Games consoles have been a key piece of technology in helping the video games industry to grow. Originally, these machines were designed to be a cost-effective way of getting hardware into homes at a time when buying a computer was prohibitively expensive.
Even today, they offer many benefits over other gaming formats, though they do come with some downsides.
But since the dawn of the 21st century, players have been presented with new and innovative ways to enjoy their favourite titles and now carry around pocket-sized computers that can run many advanced games.
So, are the days of the games console numbered or will this popular format remain with us for decades to come?
The early consoles were marvels of ingenuity. Technology at the time did not permit for devices to be crammed with memory and processing power, so engineers had to squeeze as much grunt as possible from mere kilobytes of RAM and CPUs with clock speeds measured in just megahertz.
But by scrimping on these areas, companies like SEGA, Nintendo, and Atari were able to get their machines in more homes than they would have if they’d gone all-in on producing the most powerful gaming devices possible at the time.
To make these under-powered machines capable of playing decent games, their manufacturers got creative, often developing their own architecture that was optimized exclusively for playing games rather than the more general x86 and x64 systems used in PCs.
However, this approach hit a wall with Sony’s PlayStation 3. To get the most from the console, developers had to create specialist code for the many sub-processors contained within the architecture, with each specially designed for a particular type of calculation. This proved to be too complicated for game developers, leading to many titles not actually taking advantage of the incredible promise of the PS3.
Since then, all major games consoles have essentially been computers. This is why all Xbox consoles ever, and all Sony machines since the PS4, have been built on x86 or x64 chipsets, allowing developers to port content from the consoles to PC (and vice versa) with much less work.
This means that console manufacturers are just selling gaming computers with special cases, removing the cost savings that existed in the past.
Another big factor that’s changed over the decades is the fact that gamers now have much more choice when it comes to what they play, where they play it, and when.
For example, those that choose to play games on a computer have access to several million titles. In addition to the majority of the same AAA releases that can be found on consoles, PC players can enjoy computer-exclusive releases, browser-based games, and huge back catalogs that span decades.
PC and mobile users also have access to online casinos. These digital platforms carry hundreds or even thousands of games for players to enjoy. This includes a mix of traditional titles and modern variants of classic options, such as blackjack 21+3 which creates a side bet where players can try to make poker hands out of their own cards and the dealer’s upcard.
That’s still not all, either, as virtual reality gaming is slowly coming into its own, providing players with an entirely new way to enjoy the medium.
The cloud has already taken over most areas of our lives, so it may as well do the same for gaming.
Video game streaming services promise to allow AAA titles to be run on just about any piece of hardware, even if it’s low-powered. This means, therefore, that you could play blockbusters like Cyberpunk 2077 on a smartphone, tablet, or old laptop.
Such a system would allow players to enjoy their games through their TV, like a console, but with the added flexibility of being able to move to another device.
There’s still some work to do as lag remains a problem that most players face, but it’s something which will likely be overcome in time.
With these facts, it seems certain that video game consoles will eventually be resigned to the history books. However, it’s likely going to be a little while yet.