Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation have been arch rivals in the gaming console space for ages now, but this rivalry may soon fade away. If the latest trends are anything to go by, the overall gaming consoles industry might not have much time left before it is eventually wiped out.
Smartphones and streaming to kill consoles
Powerful and feature-packed smartphones have diverted the attention of the game makers from consoles to mobile gaming. Epic’s Fortnite, which took the gaming world by storm, is an eloquent example of the fading console era. Fortnite establishes that smartphones are now capable of running multiplayer games as smooth as consoles.
Mobility of the content on any platform is the demand of the hour. And, with the mobile devices becoming capable enough to run console quality games, customers would not have to fork out $600 or $800 on a box. Similarly, developers would be free from the limitations such as chip and processors when designing a game.
Earlier, this year, Ubisoft said in an interview that the next generation of consoles could be their last. “There will be one more console generation and after that we will be streaming, all of us,” CEO Yves Guillemot told Variety.
Apart from the smartphones, another trend that would be responsible for the end of the gaming consoles would be games streaming services. Japanese console maker Nintendo will be launching its first subscription game service toward the end of September this year.
According to Ubisoft’s vice president of partnerships and revenue, Chris Early, streaming appeal is relevant to the publishers because it makes it easier for more people to play games. The key advantage with streaming and cloud computing is that more and more people can play, said Early.
Keeping gaming consoles relevant
To some, all the cynicism surrounding the death of gaming consoles might look overrated as big brands like Microsoft and Sony are reportedly working on future consoles that are laced with groundbreaking technology such as Blockchain. If the rumors are to be believed, Microsoft would launch a Blockchain-based Xbox named Scarlett, which would shun the old practice of having to buy the disc to play the games on consoles.
Back in June, Microsoft announced that it would enter into a partnership with professional services firm Ernst & Young on a Digital Rights Management platform. The Xbox Scarlett Cloud would reportedly be a platform rather than just being hardware. It would work like any other cloud service, but with a twist. Scarlett would leverage Microsoft’s existing Azure Cloud infrastructure.
Microsoft’s Azure Cloud is the network of data centers which the company has been assembling across the globe. Azure is now ready to penetrate into the world’s major metropolitan centers to make sure that platforms using it such as Scarlett Cloud can run in low latency environments. Latency is one of the most critical issues in the game streaming industry, and is important for playing a majority of popular games, especially, the first person shooter.
It’s not just Microsoft that is working on the futuristic console, Sony also reportedly plans to harness Blockchain-based DRM on a future PlayStation. However, Sony’s new PlayStation head Tsuyoshi “John” Kodera told reporters in May that the company may also consider making consoles more mobile.
Not anytime soon
This is not the first time the industry experts are writing off the gaming consoles. Back in 2012, Wired talked about the mobile disruption and “the whole box model mentality.” CNN also reported on a similar line citing discouraging console sales. IGN even predicted the fate of PS4 even before its launch, saying “A better-graphics box at $400? Not going to work.”
However, in terms of sales, the gaming consoles are doing better than earlier. Earlier this year, the industry analyst at NPD announced that the U.S. game market surged 11% in 2017 to $3.3 million. As per the analyst, the video game hardware was the primary driver of overall growth.
So, we have arguments both for and against the death of consoles. Overall, it can be said that there is growing consensus that the new tech will eventually make the old one outdated. And, the same would happen to the consoles as well, but it will take time. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer has aptly explained this shift.
Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, believes that the shift in the gaming console space would be similar to that of streaming video. Microsoft’s goal, according to Spencer, is to shift to a platform where one can play anything, anywhere they want. Spencer, however, believes that it takes years for such a big shift to happen, adding that though streaming videos are growing by leaps and bounds, DVD sales still command billions of dollars per year.