When game developers think “where is the money in making games?”, they now tend to think of smartphones. With that in mind, I expect consoles as we know them to be obsolete within five to ten years.
We are currently in the eighth generation of console gaming, with the Wii U, Xbox One, PS4 and Ouya. With online shops like Steam and Google Play becoming far more popular, the battle over “console-exclusive” games is beginning to seem petty. Microsoft’s acquisition of the Tomb Raider franchise, which has always been multi-platform, is a prime example. Tomb Raider – a series I personally associate with the original Sony Playstation.
I expect by the tenth or eleventh console era (10-15 years from now), all “AAA games” will available on any major console system you buy.
HD remakes, a la Wind Waker or Final Fantasy, are becoming more popular. The cult classic Grim Fandango is being remade in HD for PS4, for example. Whether HD remakes are a fad remains to be seen, but I hope we see more of these in the future.
Thankfully, companies seem more willing to embrace their history now than ever. You can buy old NES and SNES games through the Nintendo eShop on Wii U. I expect this to become more popular. Perhaps one day, all of Nintendo’s back-catalog will be available on a future console right beside Sony, Microsoft and all third-party developers.
It’s been fun growing up in the console war era, sure, but i don’t see the model sustaining itself much further. Console games have enjoyed a disproportionate amount of mainstream popularity compared to PC games. The playing field is now becoming leveled to “smartphones vs consoles vs PCs”, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
On a related note, I think we’ve already seen the best days of handheld gaming pass. Game Boy Color (1998) and Game Boy Advance (2001) were the peak of course. Nintendo DS (2004) and PSP (2005) were the last handheld systems not eclipsed by a smartphone (the iPhone was released in 2007). The Nintendo 3DS is selling well, but mostly thanks to the hype and nostalgia that surrounds franchises like Pokemon or Animal Crossing. The Playstation Vita, however, has sold far less copies.
This is all speculative of course. I don’t know what the next ten years holds. I’d just rather think about it now than later. Growing up, I know I always aspired to have my own game on a console. Now, even if you’re one of the few who “gets lucky”, you’re likely going to end up on a PC or smartphone. Unless you are willing to be absorbed into a larger group, at which point your own ‘dream’ or ‘vision’ has to make some sacrifices.