Just like smokers don’t stop at one strand of cigarettes, gamers don’t stop after an hour or for a lifetime, for that matter, which is probably why the gaming industry has been evolving and sprinting ahead over the past 50 years without catching a breath.
It all started with a simple gaming prototype developed by a German engineer Ralph Baer and the gaming industry became a snowball that eventually turned into a beast worth $135 billion. From Atari to Sega, Nintendo and now PS and Xbox, the history of the gaming industry is filled with milestones and brutal console wars that gamers have taken full advantage of.
PC gaming attacks consoles
While console wars continued to rage on, another contender that had been lurking in the shadows, silently gauging the scenario entered the market, giving consoles another open front to protect. PC gaming had existed even before the consoles, but it got a boost with the introduction of PS 360 and the emergence of Steam. PC gaming brought a new wave of innovation. The launch of computers such as Apple II and the Commodore 64, which were both affordable, fit for the family and had better processing power, PC gaming ended up surpassing consoles.
Instead of battling with each other, consoles started to battle with PC gaming and PCs sort of won the war. This is because PC offered gamers things that consoles couldn’t: a $500 basic gaming PC offered better graphics and details than what the consoles could offer. Moreover, with PCs, gamers could scale up easily as it was possible to play a newer game on an older PC and a decade-old game on a newer PC.
Consoles, on the other hand, worked on a completely different dynamics as they didn’t allow gamers to play newer versions on the same console; upgrading meant throwing away the entire set and buying a new one. Sony and Microsoft were slow to realize that this ‘throw everything away after a few years’ model was sending away console gamers to PC.
Once the realization dawned in, Sony and Microsoft made amendments in their respective devices. Xbox One was hence compatible with Xbox 360 games through software patches. Xbox is now compatible with all of its ancestors up to Xbox. Sony did the same thing with all the PlayStations. Now the CD or a game that works on PS4 also works on PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro. To cut short, gamers can now scale up their consoles without throwing out the entire system just like they used to do with PC games.
Downloadable games also stopped being an issue with this new generation of consoles as there were no disc-based games that couldn’t be downloaded and no downloadable games that weren’t on discs. The cherry on top was that Xbox One also came with 40 free games, a concept that was previously restricted to PC only.
This upgrade in consoles bridged the gap between PC and consoles. This coupled with the declining performance of PC games started to lure away PC gamers to consoles. Giving consoles an upper hand over PC again.
The PS and Xbox tug of war
PS and Xbox were the only two consoles that managed to survive the scuffle between gaming consoles and PC gaming. Whereas, the two consoles have been in a skirmish of their own since then, each with its own brand loyalty and cult.
PS has always had an upper hand over Xbox. PS4 battered Xbox One in the battle so much so that Microsoft came under pressure to sell its console business. However, the entire situation was perhaps a good thing because Microsoft didn’t give up and instead stood up and fought even harder. Microsoft launched Xbox One X that was way better than PS4 ever could be and even after that Microsoft didn’t just sit back and relax, and left it to the gamers to choose it; it reached out to developers and asked them to enhance their previously released games.
It also kept working on the hardware to improve it further. What set Xbox One X was its backward compatibility and the fact that Microsoft did not do this in an attempt to make money by asking gamers to pay for older games, rather it was a genuine move for gamers who wanted to carry an entire library of their favorite games with them.
Xbox also allowed players to play from anywhere by paying for a game only once. It absolutely delighted gamers that they were allowed to play for free on Game Pass on launch day.
All this while, PlayStation was becoming a little complacent and didn’t do much to add to the gaming world.
The latest battle
Microsoft and Sony are again preparing to lock horns by introducing new gaming consoles in the market, namely PS5 and Xbox 2. The gaming world is pretty excited about the latest iteration of both consoles that are set to launch in the holiday season of 2020. Both manufacturers have high stakes in their respective launches since this war will declare the owner of the throne, and perhaps once and for all.
Both manufacturers have been quiet about their gaming consoles, so a lot is not known about them yet, except that they will have backward compatibility and their price tag would be somewhere around $500.
Rumor has it that PS5 will have AMD chips and the clocking could possibly be twice the maximum clocking of PS4 Pro. PS5 would likely support 4K and 8K resolution along with a 4K Blu-Ray player, and a disc capacity of 100 GB. It is also possible that this console is even more powerful than the Xbox Scarlett. PS5 is also expected to have solid-state drives rather than hard drives. Storage capacity is not yet known, but it would likely have a higher bandwidth, allowing games to load faster than ever.
