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'Last console generation'? We'll see about that
'Last console generation'? We'll see about that
November 14, 2013 | By Kris Graft

November 14, 2013 | By Kris Graft
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    32 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



"Itís funny, I've heard about the 'last console' since 1986, and only because thatís when I entered the business."
Ė Sony Computer Entertainment America president (and die-hard console advocate) Jack Tretton.

A PlayStation executive arguing against the "consoles are doomed" sentiment isn't a surprising scenario, but Tretton explains why he thinks predictions of the near-term death of dedicated game consoles like the PlayStation 4 are unfounded.

"I've managed to ride the 'last console' wave for the last, what is that Ö 27 years or so?" he said in an AllThingsD story published today, the eve of PS4's launch. "Thereís a reason the console came about: [People like] sitting in front of a big-screen TV on a couch with [their] friends."

Prognosticators have speculated that PlayStation 4's generation may be the last generation of consoles, due to massive changes in the past few years such as the rise of mobile platforms, the nascent Android microconsole market and steps by Valve Software toward Linux PC-based living room entertainment.

Tretton said he wants PlayStation to be wherever video games are headed, including mobile platforms Ė initiatives like PlayStation mobile reflect that (even though he called mobile games "good-enough gaming"). But right now, Sony is chasing "core" gamers, and in order to do that, Sony is focusing on dual-stick controllers, TVs and $400 consoles.

In any case, Tretton sees a bright future for games: "I donít think Iíll be in the industry 27 years from now, but I think the next 27 years bode much better for the gaming industry than the last 27 did."

More at AllThingsD.


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Comments


Andrew Wallace
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"Thereís a reason the console came about: [People like] sitting in front of a big-screen TV on a couch with [their] friends."

Or maybe it was because computers capable of playing games were prohibitively expensive for most people combined with the fact that drastically different hardware meant most games were for only one platform, both of which are no longer true.

Josh Gibson
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That ignores the entire arcade industry though. People wanted the same experience at home. It ignores the early innovators of home video game consoles. Ralph Baer envisioned home entertainment and a connected lifestyle. Atari's games started in the arcade. Nintendo's games were arcade games. That's where it was and they tried to bring that experience home.

Nuttachai Tipprasert
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I believe that was not he wanted to imply. The origin of console is irrelevant here. The point is, as long as tablet or mobile still cannot deliver 'couching in front of big screen experiences' as consoles can do, they won't take over consoles.

He also gave GT as an example; you should check the source material for more details. There's no single game on tablet or mobile that can be compared to GT (or Forza, if you prefer). As long as shooters, sports, fighting, action, etc. games still selling millions, consoles and PC will still be there.

Todd Boyd
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If these console guys aren't ready to take SteamOS seriously, they are in for a very rude (and very sudden) awakening very soon...

Merc Hoffner
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And steambox may be in for a ruder one.

Bernardo Del Castillo
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I honestly think that the ones that are gonna get a wake up call are the people at valve... but maybe I'm wrong, who knows.

Dane MacMahon
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While no one should be betting their life savings either way, I think I would gamble on Xbox and Playstation having a much larger following. As hard as Valve try that convenience factor will just never be there on PC like it is on standard hardware. They can make as many verified SteamBoxes as they like, but the minute someone can't play the new Assassin's Creed on it without jumping through hoops they're going to start losing customers.

And I say this as someone who's been a PC gamer for the vast majority of the last 20 years.

Maria Jayne
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Consoles have been steadily becoming more like PC's for a long time, except they inherited all the bad features of a PC and none of the good ones. You can call the next generation of machines "consoles" if you like, but they stopped being consoles the moment you started filling them with PC components in my view.

It's only a matter of time before Micro PC boxes replace them. They're already essentially the same product now, with the exception of Microsoft and Sony desperately trying to stay relevant with paid for exclusives and artificial walls.

Toby Grierson
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"they stopped being consoles the moment you started filling them with PC components in my view"

This reminds me of a man explaining why the smell of vanilla reminds people of sex. Never mind if it actually does or not. Never let reality get in the way of an origin story. Anyway; he explained that the roots reminded people of testicles and its name was this in Latin.

But this ... counterfactual tale had one glaring problem, aside from all the others; your nose does not know any goddamn etymology.

