Xbox and PlayStation Must Change Form to Survive, Twitch Boss Says

The future is set-top boxes, not traditional consoles like the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, Emmett Shear says.

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This could be last generation of dedicated home consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, at least in their present form, according to Emmett Shear, the founder of live-streaming site Twitch.

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Speaking this week at the Changing Media Summit in London, Shear said 7-10 year hardware lifecycles familiar to home consoles don't make much sense anymore.

"The problem is, the seven-year upgrade lifecycle doesn't work in the face of the two-year upgrade cycles for every other hardware platform," he said, as reported by The Guardian. “It's so intrinsically built into how consoles get manufactured and made and the full business model, that I'd be surprised to see another generation."

Shear is not the first gaming industry figure to make that claim. Video game market research firm EEDAR chief product officer Geoffrey Zatkin also contends that the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U generation could be the last for dedicated hardware. Meanwhile, Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada previously predicted that the future of gaming is not dedicated hardware, but rather services.

Shear seems to agree with Harada. He doesn't necessarily think that platform-holders like Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo will exit the hardware business, but instead they would be smart to create new systems that are more in-line with set-top boxes. These would be designed for a variety of uses and live for a relatively shorter period of time before the next upgrade cycle.

"I could imagine a version 1.1 product from both Microsoft and Sony which adds in slightly more speed and slightly more memory very similar to how phones and tablets work today." -- Emmett Shear

"They're going to have to change form," he said. "You can already see this on both Xbox and PlayStation where there's a tighter upgrade loop for both the operating systems and the games. This is the first step toward being able to iterate the hardware platform. I could imagine a version 1.1 product from both Microsoft and Sony which adds in slightly more speed and slightly more memory very similar to how phones and tablets work today. I think it's going to look more like the mobile phone market over time."

Shear isn't dismissing home consoles altogether, however, as he also says that Twitch integration on Xbox One and PS4 has enjoyed "smashing success" so far.

The Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U, of course, are capable of doing much more than just playing games. In fact, Microsoft and Sony are positioning the Xbox One and PS4 as the only boxes users need through things like live TV services meant to replace traditional cable. For its part, Sony has also said that the PlayStation brand will become more service-oriented over time.

"We see PlayStation as a brand, not just as a box," PlayStation executive Fergal Gara said in 2013.

For more on the topic of the viability of home consoles, check out GameSpot's in-depth editor roundup.

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