A few days ago, I stumbled across a few leaked gameplay images from Microsoft’s alleged Xbox 720. I’m fairly pessimistic when it comes to such conjecture, and quickly declared bull. Regardless of these sexy and heavily-pixilated images’ validity, their release shows the gaming community is officially looking toward what the future holds – and begs the question: Just what will the next generation of gaming systems have in store for us?

It’s been roughly six years since the Xbox 360 and PS3 have been released. Boy, how time flies. Based on the trends of the past, this means it’s about time for a new lineup of gaming consoles for techies across the globe to salivate over. Strangely, game developers have remained resolutely tight-lipped regarding the future front lines of gaming.

When considering the complete lack of information from either Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo, it’s fair to say we probably won’t be seeing any new systems for a few years at the very least. This makes our current generation of consoles some of the most long-lived to date … I knew it was worth shelling out my hard-earned lifeguard money for the all-holy 360.

This uncharacteristic longevity of our consoles is probably due to regular system updates, the monthly facelifts to our respective platforms that have no doubt extended their lives considerably. However, there are certain things that “updates” simply cannot change, such as processing power or outdated hardware. Since my Xbox was one of the first to hit the shelves, I unfortunately have neither an HDMI port nor built-in wireless connectivity. Not that I’m complaining – Ol’ Bessie and I go way back.

In just a few short years, PCs are already leaps and bounds ahead of consoles in terms of both processing and RAM, leaving a huge gap in video quality. Technology simply becomes obsolete after a number of years, and since consoles aren’t modifiable, the only thing to do is upgrade and ship a newer and smarter version. Assuming we ever see a new lineup of predecessors to our systems, it’s fair to say that with all the “developing” going on right now, there had better be some significant changes in store.

One thing is for certain: Discs of all forms will be going the way of the Dodo bird. In just a few short years we may finally be free of those snap-able, scratch-able, poor excuses for game delivery. The replacement? Pure digital downloads.

Just imagine the joy you’ll feel at never having to deal with those bozos at Gamestop ever again, the satisfaction of watching them slowly go out of business as you download your favorite games from the comfort of your couch. Not to mention, gaming companies across the board will jump at the prospect of not having to shell out tens of millions of units of cheap plastic and optical material.

As hard as it is for me to say, recent successes of the Kinect and Wii can’t be overlooked. There will be considerable integration of motion technology into the next generation of console; the question is, to what degree will that be important?

I don’t think I’m alone in stating I have not been in the least bit impressed by any Kinect title to date. Not only are motion-technology games cheesy, glitchy and primitive, but comparing them to regular controller-driven games is like comparing Bieber’s latest slew of auto-tuned garbage to the White Album.

Someday, maybe games will be so immersive that you will actually feel as though you’re inside the game. But until then, I think most would rather stick to the “old standby” of a controller than wave their arms around, or crouch and jump their way through some futuristic Mario game in their living room.

Graphically, it’s tough to even fathom what future consoles will hold in store for us. I was glancing at a screenshot of “Jetfighter II” from 1990 spliced on top of an HD screenshot of air combat in “Battlefield 3.” I almost dropped my bowl of cereal: The change in technology after 20 years is nothing short of extraordinary. The prospect of movie-like graphics combined with new 3D technology and – I suppose – the integration of motion capture techniques could truly make gaming the most lucrative entertainment industry to date.

Maybe most companies are just hesitant to ship out a sub-par system. Considering how valuable the video game industry is today, companies like Microsoft and Sony have a lot to gain and a lot to lose based on how well their next generation of consoles is received. This is especially true when considering the drastic change in entertainment technology over the past few years. But whatever the case, hopefully we can expect something in the ballpark of a 21st century equivalent of the N64, though that may be asking too much.