The seventh generation of consoles had an unusually long life span. Not only did the PS3 and Xbox 360 last 7-8 years without a successor, but these consoles continued to receive many AAA and indie games well into the current generation, until 2016 when nearly everybody fully transitioned to the new consoles. Eighth generation is already 5 years old at this point, and with next gen looking to arrive within the next 3-4 years, will the PS4/XB1/Switch gen last even longer than seventh gen? And how long can current consoles last developers and consumers?
Game graphics can always get better, and this gen has given us some pretty impressive visuals. But I think we're reaching a point where graphics are taking longer to age poorly. There comes a point where graphical leaps are going to become increasingly less noticeable, and the rising development costs of AAA games will limit what developers can feasibly produce for a commercial product.
In past generations, developers and publishers were rather quick to adopt next gen consoles, swiftly leaving old ones behind in favor of 16 bit, 3D, and 128-bit systems. But starting with the PS3 and 360 gen, we've started seeing a big shift. HD development caused a huge whiplash to game developers, and a lot of smaller teams were fine with making games on low powered SD hardware such as the PS2, Wii, and Handhelds like the DS and PSP. To a lot of smaller teams, those consoles were good enough for what they wanted to make. But times have changed, engines like Unreal Engine 4 and Unity have helped simplify the process, and allowed small teams to create high quality visuals for less money and resources.
That brings us to today. The current gen consoles, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch are all running off-the-shelf PC based (tablet based in the Switch's case) hardware that is 3-5 years old, easy to program for, and supports highly popular and very scale-able engines like Unity and Unreal Engine 4, allowing for easy porting between all platforms. I'd say currently, 8th gen is the easiest consoles have been to develop for in a long time. But what about the future? While the AAA establishment will continue to chase the quest for realistic characters, and seemingly endless and complex open-worlds, the indie guys, and smaller mid-range developers might be fine with supporting current gen consoles for quite a long time. Many consumers are becoming less swayed by high terraflop counts and super detailed textures, as evidenced by the modest sales of PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. A lot of people just want something that plays good looking games and lots of them. And in that sense, current gen may co-exist with next gen for a lot longer than some people think. AAA guys will fully transition quicker, but I can see the PS4, Xbox One, and the Switch continuing to get plenty of indie, and mid-tier games for at least another 5-6 years. These games really don't need next gen specs, and for indies, even potato PCs can be more than enough to create what they want to make.
The console market is beginning to look more and more like the Telvision market. You have all sorts of 4k TVs come out every year, and while they have their market, most people are for now, fine with their 1080p screens, and will be for quite a while. Bottom line is that I believe current generation is going last many developers for a long time, even longer than last generation.