To be honest I’m getting a little sick of the rumours about what Sony or Microsoft are going to do with their next consoles. We know that they’ll certainly be something new at some point, maybe at this E3 or next year’s, and we know for certain that each company’s console will be more powerful in some way or other.
I’m not really that concerned about relative power between whatever Sony and Microsoft are working on either; this generation has quite clearly shown that different approaches to the computing grunt problem produce benefits in some areas and problems in others. At the end of the day it’s about how developers can use the hardware, not necessarily the benchmarks the hardware is capable of achieving.[drop]No, I’m happy to wait and see what the current crop of manufacturers come out with. What’s more interesting to me is the potential for new hardware manufacturers to enter the home console market. It’s important to make that distinction of home consoles; no matter what your feelings are towards games on iOS and Android it’s hard to argue that smart phone platforms aren’t having an impact on the mobile gaming market (and perhaps some areas of console games).
Speaking of iOS, Apple are looking increasingly likely to be working on something dedicated to playing games on your TV. One possibility is that they’ll update their current Apple TV box to play games, something that may well be indicated by the latest software revision taking a tentative step towards supporting apps.
Whilst the selection is very minimal and locked down right now, an iOS-like App Store doesn’t seem completely out of the question. It’s also worth noting that the newest Apple TV box has similar hardware to the iPad 2, although that step up may simply be because of the AirPlay functionality.
Of course, there’s another option from Apple, and that’s the possibility of them building an actual TV. There’s been rumours of this for some time now, and it may well be named the iTV. However, early versions of the Apple TV box were called iTV, so that name is by no means set in stone. It seems likely that if they take this approach it will feature some form of gaming support, as well as the possibility of voice and gesture control.
The other potential entry into the home console market we’ve been hearing a lot of rumbling about recently is something coming from Valve. Whilst these kind of rumours seem to pop up every now and then, the latest round of them seem to have picked up more credence than usually comes them. This seems to have initially come from Gabe Newell saying Valve would be prepared to make hardware if they had to, although it wasn’t their first preference.
Whilst there’s not a huge amount to be gained from Gabe Newell’s non-committal on the issue, things seemed to get rolling after that. Back in March there were rumours of a Steam Box, essentially something between a media PC and a gaming PC. Although Valve denied those rumours, they quickly resurfaced when the company advertised for an Electronics Engineer.
After that things seemed to loop back around to our first contender, Apple. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, was spotted meeting with Valve, sparking new rumours that the two companies would be collaborating to build a home console as part of a “full-on assault to take over the living room,” to quote CultOfMac.
That wasn’t where things stopped though, oh no. From there things got really crazy, with Valve team member Michael Abrash writing a blog post which stated the company were starting R&D on wearable computing; I mean who doesn’t want to have a sleeve that can play the latest Call of Duty.[drop2]There’s nothing just yet to suggest that Apple will be chipping in on this wearable computing project, and it’s perfectly possible that Valve could be starting to take a peak into hardware in more than one way. In fact in some ways it seems more likely that they might be working on multiple hardware options, why put all their eggs in one basket?
Whilst rumours seem to be circling around Valve and Apple, hardly surprising given their positions in the industry right now, there’s no reason we couldn’t see other manufacturers enter the arena in some way. Whilst I’d love to see a come back from Sega it does seem pretty unlikely, so my personal pick is to see something from one of the TV manufacturers.
Look at the growth of smart TVs over the last few years, it’s starting to seem like a TV just being a TV isn’t enough. Your TV can connect to the internet now, can stream Netflix without another box, can even have a camera hooked up to it and be used for Skype conversations (because video calls just aren’t the same if the person isn’t filling a 40-inch screen). Given this seems to be one of the potential approaches for Apple to enter the home market, I would be surprised if current TV manufacturers weren’t looking at it.
Would I buy a TV that supported some kind of Toshiba gaming system? I’ve no idea right now, but I’d be at least curious to see what they came up with.
If the TV manufacturers weren’t feeling up to the task of supporting an eco-system themselves, something that’s understandable, I would be absolutely shocked if we don’t see something like OnLive being built into TVs very soon. Smart TVs already support a wide array of streaming media services, I can’t see any good reason for them not to support a streaming gaming service.
Whilst everything is just rumours and supposition at the moment, I can’t help but feel that someone new coming into the gaming world would be very exciting; we’ll just have to wait and see who crosses the line first.