The Big Question: Will There Be A New Generation Of Consoles?

It was a huge gap between generations — between the PS3 and the PS4, between the 360 and the Xbox One. But do you think the current generation of consoles is the last? Will we all be moving on to something different?

I say no, but there are people who believe that. I say consoles as we currently know them are good for at least another generation. Why? Because they are selling. They are making money. The PS4 in particular has been an incredible success.

I honestly believe that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo will have at least another go around at the console thing. After that, with the way technology is heading? Who knows. But for now, it seems like the traditional console model is still working. And if it ain't broke nobody's gonna want to fix it.


    I think they'll have something in a loungeroom as a game delivery device, branded and with exclusives. It's been good business for them.

    I think the paradigm will shift further away from disc-based distribution (obviously) and I think cues will be taken from the Steam Box idea, but as long as the names Xbox and Playstation have brand value we'll see something in a loungeroom with that name. Whether it behaves like a traditional console or more like a streaming device is up for discussion.

      Yeah, discs are just too slow. I think the next generation will probably use some sort of ROM cartridge with super fast speeds to loading screens will become a thing of the past.
      As the generations get longer and longer I expect we may also see consoles with expandable RAM through some sort of plug in pack on the top of the console.

        I doubt it'll be anything cartridge based. I think they'll move away from physical media, but if there is a physical component it'll install to the device.

          I think the controllers will also have memory packs. And maybe ones that vibrate.

        "Yeah, discs are just too slow. I think the next generation will probably use some sort of ROM cartridge with super fast speeds to loading screens will become a thing of the past.
        As the generations get longer and longer I expect we may also see consoles with expandable RAM through some sort of plug in pack on the top of the console."

        Nintendo 64?

        As the generations get longer and longer I expect we may also see consoles with expandable RAM through some sort of plug in pack on the top of the console.
        Because that worked out so well for the Nintendo 64?

          I was taking the piss, but yes, it was pretty good on the 64.

            The memory pack was uncommon enough that many of the games that required it shipped with the accessory. And it had zero impact on the majority of the game library.

            You can see similar things happen with other minor incremental upgrades. For example, the second generation PSP doubled the RAM, but I think only the Skype app used it (for the most part it was just used as cache memory for the optical drive). The Nintendo DSi improved the RAM and CPU specs over its predecessor, yet there was very few games released that actually required a DSi to run.

            I think part of the problem is that console hardware is so homogeneous. This is nice for game developers since they only have to target a single configuration, but it also means there is no incentive to incrementally improve the hardware: instead we just see cosmetic changes and process improvements that lower the production costs. Perhaps Steam machines will be different, where there will be systems with different specs, and improvements don't necessarily means obsoleting all old software.

              I remember it being used for DK64, Perfect Dark and Turok 2. Those are just the ones I owned. None of those were really small games. It greatly increased the draw distance to what I deemed to be pretty impressive back then.

                But it didn't have any effect on any earlier games. In contrast, if I get a new PC or smart phone or tablet, it is likely that I'll see some improvement in my existing software (higher frame rates, ability to run at a higher resolution, etc).

                Since there are tangible benefits to these upgrades, there is more incentive for hardware manufacturers to put out incrementally improved hardware. Compare this with the large generational changes you see with the Xbox or PlayStation lines.

        The current consoles don't use the disc except to install the data and launch the game (as they don't use CD keys) so that has already happened.
        They will probably still use discs as a means to distribute the games unless there is a far more consistent level of fast broadband.

      You've hit the nail on the head. I did a quick scroll of the comments here - most still seem to speculate on the idea of an 'advancement' from disc-based console device, but yours was the only one that made mention of Gaming as a Service (it needs an acronym, let's run with "GaaS," as a take on SaaS/Software).

