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Opinion: Are Consoles Obsolete?

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Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada had something interesting to say in a recent interview with Famitsu. He said that consoles, as we know them, aren’t going to be around in the next generation, i.e. the generation after the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. He shared his vision of what the PlayStation 5 would be like: just a controller and a monitor. The controller would include everything that is needed for a console to do its thing and would simply have an HDMI out. According to Harada, it’s the evolution of cloud services that would let this be possible.

It’s true that cloud streaming services have progressed in leaps and bounds in the past few years. We have come a long way since the reveal of On Live. The PS4 will actually allow you to stream games as you download them. It will also allow you to stream games from retro consoles as well. Not only that, but demos can be streamed to your console without having to download a single thing to your harddrive. So Harada does have a point there.

However, there are plenty of other bits of technology that makes this theory even more likely. For example, the Vita can display images with the fidelity of a PS3 right now. If the Vita were allowed to connect to a TV (say, through the much talked about PS Vita TV streaming box) it would essentially already be a console that is just a controller and a monitor. It even has its own travel monitor built in. Sony is also widely advertising the Vita’s ability to cross play PS4 games, so its power is not to be underestimated. In that tiny little package you have graphics processing power, touch screen, controller, and even a solid state drive to save games on!

Then, of course, there is the cell phone and tablet arena. Droids have been coming out with HDMI outputs for a while now. These droids have graphical processing power that is comparable to current generation handheld consoles. They also have their own internal storage and the ability to connect up to cellular internet. In fact, the only thing they don’t have is a controller, though that could be easily rectified with the addition of a d-pad and some buttons.

Not only that, but there is a strange precedent for controllers that are game consoles already. You can find cheap knockoff N64 or NES controllers at mall stands that connect directly to your TV and let you play numerous knockoffs of 8 and 16-bit classics. These are basically controllers that connect directly to your TV and act as a console. It doesn’t really matter that they rename Donkey Kong to Monkey Trouble, it’s still a working video game machine.

Then, there is the matter of Smart TVs. Many analysts have said that TVs themselves may have all the guts that are needed to run video games in the future. They can already run some primitive games right now. If cloud streaming does really pick up, a smart TV could act as a terminal for the streaming service. Then all you would need is a controller and you could play essentially any game on any streaming service you want.

This, is the crux of Harada’s argument. In the 10 or so years between now and when the PS5 releases, consoles won’t matter anymore. The PlayStation brand will simply be a service, like Steam or Good old Games. Instead of connecting your Xbox, PlayStation and Wii to your TV, you will just sign on to your Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii streaming service, because data is just data when it’s being streamed from the cloud. All you are really receiving is a video feed and all you are sending back is a string of inputs. There’s no need for proprietary hardware anywhere!

What do you think? Will the PlayStation 5 be a service or will it be a console? Are consoles going the way of the dinosaur, or will do we still have a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Zero in our future?

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