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10 Reasons Why The Next Generation May Be The Last Console Cycle

For decades now home consoles have been easily defined and categorized into several generations. There are a few notable exceptions of course, most notably the Sega’s release of the Dreamcast between generations five and six, a release that saw their dominant run in the game’s console business come to a swift end. This pattern of console generations has been the death of those that dare to stray outside of it, but these generations divide may cease to exist once the Xbox One and PS4 have run their course. Here’s ten important reasons why this may be the case in the future.
Nintendo Aren’t Competing
nintendo direct
Though a third major competitor in the console wars only came about when Sony launched their PlayStation back in 1994, console generations have since been defined in sets of three. With Nintendo is releasing their Wii U in between the seventh and eighth generation though, they seem to be removing them from generational classification, a refusal to compete with Sony and Microsoft exacerbated by their decision to not hold a conventional conference at this year’s E3. Even if consoles continue as we know them, will we take the time to define complete generations for only one or two systems?
The Steam Box
Generation classifications only really hold up when the focus of gaming is on set games console. New competitors will throw traditional generation divides out of sync, and Valve’s Steam Box may do just that if it lives up to the usual quality of the Half-Life developer. Granted, it’s more a PC than a separate game console, but it may be enough for PC gaming to eclipse and replace the console market altogether.
Smart Phone Markets
samsung galaxy s3
With casual gaming on the rise, most of the population is happier paying out a few pounds for a good phone game over a £40 AAA shooter. In terms of sheer money, you can’t argue with that, and the phone is a device that is almost always to hand and is upgraded very regularly. Raw graphical power and control issues with touch screen devices are just about the only thing keeping core gamers at home on consoles, so you can only imagine what would happen to the console market if phones managed to overcome the issue of touch screen controls.

The Rise of the Micro Console

With Ouya and the GameStick taking Kickstarter by storm, smaller consoles released in shorter intervals may become the standard over lengthy 5+ year hardware cycles. These micro consoles are undoubtedly influenced by the popularity and immediacy of smart phone gaming and, if they can combine the accessibility of mobile gaming with better controls and hardware, they may dethrone console gaming as we know it.

Indie Popularity

Courting independent developers seem to be on the mind of all three major platform holders at the moment, a vital ingredient for modern console success. With indie games offering some of the most original and creative experiences at the moment, future consoles may live and die based on their support from indies. Of course, the thing to remember is that the more open nature of the PC means that it will always be supported by the independent community, meaning the PC is in a better situation than consoles.

Tablet Gaming

Here’s where things get really tricky. PC systems offer a core and indie game experience, whilst mobile platforms have an accessibility lacking in other hardware sectors. The rise in tablet gaming shows how larger touch screen devices merge the two together. Bigger screens and bluetooth controllers remove the usual control issue levelled at smart phones, and this attracts awesome core game and ports such as the GTA series and the recent Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic release for Ipad. That and they can also be used for work, rather unlike your Xbox 360 or PS3.

The Console Market is Losing Money
There was a point at the height of the economic recession when commentators boldly claimed that the games industry was recession proof. They were wrong. Very wrong. Some areas of the industry have proven resilient to economic decline, but the reported losses of companies like Square Enix and the total bankruptcy of giants like THQ shows the perils involved in developing console titles. Sure, the rewards are high, but the risk is even higher when you develop games for the populist market. With the economy still in a questionable state, low risk platforms will prove more attractive to developers and publishers than conventional consoles.

Multimedia Solutions
netflix just for kids xbox360
It was only ten years ago that a game console did exactly what it said on the tin. Your N64 played N64 cartridges and little else, lacking even a home menu. Now a console is required to be an all purpose entertainment center to stay competitive and, whilst this leads to versatile hardware, it results in a diminished focus on standard gaming. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but, if I’m primarily using my 360 to stream movies on Netflix and Lovefilm, why would I need to upgrade my hardware?
Console Conservatism
As money becomes tighter amongst all industries, what few console games still sell well now resort to outrageous conservatism for fear of losing out. I suppose there’s the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” argument, but you can’t deny that some series are really getting old. Call of Duty is but one example of a series that has barely changed since 2006 and, even when other AAA developers claim their next game is a great breakthrough, this is almost always an overstatement. Consumers are bound to get tired of these rehashed ideas at some point and look for more exciting gaming experiences elsewhere.
The Cloud
Belying my usual cynical demeanor is my unwavering respect for cloud gaming services like OnLive. Of course OnLive hit financial trouble in 2012 and was only brought out for a meager sum, but this kind of cloud powered service makes more sense as the future of gaming than dedicated console hardware. Once internet becomes reliable enough worldwide to handle it, cloud gaming could become the new standard. Hell, even Sony and Microsoft are relying on cloud solutions to provide extra processing power and gaming services to their systems, so it’s only a matter of time before the full game streaming services becomes the norm. With their servers handling the load, users won’t be required to upgrade their hardware ever.
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