      The incredible market shift over the last 10 years has been from selling 'products' to selling 'services'. I find it incredibly likely that we'll see "Xbox Gold" and "PlayStation Plus" turn from being a something that enables you to get online and get a few free games once a month to something that is required to access a large catalog which you can stream to your "PlayStation" or "Xbox" home device (think of PlayStation Now being the 'main' way you play games).

      Xbox could have the advantage in providing their service across Windows 10 as well, but there'd be nothing to stop Sony developing a PC-based (or iOS, or OSX, or Linux, etc.) interface for their service as well.

      Chances are, I'll still be working my way through The Witcher by the time this generation ends.

    This generation is only just gathering momentum.

    What the market will look like in 5+ years time is hard to imagine, but it's even harder to imagine it without at least one of the current major players.

      Hmm, 5 years. I am thinking game streaming will be a bigger part of it all. Subscription gaming. It won't be a console but more of a platform for the whole house; home automation and home entertainment through out the house all mixed into one little central box that pushes information where you want it. These trends are already in place though.

    Doesn't this question come around every generation? All the time people are saying PC gaming is done with or console gaming is dead, they're never proven right

    Nintendo NX apparently due next year. Plus the good sales that Xbox and Playstation have had so far this generation. I can't see why there would be another generation. The big caveat is a confluence of ubiquitous high bandwidth / low ping internet speeds combined with Sony (and others) coming up with a reasonably priced subscription service for game streaming. Until that happens, there's going to be a market for boxes and discs.

      I reckon we will see a combination of PlayStation Now and a PS5. Let's face it, Australia and massive chunks of the USA won't have the right infrastructure for it to only be streaming. After one more generation, there is a good chance if companies like Google keep up the pressure on USA ISP's which in turn will force Australia to catch up, Liberals be damned.
      South America though? No Idea and maybe MS and Sony will just let it go.

        I think you are right. Probably a combination of PS Now and another 1-3 traditional console generations in a kind of parallel market. Sony have always liked being a market innovator, but with serious internet problems in major parts of the world, it wouldn't make sense to throw these markets away by going all-digital. I think the preliminary step to a streaming generation will be getting rid of physical discs. MS was pushing that way with its aborted used game licensing scheme. Because MS was mainly focused on the NA/EU market it could afford to propose this, but elsewhere in the world downloading full games at 20-40GB a pop is something that is still a big deal (even here!) We live, as they say, in interesting times.

    As far as having a box that doesn't ask the user for any more configuration than is absolutely necessary (brightness, Y-invert and network settings if required) and a fairly well established control scheme on (reasonably) simple controllers - yes, there's at least one more generation left in that model.
    The thing that the next generation is going to resolve (somehow) is the power gap between them and PCs. For a few generations, it's been close enough not to matter to the layperson; if the current trend continues, the next generation is likely to be so far behind the PCs of the time that it may start to affect the market. I see a few paths for the manufacturers:
    Close the hardware gap - Probably impossible, given the design cycle of the consoles.
    Better optimisation and design tools - We've seen this improve markedly in the current generation, allowing developers to squeeze pretty amazing results out of the hardware available.
    Tie up enough exclusives to prevent people moving to PC.

    After the next generation, however, it's unlikely we'll need a separate piece of hardware - the home computer will be the technology hub for the house. A central computer interfacing with multiple mobile and stationary displays will provide a family's entertainment needs, allowing console-like gaming at the same time as video streaming on another display and browsing on a third.

    Details may change, but yep, they'll still be selling consoles.

    Apple potentially joining the 'console' race will only lead to more competition & investment in them from MS, Nintendo & Sony. My bet is that Nintendo will stop selling hardware (not Amiibos though!) and probably port their apps to the Apple console (if it's revealed tomorrow). MS & Sony will carve up the hardcore console crowd. PC gaming to remain 'niche'.

      Nintendo has always said that they think paring games and hardware is very important. If they have another two generations of Wii U sales however, they may have to start looking at other options.

