beefy Blu-Ray, but we're on the horizon of a diskless world anyway. One day your console will need to be equipped with a much vaster, flexible gaming marketplace and a whopping amount of space to store everything (that is if games aren't streamed directly).

Instead the 360's gone with Kinect. It's a great bit of tech, yes, but then so is a pace-maker. While Microsoft's motion control definitely teaches the old dog a whole boat load of cool new tricks, it can't replace the dawn of a new generation - hearing the hype of new ground being broken but not knowing exactly what that entails until your new machine bleeps to life.

It's not just the Xbox 360 though; the cobwebs are console-wide. The PS3 will soon have similar future-proofing problems to the 360 and the Wii can't survive on darling little noises forever.

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In terms of software, we've got the likes of Bulletstorm, Brink, Ghost Recon and Metal Gear Solid: Rising to look forward to on the HD platforms, but are they really going to be anything more than great games in the evolutionary chain? Are our current consoles even able to give us anything more than baby-steps now?

Maybe the fact that I'm here sounding all under-whelmed at the prospect of "great games" is a sad state of affairs, but it's only because great games have become the norm. When that happens, it's surely a sign that we need to push on to find the next level of gaming.

Perhaps throwing words as definitive as 'death' around is a bit much. With the recent arrival of Kinect, the 360 is guaranteed life for a long time yet. Maybe it's time for it to take a spot in the reserves, though.

Like the PlayStation 2, the 360 would do wonders sitting in the background, quietly continuing to sell to gamers who aren't quite the tech-crunching core. Kinect would complement that role perfectly.

The 360's had a wonderful career, but it's also had its time. Now maybe it can enjoy winding down in semi-retirement, looking on as the next big thing takes on the Xbox mantle.

I'll wish 360 many happy returns, then, but maybe not many more to come.

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