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Are Consoles on the Short Track to Extinction?

Illustration for article titled Are Consoles on the Short Track to Extinction?

Former Xbox Europe exec Sandy Duncan recently declared that consoles were a dying breed, due to disappear in a mere 5 to 10 years. At first, it's a laughable remark. I mean, consoles are insanely popular moneymakers, why would they disappear? Sure, physical media will be gone by the next generation, but don't you need a standardized set of hardware and controllers for developers to create games for?

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Well, today that's true, but what Sandy was talking about was cluster computing, the idea that down the line, all the brainpower for game consoles will be located remotely. Consumers will have low-power local units that'll just hook up to a display, which a huge, beefy server farm will run the games themselves and pipe them to you over a high-speed internet connection.

It's certainly an interesting idea, as it would stop requiring people to upgrade their PCs with the hottest graphics card and would allow developers to create games as demanding as they're able to power. However, it seems to me that we might still be a bit far away from the bandwidth that would be required for such a setup.

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Is super-high speed internet really going to be widespread enough in 5 years for us to ditch local consoles altogether? While I think this idea will take hold and become the norm eventually, I'd be shocked if we didn't have one more generation of high-powered consoles that eschewed physical media. It'll be a stepping stone generation, but with current console lifespans looking to be pretty long and the bandwidth requirements for cluster computing gaming still pretty steep, that whole idea seems to be 10 years away at the very least.

What do you guys think? Are consoles doomed, or do we have a good long time to wait before they become obsolete?

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[Reg Hardware and PC World]

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DISCUSSION

soldstatic
soldstatic

This won't be happening, at least not in the next 50 years.

For one, the thin client model will not work for gaming consoles. Think of the extra costs to the company. If they are doing all of the computations for the game, their server farm will be huge, increasing their power usage drastically. Why would they do this when the customer is used to plugging something in that takes up power (over heating sometimes eh?). Distributing digital content is extremely convenient, but why use so much bandwidth to transmit video like is being suggested when games can transmit very little bandwidth between specialized client/server apps?

I don't see the gaming consoles ever going to just thin client or just fat client, it's always going to be some compromise. The companies like to have recurring charges, but they want to make money off of it. High price, less demand, so if they have to charge more to do all the computing the demand for the product will go down.

Standardized hardware for developers? Only going to happen if someone creates a "java" for gaming.

I think that it is much more likely to see the next gen xbox or whatever come with a cable or video input jacks and become all in one DVR / gaming console. I too would love to see internet browsers, office tools, etc on my gaming console. I don't often need a specialized pc to do anything. This boils down to many of our desires to see one-stop do-it-all gadgets. That's why I bought the n95, it did everything. Love it best gadget I ever bought. When consoles start allowing open source apps on them, if that ever happens, we'll see a huge boom in functionality. Maybe not the next xbox but the one after that will hopefully have a cable plug in and have its own built in media center (w/o needing an extender), itll let you do DVR stuff, make it easier to keep photos music and video on it, MUCH bigger harddrives.

Gaming consoles aren't going anywhere. They will merge with other devices and become more than gaming consoles. I think they will actually replace the existing 'desktops' or pcs in most situations, especially rural areas. keep them plug n play mentality so avg joe can use it, allow some customisation so nerds will like it, and you'll see the home pc functionalities absorbed into the consoles.