The End Of Consoles?

During a discussion at GDC with fellow industry analysts David Cole and Colin Sebastiank, Michael Pachter, analyst for Wedbush Morgan, has made a bold prediction that these will be the last consoles we see from Sony and Microsoft.

Pachter claims that costs of consoles is too high and that Sony aren’t likely to break even until 2015. He says “[Third party publishers] are not going to support a PS4 or Xbox 720” due to the high costs of development and manufacturing and that this may well force the companies to turn to a more unified delivery platform. To publishers, the idea of digital distribution is an attractive one that cuts down costs drastically, but, whilst the upsides are very tempting, there will be consequences on the high street.

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This is heavily routed in the buzz that’s going on at GDC over ‘cloud gaming’ being spearheaded by OnLive. As I’m sure most of you have heard, OnLive is looking to banish any need for serious hardware. Either as a 1mb download or tiny set-top box it streams a live feed of the game over the internet only requiring a minimum of a 2 mb connection for SD and 5 mb for HD.

As an idea it seems a bit presumptuous. How many of use have 10 mb connections? Think about it, half taken up by OnLive and half for the rest of your house. My Virgin connection is about to be upgraded but what about the rest of Europe? And what about download caps? I can’t see this as a viable idea in the UK until something like city wide wireless broadband is implemented and lord knows we’ve been waiting ages for that.

But what about 4 years down the line? When the current consoles have had their time, will the economy be in a stable enough position to pursue expensive technological progress? As has been mentioned before, will there only be room for one platform? Whilst the idea of a unified home console sounds like world peace it also sounds like a monopoly. Right now we have a choice. Not the choice of games but the choice of what we play it on. Whilst for some the grass is greener, for most of us the grass was more expensive and black. I chose my console not because it was pretty or pwnd cos it was Sony, but because I didn’t like (or trust) the competition.

So if cloud gaming works, where would this leave Sony? Will they just become another publisher fighting for the attention of the consumer behind the mighty EA or will they soldier on with their hardware?

I can’t help but think that the game has just changed. The goal posts have moved and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

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