The traditional model of console creation and marketing appears to be under review by some of the major players in the gaming industry. Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox Division, spoke earlier in the year about the limitations of the current console model, where hardware is “fixed” for a period of 5-7 years on a console such as the Xbox 360 while “other ecosystems” such as PCs are continually upgraded.
This led to rumours that Microsoft planned to introduce upgradeable hardware to the Xbox One. A couple of months later stories began to emerge that Sony were planning a “PlayStation 4.5” that would feature upgraded hardware.
If the two major forces in the videogames market, Sony and Microsoft, are re-evaluating the model that has served them so well over the years it is perhaps no surprise that other players in the games industry are considering the future of the console, too.
Speaking this week the CEO of influential publisher Ubisoft, Yves Guillemot, indicated that he expects successor consoles to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. However, beyond that he believes that streaming will take over as the medium through which players access cutting edge games.
“We believe in streaming,” he said. “We think it’s going to grow but today, with the types of games we have, it will still take a bit of time to be more popular.”
Guillemot also indicated that Ubisoft weren’t worried by any uncertainty caused by rumours of upgraded PS4s or Xbox Ones appearing since “the last transition was very smooth…so we don’t see transition now as a potential problem.”
Guillemot’s views are in tune with noises from other industry insiders and perhaps explain a recent story about a PlayStation executive indicating that Sony haven’t decided yet whether they will make a PlayStation 5. If streaming technology advances to the point where games can be accessed from servers, there will be no need for a console acting as what EA’s Peter Moore called a “hardware intermediary”.
Perhaps in the future a control pad, a TV with a Wi-Fi connection and a subscription to PlayStation or Xbox online services will be all that’s required to play the latest games. TV, music and movies are all moving inexorably towards streaming. It’s no surprise that videogames seem destined to follow.