Despite the release of their current-gen consoles in 2013, Microsoft and Sony continue to support the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 with new games and discounts programs. What's more surprising, is that manufacturer support remains strong despite being on the market for almost ten years.
The last generation of consoles lasted noticeably longer than previous console life-cycles. According to some figureheads within the industry, the long gap between console generations left software development stagnate and was not good for the gaming market as a whole.
The current generation, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, has only been available for one-and-a-half years but some are already predicting what Sony, Microsoft and even Nintendo should develop next. Emmett Shear, the founder of the live-streaming service Twitch, believes that consoles need to move away from a 7 - 10 year lifecycle and reiterate hardware offerings every 2 years like the mobile industry.
Shear advises that Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony shouldn’t leave the hardware business but instead refocus their efforts on devices that resemble set-top boxes, such as Apple TV or Roku. The benefit of this approach, according to Shear, is a faster upgrade cycle and the ability to expand into a variety of uses:
“They're going to have to change form. I could imagine a version 1.1 product from both Microsoft and Sony which adds in slightly more speed and slightly more memory very similar to how phones and tablets work today. I think it's going to look more like the mobile phone market over time.”
Shear is not alone in his sentiments, as Katsuhiro Harada, the producer of Tekken, indicates that he believes the PS5 will just be a controller, monitor and service. Harada's vision is already taking shape with Sony's Playstation Now service, which doesn’t require a console.
However, PlayStation Now still has a long way to go before replacing the console experience, and PlayStation 4 sales remain strong for Sony during financial woes. Microsoft is also seeing high sales numbers due to a renewed focus on gamers under new leadership after a mixed-message launch strategy.
However, with strong sales from two hardware manufacturers and Nintendo announcing the creation of its next platform, it appears that Sony is not following Shear's advice at the moment.
Shear is not the first member of the gaming industry to state that manufactures should refocus their efforts and abandon the console market either. For example, Peter Vesterbacka, who leads business development for Rovio, indicated that console gaming is a dying space. However, four years later, strong sales and enthusiastic fans highlight the fact that console gaming is still a thriving market.