I’ve got a feeling that this article may split opinion. I know that there’s a lot of love for home console systems, but looking at the current trends in technology we may be moving towards a future where these stationary behemoths go the way of the Dodo. Sony’s NGP is perhaps the biggest indication of this, but there’s a wide range of phones coming this year that look like they should be mobile powerhouses.
“But Kris!” I hear you cry. “We like playing games on the big TV in our living room!” Well of course you do, that’s a big part of gaming these days. The thing is, we stream media back and forth across our home networks almost constantly these days. It’s so common that it’s being built into TVs now. Why should the output from a portable console be any different? Just stream the content to the TV, hold it in your hands and play away.
If you’re not on board with that, perhaps you’d like to use a controller more similar to the DualShock 3 or the Xbox 360 controller. There’s no reason those couldn’t wirelessly connect to a portable console in the same way they do with home consoles, there are a few PSP titles that support this already. In fact if you’re doing this you could dock your phone or console in the same way you dock a laptop and send the output to the TV. I think you can see these are hardly revolutionary ideas, it’s just a case of applying already existing concepts in a new context.
Of course where this concept could start to fail is with storage. If you fit the highest capacity compatible hard drive into a PS3 you’ve got over 600GB of storage. That’s a lot of films, music, games, saves etc… Sure you might have to clear some stuff off very occasionally, but realistically that’s a more than reasonable amount of storage for 99% of users. Now if you want to go portable you have an issue of physical size. Obviously you don’t want something anywhere near the size of the laptop hard drives being used by the PS3, you’d end up with a device a lot bigger than the PSP or 3DS.
There are obviously solutions in the way of flash media, the kind of storage used by pretty much all portable devices right now. The flash hard drives on the market right now are hardly huge, but if we take a quick look over at SD cards the SDXC format has a theoretical limit of 2TB of data on a card significantly smaller than a credit card. As far as I can see no-one’s producing them at that density quite yet, but they’re almost certainly on the way. Not only could you use these cards (or similar flash storage) for the device’s primary storage, but you’d have a physical media format that would keep retail partners happy.
Sadly where my concept of a mobile future falls down seems to be in battery technology. All the other areas I’ve mentioned here are either current technology that just needs a little adaptation, or is known to be on its way in the next few years. Sadly battery technology seems to be a little bit stagnant right now; that’s the reason you have to put your smartphone on charge every night. For the kind of device I’m proposing, one that could replace the need for a home console, it’d need some pretty powerful hardware. Obviously that’s a significant drain on a battery, if anyone remembers how little play time you got on a Game Gear when running it on AA batteries you’ll see the issue.
If someone manages to solve the battery issue, and I think someone will eventually, I honestly think this may well be the future. Then again I’m trying to play futurologist here, and that’s always a dangerous game. Knowing my luck I’ll probably be completely wrong.