While we've pinned down 2012 or 2013 as the year in which a new generation of consoles will likely be revealed to us, the details on what new technological advances and features they'll come bearing are no doubt still full of surprises.
AMD would have you believe that next-generation visuals will be on par with Avatar. Others like Silicon Knights want to see 3D explode in the coming years. But perhaps the biggest surprise of them all: the next generation of consoles could be the last one you ever see.
That's the forecast seen by Fredrik Wester, CEO of Swedish developer Paradox Interactive.
"The next generation of console hardware will probably be the last. I'd be surprised if we see another generation after that."
According to StrategyInformer, Wester made the assertions during his company's annual showcase, in which he went on to predict the decline of boxed products as they give way to more "open" forms like the PC, and mobile and social networks.
Of course, leave it to a company named Paradox to surmise that the next generation is the last generation, but you can see why Wester might feel that way. The company is known for developing complex historical strategy games and has seen its digital revenue spike from 1.5% in 2006, to 97% in 2011. The year also saw a record 250% growth in profit.
There's no question that digital media is becoming more and more pertinent in today's culture, and companies would love to cut out the middle man by distributing games over direct download services similar to Origin and Steam. However, as Sony's recent backing of disc-based media for the PlayStation 4 suggested, it's not all rainbows and unicorn farts.
Those responsible for the meteoric rise of digital gaming and microtransactions and those who consume traditional console based entertainment are often two separate demographics, and connecting everyone might be more of a struggle than it's worth. It's also no secret that console makers view their products as catalysts for a universal home entertainment experience (even though Microsoft's recent Xbox TV is struggling to get on it's feet).
In the future though, anything is possible. Many developers like Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski and industry heads like Sony’s Kaz Hirai have been adamant about getting somewhere close to 10 years out of the current generation of consoles. Should the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 not release until, say, 2014 and have an even greater life span, we could be looking at 15 years before the next next generation. 15 years... that's a long time. 15 years ago, we were still blowing dust out of cartridges.
We won't know for sure until first seeing where the next generation takes us. And whether it's an all digital future or one with more elaborate consoles that can make you a steak dinner (800 Microsoft points, naturally), it's going to be one helluva ride to get there.
Ranters, do you expect to see consoles die out after the next generation? Would you rather see a PlayStation 5 or is it better to go digital?
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