Do you know how many personal computers the NES shared its MOS Technology 6502 with?

A lot.

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Kujel s
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It's not the compnents inside the box that makes a console a console it's the fact they are desgined from the ground up to play games and little else that makes them consoles!

Toby Grierson
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"I always thought the strict distinction between "video games" and "computer games" to be kind of silly"

It's a distinction of interface, like the difference between a console game and a touch screen game. PC gamepads are less common, not standardised and they're played in a different setting and this affects their design and sometimes makes them insensible to port.

"While I don't get the analogy between vanilla and sex"

The etymology of vanilla doesn't effect one's experience of vanilla. Most people don't even know the etymology of vanilla. It's esoteric trivia.

Picture going into a store and explaining to another random consumer in line how their PS4's x86-64 based core is less legitimate than the PS3's IBM 970 based Cell.

They will nod, smile (maybe) and think you a dork and then buy or not buy the system based on wholly orthogonal matters.

I think it's something afflicting those of us who grew up in the late 80s and 90s and saw x86 as some kind of boring, consumer-grade thing standing in the shadow of MIPS R12ks, DEC Alphas and more. They had a mythic quality, like the Blackbird. The end of workstations, Power Mac and "Emotion Engines" means the death of that in favour of something profane.

It's sad. But everyone else sees a 3 tick up to a 4.

Dave Long
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There are definitely (extremely) strong similarities in hardware, but from a gaming perspective, I'm not sure if they've got all the bad things from PCs and left the good. I've _never_ had to spend hours trying fixes to get a game to work on console, and the controller of choice has been optimised to play the game from the get-go, _every_ time. I've also never had to tweak settings to optimise the game - it's ready to roll, optimised, right away.

PC won't beat console until PC just works. At this stage, it doesn't reliably, and it's yet to be seen if SteamOS will fix that, as it's going the "open to everything" path that's the reason PC can be a nightmare of compatibility issues, soft fixes and having to use console commands just to get the game to work.

Dane MacMahon
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This sentiment is true in a way but has nothing to do with hardware. The Xbox made consoles and PCs much more similar because it brought PC genres and online focus to consoles. It's that simple.

They're still differentiated in experience by quite a margin though, no matter how many patches console games receive now-a-days.

Jochen Meckel
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I guess gaming consoles will loose to mobile (and other "innovations") as much as radio lost to cinema lost to television lost to the internet...
I would argue that the games we play might (should) change focus, as they did in the past. But there will always be a market for what is called " core games". And high- immersion ,long play session games will always favor dedicated gaming platforms.
You can always argue if that platform is a gaming PC, a PS5 , a Steam OS system or something new - but i cannot doubt there WILL be a platform.

Michael Wenk
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I think that consoles aren't really going anywhere in the sense that people will still use their TV's to play games. But I do think the age of the monolithic console is on its way out. So called microconsoles, and the simple fact that people can connect their iPads/Android tablets to their tvs and play games that are nearly as good (for most people) and a ton cheaper. Of course there will be some die hards that have to have their 60$+ games, but really, the quality of software on mobile has improved to the point where I have found myself starting up the ipad to just play rather than going to the xbox or even the PC...

Kyle Redd
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There are no more than 5 publishers currently in existence who have enough funding power to produce a game that would max out the capabilities of the new consoles ($200 million in development costs alone, handily). In the previous generation there were around 10; before that there were a couple of dozen; maybe 50 or more could do it back in the SNES/Genesis days.

That's why this is the last generation. There's simply no reason to spend all the time and money on R&D for another hardware upgrade when all that extra power would never be utilized by anyone.

Dave Long
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This is a good point, but then it makes you wonder what the point of anything better than a GTX 760 or so is (beyond multi-monitors and what-have-you). I'd say that as developers get used to building for the new systems, tools will improve to enable them to take advantage of the power more cheaply, but this will take longer each generation. I'd be very surprised if this generation didn't last as least as long as the last one.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Kyle

Very true in many aspects, but not that simple.

For one thing games like Witcher 2, Payday and even Skyrim have all delivered that AAA experience for a much smaller budget. The mid-tier and European PC developers have shown you can have pretty graphics without spending a hundred million dollars, you just won't have the endless amount of detail a GTA or Assassin's Creed might have, which honestly is okay.

