On the clock: Lifespan of next generation consoles


While the current generation of next-gen consoles have already been out for about a year, it is unlikely that they will last as long as the preceding generation. Electronic Arts executive Patrick Söderlund predicted the launch of the theoretical “Xbox Two” and “Playstation 5” as early as 2018, according to Expert Reviews. Here’s a look at the history of console innovation as well as a look into a possible future without consoles.

Escalating Power

The current generation of video game consoles may be lagging behind current PC standards, which indicates a need for console developers to build a new generation of systems. Looking back at the Xbox 360, it’s easy to see why it lasted so long. The Xbox 360 was the most powerful console of the last generation with a processor capable of averaging 230 gigaflops, which was more powerful than most GPUs available for PCs, says IGN. This means that the Xbox 360 was much faster and powerful than any PCs.

Today, the PS4 is the most powerful console available. However, its processing power is not even half the power of NVIDIA’s top graphics cards for computers (1840 gflops compared to 4500 gflops), according to GeForce.

While consoles in 2006 were competitive with their PC counterparts, today that is not true. While the Xbox One is still powerful and more than capable of producing top of the line graphics, PC graphics cards are growing exponentially in power. Although consoles are still the most cost-efficient path to quality gaming (a fully operational console costs less than half of a top-shelf graphics card), we might already be near the end of the gaming console age.

Possible Futures

The next-gen Nintendo console may be closer than you think. While Nintendo was once the undisputed king of consoles, VGChartz reports that the PS4 outsold the Wii by 108 percent in May of 2014 and by 44 percent in June. The Wii is at the bottom of the heap of new consoles when it comes to processing power, and this gap means that Nintendo may need to return to the drawing board sooner rather than later.

The PS3 and Xbox 360 were smart buys for consumers because they were viable and comparable to PC gaming for nearly a decade. This was because the consoles were built with optimized hardware to only play video games. Modern consoles are now used for multiple purposes including social media networking and video services, which results in less optimized systems that are lagging behind PCs.

One of the subtle influences that might push the next generation of consoles to come out faster is the growing popularity of 4K televisions. This jump in technology is comparable to the jump from standard definition television to HD—a tech shift that influenced the release of the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles in the past. As 4K televisions begin to appear in consumers’ homes, they will begin to demand consoles that take full advantage of this expanding technology. As consumer pressure always determines the direction of new consoles, we may be closer to the next-next-gen than we think.



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