      Apple isn't really joining the console race though, they're just adding the ability to play iOS games on the Apple TV (if the rumours are correct) so they will be entering the micro-console race and going up against things like Playstation TV, NVidia Shield and the wildly successful OUYA (/s). The advantage it has though is that the Apple TV is already useful to people so this is just an attempt to widen the userbase but the lack of any success for micro-consoles most likely means it will just be a feature people hardly use.

      That genuinely made me laugh out loud.

      I love how the Sony/MS marketing machine has managed to relabel console peasantry as "hardcore" in the minds of the impressionable while the dominant PC gaming market is supposedly 'niche'

      Apple has no game related IP, few meaningful connections to games development and a user base that plays an average 30 mins per day. Their users are not engaged with the content- they are merely passing time with it.

      They are going to be hard pressed to get any meaningful traction in the games sector- sure they'll make a shit ton of money, but they will not gain admiration or respect for their contribution, they will not come out with any 'killer apps' and they definitely will not assimilate a company anywhere near Nintendos level.

        Thanks Guest. What has admiration or respect got to do with anything? Apple will make a ton of money = attracts developers = increases market = wins. It could be meteoric like Wii or it could be the Wii U. PC gaming was classified 'dead' before Steam showed up, and they're still getting lazy ports from console games (see Arkham Knight). I'm a PC and console gamer, but decided to opt out of the 2000 dollar ever 2 year race upgrading my gaming rig.

          Releasing trash-ware is not going to instill it's customers with a sense of value for the product. Diminishing loyalty to the point where they will not be purchasing subsequent titles from their trash-developers.

          I could also go on to explain that many console releases are broken on day 1, and that a vast majority of PC versions are superior in just about every-way imaginable.

          I could further go on to explain that PC gaming was in no way dead before Steam- you may have heard of titles such as Counter-strike, Warcraft and Diablo which are still popular to this day.

          To quote the famous fictional character Ron Swanson,

          "I know what I'm about son." & "I know more than you."

            Back to my original point before Trolls came along, the weird 200 MB limit on App Store games for the Apple TV means that it carving out Nintendo from the console race might be premature. I still think Nintendo aren't interested in consoles anymore, now that Amiibo's shown them a different profitable market space. Interesting times.

              "I still think Nintendo aren't interested in consoles anymore, now that Amiibo's shown them a different profitable market space. Interesting times."


                So you're a PC gamer and you've bought the last 4 Nintendo consoles have you? Yeah didn't think so.

    I think there's a few more rounds left, although consoles are becoming more like pre-made PCs with a fixed OS (much like tablets) than something separate to PC technology. As long as there's a market for specialised gaming devices, there'll be more consoles in my opinion.

      The closer console architecture is to PC architecture, the better for developers. PS3 was notoriously difficult to develop for because they went full alien with the internal design and the API didn't do a good job of abstracting that complexity away. This generation is still young and we've had a few bad examples (like Arkham Knight) but we should be seeing easier cross-platform ports for all titles in the next few years.

      On topic, I think there will always be a market for consoles, even if that market revolves around PC with things like the Steam Box.

    Is the sky blue? :P
    Of course there will be another round, and then again after that. With things like occulus coming in, there will be a whole new way to make and play games, and who knows what will come after that?

    A few generations down the road, you'll have streaming boxes that play games that are streamed across the internet.

    Australia will miss out of course, because internet speeds, plus the fact that we miss out on everything, but that's my prediction. The only time you'd upgrade your box is if a new hardware feature comes out, such as a HDMI standard that isn't compatible with the old standard, or a new network port that increases throughput.

    Will we like it? No. Will it creep up on us because of the current trend in download-based games? Yes. Will "CoD 99: Operation Find Our President's Head" have ads streamed to it (e.g. walking through a city and the ads are downloaded from the web so they're current)? Of course.

    Like it or not, we're heading towards a streaming generation where you'll pay $60 for a game that you won't own or even download to your machine. You'll "pay to stream" and you'll get used to that too, because you've downloaded games and rented Netflix for so long.