Secondly Sony and to a lesser extent Microsoft already know that eclectic libraries, experiences and price points are the way to go. Sony is pushing $10 downloadable games with small budgets almost as hard as their AAA releases. Heck, I would even say I've heard a lot more about some of their indie games than I have Killzone. They know console gaming can and perhaps has to be about more than $60 boxed games that use all the hardware.

Lastly the hardware improvements are about more than just increasing graphical fidelity. Even this generation the leap is more about having the RAM to run simultaneous programs, have larger worlds and fill the 1080p frame-buffer. It's not all about more polys. I think this will continue to be the case going forward, even into the next generation... more polished, smooth experiences of roughly the same graphical fidelity. If the next Elder Scrolls is Skyrim with unlimited view distance at 1080p you can bet your life that's good enough to impress.

Matthew Mouras
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Good enough to impress a niche, but perhaps not good enough to impress all the folks that want to have fun with games. If a novice wants to explore the latest console offerings, selling them on concepts like 1080p, unlimited draw distances, advanced physics, and a smooth UI is going to be a hard sell.

"Does it come with a remote that watches how I move like the Wii did?"

Maybe they will be happy with a less powerful and less expensive gaming device.

[User Banned]
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Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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"2. It is more social. You can have friends over, drink a beer, and play a game together. "

Be honest, whens the last time you did that and what game was it?
In my experience most console gamers play alone and most core franchises are played alone as they do not feature co-op. The last larger-ish franchise with splitscreen co-op was Deadspace 3 and Resident Evil 6, but those aren't even in the same ballpark as CoD, BF4 or Assassins Creed which don't feature couch co-op.

The only large franchise remnants of co-op play are sports games like FIFA or Madden. Even the times of fighting games as versus games is completely over in the grand scheme of things as they moved on to online play.

If this was true the next-gen consoles wouldn't rely and introduce all these pseudo-mmo models like The Division, Titanfall, Destiny, Warframe, GTA5 or Watch_Dogs. Not to mention the integration of Skype, facebook, streaming and "social" features in next-gen consoles that removes the need for real world interaction.

The only console this is marginally true for is the WiiU and that one isn't doing so well.

With the next-gen consoles couch-gaming will have little to no difference to PC gaming as all the models are moving towards online co-op or online PvP multiplayer.
PCs have had the ability to be hooked to a TV for a long time now and with the steambox making it even more convenient the social argument holds no water.

Dave Long
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The comment from Tretton is pretty much spot-on. PCs were going to take over in the 90s (first time I recall the comments coming up, and at the time I was pretty much a PC-only gamer). However, back then PC gaming was much more distinct from that on console. These days, the most-played games on PC, outside of MMOs and MOBAs, are often styles of gaming that are found more often on console anyways. The main distinction between the two is less content, but more moddability, ease-of-use, reliability, and scaleability. PCs have the edge of you're looking for moddability and scaleability, consoles trump on ease-of-use and reliability (in terms of the game will run first time, every time - we've got no idea of the technical reliability of the next-gen machines at this stage).

There will always be an audience of gamers who don't care for modding and just want to play the game with no fuss, but also want the kind of deep, immersive gameplay that mobile is still decades from achieving (the best mobile has at the moment are limited console ports, and aside from XCOM: Enemy Unknown, there's no question that the games are far better on their original platform). Mobiles will struggle to bridge the gap because to do so, they need to improve their battery technology to pump out 100+ watts to power the gaming hardware in next-gen machines (current handsets run single-digit wattages) and shrink down the hardware in consoles that are currently the size of laptops into a handheld (the fans in the the PS4, XB1 and on most decent PC GPUs are bigger than many mobile handsets, let alone the rest of the silicon). They'll likely get there, but given they haven't matched the PS3 and 360 yet, by the time they're encroaching on PS4/XB1, gaming will have moved on to the next stage of tech.

