I should probably preface this by saying that I currently own all three current gen consoles and various other portables. I’ve loved consoles and video games since I got my first NES, aged 8.
But I don’t think the future is very bright for the traditional home console. I think we’re in the middle of a transformation that will change the industry. Although the next generation will look largely the same, it could also be the last to do so.
Over the last few years, basically since the introduction of the iPhone, we’ve seen massive growth in the games industry, mostly all down to mobile gaming. Over this period we’ve also seen the portable console market shrink massively compared to its peek when the Nintendo DS was selling like, well iPhones!
Far more “ordinary” people are now gaming. At the same time, mobile hardware is getting ever more powerful, to the point where it’s now nearly up to the level of the current consoles. Now, I know that this really means they’re as good as six year old hardware, but at the same time this is still pretty incredible. And it’s only going to get better and better.
Now I’m not trying to say that consoles will die out. I just think that they will lose their relevance as the preeminent form of gaming. Products like the iPad 3 are already at a stage where they are more than powerful enough to satisfy most people’s needs from a gaming perspective. That’s not to say that there won’t always be those who want the latest and greatest. But this group will start to become the minority. As an 360 and PS3 owner, I’m already pretty happy with the graphics in games likes Real Racing and Infinity Blade. And I’m probably fussier than post people.
At the current rate of progress, I wonder how many people will shell out £300 for a new console in five years time when they can get the latest tablet, which will play graphically awesome games as well as do so much more. And those games should also be far cheaper then the £30-£40 that a current console game will set you back. Again, there will still be people who want an all powerful console (or PC), but for the majority it will be more than good enough.
Oh but mobile games are rubbish, you need a proper controller. Games, like GTA 3 have already shown that you can do a proper console game on a mobile or tablet. If you’re on Android you can even plug in an Xbox controller and play the way it the way it was always meant to be played. How long till Apple or Google release a proper wireless controller? Publishers will move to support whichever platforms they can make most money off, and I don’t think that will always be consoles. There’s no reason at all why “proper” games can’t be released on mobile hardware.
And then you have the last piece of the puzzle, for those that like to play on the TV. AirPlay is already here, and IMHO it’s one of Apple’s killer features. No, it’s not magical by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s damn useful. Of course an open standard would be preferable, but you get the idea.
There you have it: an iPad (or any other tablet) with AirPlay and a proper controller. My console of the future. It’s not going to happen overnight, but to me it seems like logical direction for things to go in. Let’s come back in five years and see how this pans out.
And if you disagree we can take this outside, to the forums!