One of the best things about the gaming industry is how fast it moves. The graphics that we have today were simply inconceivable just 20 years ago. The power that the PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS pack into such tiny handhelds would have boggled our kinds just a decade ago. Touch screens, online play, motion controls, digital downloads, connected ecosystems, games that evolve over time thanks to constant updates, disc formats that hold more data than the average hard drive back then... who could have imagined gaming would be where it is today then?
That's what makes predictions so much more exciting. In this thread, let's try to speculate where the three console makers will be ten years from now. Of course, this is all baseless predictions, since none of us are clairvoyant. But since we can all observe trends, we can try to at least figure out where games will be in just a decade, or two generations of video game consoles. Here are my predictions:
In ten years, Microsoft will not be making consoles. That doesn't mean they'll have exited the market, though- just that the very conception of an Xbox console will have evolved.
Ten years from now, Xbox will be a cloud based streaming service (possibly just under the Xbox Live banner). No actual Xbox hardware will be sold, though Xbox clients to play games (which will require an Xbox Live subscription) will be made available on at least Windows, Mac OS X, and Windows Phone. Microsoft will also sell 'official Xbox accessories-' such as an Xbox game controller or Xbox headsets- to gamers to 'enhance their Xbox gaming experience.'
Essentially, then, Xbox will have evolved past just hardware, to platform agnostic server farms based cloud and client based gaming, alongside a digital forefront. No Xbox consoles will be sold, though controllers and the like still will be. This will save Microsoft the cost of having to develop their own (loss making) hardware, while still keep them in the game.
Sony, like Microsoft, is also moving towards a client based cloud gaming platform agnostic future- PSN, PS+, and PS Now are already very telling indications of this fact- nonetheless, in ten years, Sony won't have exited hardware entirely.
There will still be at least one flagship PlayStation console being sold on the market, billed as the 'best way to Play PlayStation,' possibly hyping its low latency and optimized games. There will be no more PlayStation handhelds (mobile support instead coming in the form of the PlayStation gaming client being made available on Android); PlayStation itself will continue to be a catch all name for Sony's gaming service, that will be available on Windows, Mac OS X, and Android, at the very least. Like Microsoft, Sony too sell official PlayStation controllers and the like to enhance your gameplay experience on PlayStation even if you don't buy PlayStation hardware.
Essentially, Sony's future ten years from now looks more or less identical to Microsoft's, although Sony will probably also have at least one 'flagship' PlayStation console model on the market.
Nintendo's future is the most interesting of the three, because I also imagine it will be the most different. A company as traditionally internet averse as Nintendo will not suddenly decide to ditch hardware and go online client based streaming only. I do imagine Nintendo to continue making hardware even in 2024. I just imagine it will be different than what we have now.
No more Nintendo consoles. No more Nintendo handhelds. Not in the traditional sense. Iwata already gave a pretty good indication of where Nintendo was headed earlier this year, in January- there will be a line of Nintendo products, of different form factors- think iPod Touch and iPad (meant as an analogue, not literally to imply touch screen only media players or tablets)- all of which are based off of the same hardware architecture, and run the same games, and have the same OS, although the 'bigger' more powerful (home console equivalent) probably runs them better or unlocks extra features (once again, think iPod Touch and iPad). There might be some exclusives for each system, but on the whole, this approach will largely unify Nintendo's hardware lines from a development pipeline perspective (meaning they effectively only have to support one system), leading to a lack of droughts even if there is minimal third party support (which it might still be). Actual hardware sold to consumers will still be differentiated into multiple form factors though. Your purchases and activity will be unified across all devices by your Nintendo Network ID.
Nintendo, then, is moving towards a future where the real system isn't their home console or their handheld, but the hardware and OS powering them, that will be common across both, essentially meaning both are the same systems sold in different form factors. Nintendo might iterate on this hardware incrementally like Apple, and it will use universal accounts (Nintendo Network) to make this kind of a dynamic system feasible.
Well, there you have it, those are my predictions. Essentially, they say that the only traditional console you can buy in 2024 will be a PlayStation- Nintendo will continue doing its own thing, and Xbox (and PlayStation as well) will have largely moved on to client based solutions.
But that's just what I think. What about you? Where do you see console gaming ten years from now?