Is the Games Console Fad Dying?

People have been able to play videogames in their homes since the 1970s. Whilst ancient devices from Atari and Calicovision may seem primitive by modern standards, they essentially stand for the same principles of recreational digital entertainment as their modern counterparts. However, there are some who would argue that games consoles are on the path to oblivion, a part of a fad that will eventually die, only to be replaced by something new.

Is it reasonable to assert that games consoles will become extinct, or is there more to this topic than meets the eye?

The current generation of video game console hardware has been one of the longest in history, since it began with the arrival of the Xbox 360 in 2005 and seems set to continue at least until the end of 2013.

Indeed, the console manufacturers chose to perpetuate their current hardware for an extended period long ago, with Sony banking on a ten-year life cycle for the PlayStation 3. But in the years since this generation began, living rooms across the world have changed dramatically.

The rise of broadband connectivity has allowed on demand video services to shake up viewing habits. There are now a gaggle of different devices connected to a typical TV that can be used to stream media content and engage with the web in other ways.

As a result, games consoles have attempted to become much more entertainment oriented rather than dealing solely with videogames. You will find apps for YouTube, iPlayer and Netflix on most consoles, because they are attempting to compete in an increasingly tough marketplace where set top boxes and even Smart TVs can offer similar functionality.

If the next generation of consoles cannot offer consumers several compelling reasons to keep turning them on each day, they might end up relegated to the spare room.

Meanwhile, those people who purchased their console to play games but instead harness it for video playback and internet access might wonder why they even need the gaming element. In fact, you might sell Xbox 360 games and accessories online if you realise that you are not really using it for its primary purpose.

Part of the problem is that consumers have become accustomed to bite size gaming as a result of the booming smartphone and tablet market. This means the multi-hour sessions on home consoles, which of course cannot be taken with you, are not necessarily as appealing.

What might ultimately kill games consoles is the emergence of cloud gaming services. OnLive and Gaikai have shown that the concept of having high-end hardware remotely running games, which are then streamed to the user’s device, is an attainable reality.

If the hardware capabilities of a console are rendered irrelevant by the cloud, consumers might fail to see why owning one is necessary.

The inevitable eighth generation of consoles is already rolling out, if you count the Wii U as part of this group. There is reason to suspect that it may be the last.

Phil Walker is a writer who has covered the video game industry since the early 1990s. If he chooses to sell Xbox 360 games and accessories, it will probably be due to the arrival of a new console generation.

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