Xbox Scarlett or Xbox 2 as it was previously known will use a custom AMD CPU with Zen 2 and Navi technology, and it would be able to run games on 8K and 120 frames per second.
While the world is busy discussing the winner of the latest battle, it has failed to realize that this might be the last battle ever in the console territory. Not that both manufacturers will shake hands and give up, but it is possible that gamers would lose interest in consoles.
Consoles have been in the market since over the past 50 years; hence, it is hard to believe or even think that this could ever be possible. After all, PC gaming also threatened their authority and they were able to emerge victorious. So, what could possibly happen that could overthrow these and make gamers lose interest? Well, we have enough reasons to believe that this could happen and it is not just us, notable people within the gaming industry have also expressed their concerns and predictions.
Mobile gaming is the star
When PC gaming posed a threat to consoles, consoles were quick to catch up and adapted themselves to bridge the gap between them and PCs. This time, however, the new threat is completely different. Mobile gaming is increasing at an exponential rate, thanks to the availability of high-speed internet and the increasing penetration of smartphones.
Facts don’t lie and statistics show that mobile gaming has surpassed console gaming to become the largest segment of the industry worth $68.5 billion in 2019. While consoles gaming was the fastest-growing segment for the second year in a row, it lags considerably in size ($47.9 billion) as compared to the mobile gaming sector. Mobile and Console gaming has almost defeated PC gaming, which remained the slowest and the smallest segment in the industry, worth $35.7 billion.
Mobiles are now equipped with enough horsepower to seamlessly run games. Moreover, the price plays a very important role in the entire scenario; compared to consoles mobiles are less expensive.
Mobile gaming has grown at an astronomical rate, but it still hasn’t been able to kill the Console market yet, since some of the high-end games are resource-intensive; and mobiles are just not equipped enough to support them. Let’s just agree that there is no fun in playing FIFA or Battlefield on a smartphone.
What mobile gaming hasn’t been able to do is Online Streaming. Streaming has the potential to put a nail in the console gaming coffin. This is not just an exaggeration or something that we are trying to extrapolate. Rather we are reiterating what UbiSoft’s CEO has already expressed. In an interview with Variety, the CEO said that the next generation of the consoles are the last ones that we are going to have. From now on, people will just stream the games that they want to play.
I think we will see another generation, but there is a good chance that step-by-step we will see less and less hardware,” Guillemot said. “With time, I think streaming will become more accessible to many players and make it unnecessary to have big hardware at home.”
This is quite possible given the fact that both Microsoft and Sony have developed their digital stores with extensive libraries, it is way easier to stream games than buy a console. This trend has also been helped by the telecommunication companies that have made high internet speed mainstream. Spectrum Communications, for example, offers amazing speeds at reasonable prices. After this, who would want to spend money on acquiring a console and then going through the entire tedious process of setting it up with the TV?
Catching up on the steam in the online gaming market, Google saw the perfect opportunity to establish itself as the leader and make some bucks. The tech giant has recently announced its own online gaming platform Stradia, which will be a platform for one and all. That will allow gamers to download and launch games from anywhere and on any device.
Google has already tested its service through Project Stream where players could stream Assasin’s Creed Odyssey in Google Chrome browser. Stadia is one step ahead and will allow players to launch games directly from YouTube without the need for download. Initially, gamers with an internet connection of 30 Mbps can get 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. In the future, Stradia will support 8K at 120 fps.
Microsoft and Sony join hands
The two rival companies that have been battling for decades have now surprisingly joined hands in order to beat competition that is springing up in their territories. Both tech giants will join their forces to build cloud streaming services for games and content. It only seems like a sensible move considering that other tech giants are pouring in money. Moreover, the world has already welcomed 5G and 5G becomes mainstream, it will boost mobile and online gaming further, wiping consoles out. Since consoles are bread and butter for Sony, it would be better to share rather than just lose all of it to others.
The future of consoles
It seems like the console market is really under a lot of pressure and this time the threat is not ordinary. Unlike what happened with PC gaming, consoles cannot evolve themselves to bridge the gap between them and mobiles or cloud services.
Now that the tech giants with deep pockets are interested in the arena, things will change drastically. It was sensible for Microsoft and Sony to bury the hatchet and adapt themselves to the situation, or their rigidity would have cost them a lot.
Looks like the battle will now be between Microsoft and Sony Vs Google. It is hard to say at this point in time who will emerge as the winner since both parties are equally equipped.