Will we see a Playstation 5? How about an Xbox…um…two? As soon as Sony and Microsoft announced the PS4 and Xbox One, complete with robust cloud capabilities, pundits such as myself started wondering if this would be the last generation of traditional video game consoles. The tech to stream games has been around for a little while now, with limited success, but it appears to be getting better. Last week, we heard about Sony’s “Playstation Now” service. If Sony can put a game as good as The Last Of Us on your TV without any local computing at all, how is it going to go about convincing people to keep buying expensive consoles?
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On Twitter, someone asked Microsoft’s Phil Spencer whether or not he thought that this would be the last generation of consoles, and he responded with a resounding no:
“@BuldozerX I don’t. I think local compute will be important for a long time.”
The world that Spencer describes matches up pretty well with what Sony appears to be trying to establish with Playstation Now — one where cloud computing is powerful enough to stream almost the most technically advanced games on the market, but still one step behind what game companies can accomplish with local technology. In this world, theoretically, we can expect to be streaming PS4 games shortly after we unwrap our PS5s.
What I wonder about isn’t whether or not local computing will still be required to produce bleeding edge graphics in any setting — that much is obvious. What I wonder is at what point the mass market, or even parts of the core market more concerned with gameplay than graphics, can be convinced that the upgrade is worth it. I always tend to underestimate just how much I and others will end up drooling over fancy graphics, but I can’t help but wonder at what point we’ll be able to stream games that are at least jaw-dropping enough.
I think we’re already at the point where despite massive launches, no console will be able to match something like the PS2s 155 million. As gaming options expand, people don’t lean on consoles as much, and streaming is bound to only accelerate that trend.