The next generation of consoles will undoubtedly mark a huge leap forward, with more pixels (rumours suggest up to four thousand for the PS4), new graphics engines, a better digital framework, improved entertainment options, more online services and, of course, better games. However, despite all of these leaps forward can the big plastic boxes stay relevant beyond the next generation? And are they cost effective and will we actually need them?
Consoles have always been expensive, they are often sold at a loss with the money being made back through big game sales. The problem is that games don't sell as well anymore (figures show a 32% drop) and gaming models are changing. The digital market is on the rise, as is free to play and the App Store has changed people's ideas about how much they should be paying to play their games. In short games can't be leant on as a crutch to carry consoles anymore. Consoles need to change.
Also, although there will be big leaps forward in the hardware it will just be more of the same, more of the improvements that we expect; better pixel resolution, better graphics, more entertainment services, isn't that what we always get? Improvements we want obviously isn't bad but a few surprises wouldn't go amiss would they? On top of this the digital framework, the thing everyone is talking about, doesn't need improving, it needs transforming. Any and all games much launch digitally alongside their physical companions (read any comments section on digital gaming and you'll see people still want discs so they mustn't go away just yet) and they must cost less than or the same as those physical games, not more than them. Alongside this there needs to a rapid increase in the speed of people's Internet connections so that games can be downloaded faster. The console companies could help here by allowing people to play a game before having fully downloaded it and have the remainder download whilst you play the game. Blizzard have already implemented a similar strategy with World of Warcraft and it works fantastically.
They must also feature cloud based options. Though many people's internet connections can't handle it at the moment, and many people just don't like the idea yet, cloud gaming will inevitably become a driving force in gaming. It has to. The option to play amazing games on a cheap and weak system is too good to pass up, especially if, like me, you can't afford a computer that's good enough to run current games. Sony seem to be making moves towards this with the purchase of Gaikai but we still know very little about how their purchase of that company will actually effect us gamers.
Of course if cloud gaming does rise in this way then consoles may not actually be needed anymore, likewise if the App Store continues to grow and the quality of games continues to increase and start to meet consoles in terms of depth (Horn anybody? Dangerous? These are incredible IOS games) then again consoles simply may become a redundant idea.
Personally I hope this happens, the idea of cloud gaming appeals to me hugely, I love OnLive and really want it to grow and develop. I want the same for the App Store, I actually want console gaming to die, I'd rather it evolve but this seems so unlikely that I'm wanting the next best thin). Why do I say this? Console gaming is dull, been there, done that. There are still great games but the console companies don't seem too willing to embrace the future, there's not a lot of exciting stuff happening there, all the excitement is found in the cloud, in the App Store, consoles are just ticking over. New graphics engines, new entertainment new what you had last time. Nothing exciting.
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