      And thus why I try to explain to my gen X counterparts and older why internet access is just about as important as electricity/water/gas at a house these days.

      An essential service.


      "15Mbps by 2023 is all Australians will need." Communications Chambers / Vertigan Report. *sigh*

      Edit: What I meant to add; I agree totally. The future is streaming.

      Last edited 09/09/15 1:09 pm

        To these people, internet speeds are little more than numbers on paper. To them, 15mbps = 15mbps, not 5mbps because your phone line was damaged in flood water.

        They also think of the internet like we all did in the early days -- you could read news, post on bulletin boards elsewhere and chat to friends online. They don't realise that the internet is now used to do surgery remotely (and what good is doing surgery from another country if your destination keeps dropping out?), plus Skype for medical purposes and even running complex calculations to help build buildings and such.

        No, to them, the internet is basically Neo sleeping in front of a screen while pages scroll upward.

          Ping is incredibly important here as well.

            I misread that as "Bing is incredibly important here as well" and had to chuckle because people thought Bing was important.

      Saints Row 2 had live ads in it back in the old days. On the 360 anyway

    So long as PC hardware improves, consoles will continue to be released in order to meet the capabilities of the market. Plain & simple

    I played consoles as a teen, now I'm a real man and use a PC.

    Seriously though I haven't even bothered to buy a console from this generation. Was a late adopter in buying a 360 and barely played the thing. Consoles just don't do enough for me in their current form. For one I hate discs, it's a physical product that can be damaged/destroyed and when you have little kids in the house that can and will happen. I also use my PC to watch YouTube vids while playing games and check social media etc. Currently on consoles/TV you might be able to do that but it involves exiting a game in order to check on the other stuff. PC lets me throw a vid on my 2nd monitor and Alt+Tab out of a game if I need to do something quickly.

    There just isn't enough versatility from consoles for what I need form a gaming device these days. Next generation of consoles is a must if they're going to start introducing something to truly rival a PC. They can likely add a lot of it with software...but what about hardware upgrades as things start to age?

      I'm the opposite mainly. I still have a gaming pc and use it now and then but prefer my consoles. I work on a computer all day so am happy to get home turn on my console and just play on the couch. I also prefer physical because servers will eventually be turned off, services will eventually be discontinued and what happens if in 20 years you feel like replaying what is now a retro game but your old library is now offline and discontinued?

        I'm worried about this with game updates. Console dies down the road. You get a replacement. All your games are patchless now :(

          Yeah the updates worry me too but at least you can still play the game (except those that are broken on the disc or need online to function.)

        I sit at a computer all day...and then go home and sit at a different computer. I get the attractiveness of sitting on a couch and playing on a TV (much bigger screen than PC) but I'm a huge one for multitasking.

        That and the wife has control of the TV while I have control of the PC.

    I've been purchasing consoles sine the Atari 2600 (yes I'm that old)
    This generation has been the biggest let down so far that I've switched to PC gaming.
    Will never look back.

    i just hope that when the next generation hits, with it's very probable move to a streaming based digital service, that Australia will have the internet inferstruc.... LMAO!! Sorry, I can't even finish that sentence without laughing. If the next generation is 100% digital or streaming based, this country is screwed!

    Digital games are shit, regardless of Internet speed, kill the magic of purchasing a physical copy of a game and its sometimes awesome contents like maps, booklets, stickers etc and I'm out. I'm sure I'm not alone despite the increasing sales of digital games. I appreciate how smaller games like Journey are digital but fuck paying $20 $30 extra for a digital version of a triple a game. The convenience of digital isn't convenient enough to replace a physical copy of a game. Even if it could be acquired in a instant and perhaps eventually becomes cheaper there's something deep in the human brain that physically holding something feels better than looking at pixels. I can't convince myself I own something if its in a box that I can't open. The idea of a consoles disappearing and being replaced by some digital service app type thing makes me think I won't be playing games in the future.

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