Despite the rise in digital distribution and services like Sony's PlayStation Now streaming technology or the Xbox One's ability to offload tasks to the cloud, hardware-based consoles aren't going away anytime soon, according to Microsoft. Asked on Twitter if he thinks the Xbox One will be the last console to run on local hardware, Xbox executive Phil Spencer "I don't."
"I think local compute will be important for a long time," he said. "You can look at mobile, connected to faster networks, more cloud services but local power still increases each gen."
One limitation for an all-digital future, Spencer said, comes down to bandwidth speeds people have available to them in the home.
"Bandwidth caps clearly an issue, still believe [hardware] & [software] engineers working together will find local hardware scenarios critical," he said.
An all-digital future for gaming is eventually going to happen, Xbox director of product planning Albert Penello said in September, though it may not be any time soon. Microsoft's cloud-based servers could also eventually allow players to stream games similar to the way in which they will through Sony's PlayStation Now.
If and when we do see the follow-up to the Xbox One, expect the device to offer a multitude of services. Penello said during CES 2014 last week that the days of single-purpose consoles are over.