Then there's the argument that mobiles are 'good enough'. They're definitely good enough for the new audience they've brought in, but there's very little evidence to suggest any widescale migration from PC/console gaming to the relatively shallow fare on mobile. I'm unaware of one real-life example amongst any of my gaming friends, and the only people evangelising that kind of thing on the web tend to be people with a vested interest in mobile, which is clearly colouring their opinion. Given the PS3/360 continue to sell very well with PS4/XB1 on the threshold, and that the install base of the PS3 and 360 at this stage in their lives outpaces the PS2/Xbox when they were replaced by the 360 and PS3 were released, it's a little hard to see where all the doom-and-gloom comes from.

The wildcard in all of this, though, is cloud gaming. If someone can deliver a reliable, "it just works" high-end service over the cloud where latency isn't a factor, that will change things up in a huge way (for gaming on any connected device). However, the issue here is network infrastructure, something that takes decades to turn around, and is unlikely going to be well enough developed in enough places to support dropping client-side processing of gaming in the next ten years or so and render the need for all of these boxes obsolete.

Leszek Szczepanski
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You're missing one important point why mobile games will never be real threat or substitute to PC and especially console gaming: They are mobile.

Meaning they are designed to be played in short durations, are by default shallow, use touchscreen as a control mechanism and are fit for a max 10" screen.

Mobile will never be able to replicate the experience of a couple of hour gaming session on your couch, with a Dualshock in you hands, in front of a big screen. And that kind of experience is what many people want.

Mario Kummer
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@Leszek Sure mobile games will not, but the hardware gets better and better and it is possible that our phones one day will just connect to TV and gamepad and we play the latest ElderScrolls on them.

Dave Long
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@ Leszek - aye, good point. I also didn't mention the controls (gamepad support is patchy on PC, but it's a train-wreck on mobile and touch controls are only solid for a small number of genres - luckily for mobile, that includes match-3 puzzlers :))

Dane MacMahon
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Consoles will be in trouble when a moderately priced tablet can push Xbox 360 level graphics, hook up as easily to a TV as an iPod to a speaker set, and connect with a controller for full usage options as easily as hitting a button on said controller.

When all that happens without any kind of driver, hardware compatibility or other hassle Tretton should be worried. Until that happens I think he's in the clear.

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Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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The next tablet gen will be able to push 360 graphics, current games are already getting very very close.

http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/6ny6oSHyoqg/maxresdefault.jpg
http://www.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Infinity-
Blade-3.jpg

Given that next-gen consoles just came out, and both Sony and MS said that they are looking towards a ~7 year hardware cycle, consoles will have stagnated hardware in 2-3 years in the middle of their life cycle (compared to tablets, obviously compared to PC they are already out of the equation even on budget machines.).

Mario Kummer
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A lot of this is just taxonomy. When consoles are replaced by tablets, phones or "micro-consoles" I am not sure if they are replaced at all, just the technology advances. Does the ipad have more in common with a pc? Or is it more like a Playstation with a display? Or a big Nintendo DS without buttons?

What I am quite sure is that they will never be replaced by current PC infrastructure due to ease of use. Sure you can do everything (connect to tv, use gamepads) but often it is not without trouble. Last time I thought about that was when I visited a friend, we wanted to play F1 Race Starts at his PC. I brought my Xbox Gamepad, he had got a pc gamepad (don't remember, trustmaster or logitech or something) which we just could not get to work. We tried different drivers, even emulators which should convert the input to an xbox gamepad input. Nothing worked, so after over 1 hour of trouble we decided to just play with the keyboard. And such things happen often on a PC and a lot of people just want to play and not to bother with the technology.

Bruce Tran
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ease of use is the main reason why for me getting a gaming console instead (beside the price)

It's hard to believe the system can still play games for 5-6 years later

tablets/smart phones are idea for casual gaming when i'm waiting at the doc's office or in the toilet.. but for long hours of gaming.... it is not..

John Gordon
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A lot of people are confusing the content with the format. There will always be a desire for both a console format and for a PC-like format (although tablets may be the new PC-like format).

Even if guys making games on the iOS are making the "games of the future", those guys are not going to stay on iOS. The best games on iOS are going to end up porting them over to the consoles. Mobile and tablet are not going to destroy the console. On the contrary they are going to ensure its survival by providing consoles the new content that they need.

We're already seeing Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies and other "big" iOS games coming over to consoles. This pattern is just going to increase and iOS games become more successful.


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