The PS4 has been met with, in the most part, universal acclaim. With the tagline ‘for the players’, the PS4 has flown off the shelves and into the hearts of many a gamer. The Xbox One, however, has had a bit of a rocky start. Now, I’m just going to stop here and say that I own an Xbox One. I love the console, I think it’s fantastic – though not without its flaws. But, just because I own a One, it doesn’t mean that I’m blind to its shortcomings. I know that the console has had a less than smooth start. I know that quite a few people dislike it, warranted or not. In some ways, the Xbox One has become the poster boy for everything that’s wrong with a games consoles, whereas the PS4 is being seen as another decent entry into the series of consoles developed by Sony. Whether these flaws are real, or just imagined by people who like to poke holes in things, is irrelevant. The PS4 is quite literally for the players, it’s an out and out games console designed to play games first and then cope with other types of entertainment second. The Xbox One, however, has tried to re-imagine the games console, creating a machine that’s more media centre than gaming platform. But, in doing so, Microsoft have ruffled a few feathers. Not just because people believe that a games console should predominantly be about the games, but because creating this ‘all in one console’ has somewhat undermined what a games console is.
The success of the PS4 would suggest that the true ‘games console’ is here to stay, at least for the time being. But whether or not this type of platform will still be as popular in seven or eight years is slightly less clear cut. The rocky start for the Xbox One suggests that some console gamers aren’t quite yet ready for a hybrid media centre / gaming device, that much is clear. But the recent hype over development of non-conventional gaming devices suggests to me that the winds of change could be on their way. The excitement over tech like The Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus, Steam Machine, or Nvidia’s Android/PC games machine could suggest that the classic console is going to be knocked off of its perch. Of course, games consoles have always had their challengers, mainly in the form of the PC, though the handheld market did give them a run for their money at one point. But in recent years, innovative new technologies have been bringing different challenges to the established gaming devices. True, Microsoft tried to change the face of gaming with the Kinect, which could have altered how we play video games on our consoles. But, when you think about it, the Kinect is nothing new. Sony attempted it years earlier with the Eye Toy and Nintendo has been trying incredibly hard with the Wii and Wii U to topple the conventional games console; with little success.
Sony are trying to keep up with the curve through PlayStation Now, which will allow people to stream video-games without the need for a console, as well as Project Morpheus, their five cents in the race for ‘most awesome VR headset ever’. Microsoft have the Kinect mark 2, which has flopped worse than my recent attempt at freestyle diving from the edge of the pool whilst on holiday in Italy (I still have the red marks on my stomach). There’s still time for it to redeem itself, but I struggle to see it getting much more popular, or impressive, than it already is. At the moment, all of the upcoming tech seems to be trying to remodel the current ‘classic games console’ with new additions, such as the ability to play Steam based PC games with a controller, or to play video-games without the need for a controller, or even a console. So, in a way, I can kind of understand why Microsoft have vamped up their games console, moving away from the classic console concept and updating it for a more connected, media driven society. For the console to survive, it needs to fill a niche. If tech like the Oculus Rift can pick up big developers, or at least some decent developers, then I could easily see people moving away from consoles, like the PS4, and towards this new age of VR. I’d imagine that Sony’s VR headset could link with the PS4, probably, but the Oculus Rift will most likely be a standalone machine. PlayStation Now will only require a Sony TV, a DuelShock controller and an internet connection when it’s fully up and running (though you will be able to stream games through other Sony consoles / handhelds). Still, all of this is pointing to one thing; the classic games console is going to have some real competition in the next few years.
Over the past two decades, there have been a plethora of games consoles that have come and gone, some rather unceremoniously, I’m looking at you Dreamcast. The only ones that have truly stood the test of time are the consoles by Nintendo and Sony, though Nintendo definitely seem on the way out after the somewhat frosty reception for the Wii U. Microsoft have been in the game for a while, though not as long as Sony or Nintendo. The PC, however, has always been there. Nowadays PCs are getting faster, more powerful and cheaper. Plus, there are an absolute tonne of games available on the PC that aren’t available on consoles (and very few the other way around). Steam is giving PC gamers fantastic deals on relatively new games, plus some developers are even giving early access to players through Steam, so that they can help them develop their games as they play, examples being DayZ and H1Z1 (in the very near future). When writing this article, it’s been rumoured that Sony might be attempting early access very soon as well, but we’ll see. So, as far as choice goes, the high end gaming PCs are rather quickly gaining on the consoles. All of this, and I haven’t even mentioned the ever growing popularity of mobile and tablet gaming, as well as Facebook games like Candy Crush and FarmVille.
This has definitely been the best generation of games consoles so far, but I do wonder where they can go from here. Whether or not they will dominate the next generation of gaming devices will yet to be seen. The PS5 and Xbox Two (if they’re even developed) may well be drowned out by the Oculus Rift, the Steam Machine or the ever increasing popularity of PCs as a gaming platform in general. The way that we game has been slowly evolving over the past few decades as it is. For example, Call of Duty 2 was all about the single-player campaign, and now the Call of Duty series is most popular for its online multiplayer. Now, games like Titanfall don’t even have a single player campaign, and the Xbox One seems to be all about the online. What does this mean for the future of console gaming? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be overly surprised if gaming on disc is obsolete as this decade closes. Companies like Microsoft and Sony are going to need to get in to the digital market quick, especially the streaming sides of things (as Sony already are and Microsoft are attempting to with its revamped marketplace), if they want to survive in the games market. Though with recent job cuts at Microsoft in their Xbox team, maybe Microsoft aren’t in this for the long run anymore. Of course, all of this is just speculation, so I’ll ask you now what you think will happen to the console in the next generation of gaming, seven or eight years from now. Will we be seeing the PS5 and the Xbox Two, or will Sony and Microsoft be off on bigger ventures with VR technologies and streaming services? Let me know!