Last major console generation?

With the advancements in mobile gaming, living room PCs, cloud computing , custom operating systems and more people cancelling cable are we looking at our last major console generation?  I think so, at least in traditional sense.  I will hit on the cable impact later on.

Current State

If you are a console gamer, I think you would agree that console releases are the most exciting time of a generation.  This time around the buzz has really stepped up with the popularity of socially media, and to put it bluntly, arguing on the internet. Over the last thirty years there has been no shortage of companies jumping into the gaming space with each generation.

In the latest launch we see Microsoft and Sony taking two different approaches to get into your living room.  I am not mentioning Wii-u on purpose.  Microsoft is promoting their system as the all in one media/gaming machine and Sony is taking an all about the games approach.  A reversal of roles when compared to the previous generation.  As we sit, late 2013, I feel these console launches are still relevant and it’s always an exciting time for the industry and gamers, but will they be in another 7 years?

What does the future hold?

There is no definitive answer to what is coming next. What we do know, is that there are other companies jumping into the mix, specifically, Valve with Steam Box and Steam OS.

Currently there are 65 Million Steam users, well short of PlayStation Network’s 110 million, but ahead of Microsoft’s 48 million.  That’s quite a number for PC gaming, especially considering the argument from many that PC gaming is dead.  PC gaming is alive as ever in the home office, but has yet to breach the masses in the living room.  This is where Steam Box, and Steam OS come into play.  If they can release a variety of hardware of varying cost and performance it could become a major player as this console generation moves on.  If Steam OS can be openly downloaded and installed on custom systems, sky is the limit.  But not only have they just entered the living room, they have entered every other device that can install steam os, and in theory allowing game streaming to those devices as banwidth permits.

Sony will be doing this with the PS4/Vita combo on home networks.  Its great tech and something I will use all the time when I pick up my PS4.

But imagine if this could be applied to PC gaming.  One centrally located PC with the ability to stream to other PCs throughout the house.  This tech is already available, but until it’s intuitive and affordable it will be a niche market only.

How does the cable market impact the discussion?

In the last 1-2 years we have seen a grass roots uprising of “ditch cable”. The devices people use to make such a switch are on the rise and along with it we have seen cable companies try to up there offerings with devices like the new Tivo and the X1 from Comcast.  With so many all-in one devices having hit the market or scheduled to release, more and more people are becoming comfortable with the technology surrounding a one size fits all device.  A powerful “set-top” box that does gaming is the next logical step.  You might ask, doesn’t the Xbox one fill that gap? In a way, but you are still limited to doing business with Microsoft exclusively, rather than all applications available for a Windows or Linux environment.

Where does it go from here?

In a nutshell I might have said a lot without really saying anything, but I think seven years down the road we will see a living room OS penetrate set-top devices similar to how android is now the OS on 4 out of 5 phones. This will provide developers with one common ecosystem and will allow consumers to decide which level of device is best for them.  With choice the console market will become saturated with competition and what are now exclusive developers for Sony and Microsoft would develop for all devices.  Will consoles die? Doubtful. But as it sits now I think there is a good chance the next time we have this conversation it will be more than Microsoft v. Sony and we might be arguing more about operating system than hardware.