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Is Console Gaming Doomed?

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#1 Muhammad Farrukh

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 09:49


Is Console Gaming Doomed?

There is no denying that consoles are designed specifically to make the user experience as simple as possible. That is their purpose and it’s why they’ve been so successful over the past 20 years. With a console, there are no hardware upgrades (short of buying newer consoles), there are no drivers, peripherals are all plug and play, games are readily available from several outlets, and they are designed to be plugged into whatever TV system is popular at the time they’re released. Consoles, by their very nature, are designed to be 1 time purchases. The end result is a simple device that does a lot of what gaming PCs do for less money and hassle, plus (recently anyway) they can replace your DVD/Bluray player, Netflix box, and home audio solutions. This simplicity and functionality has taken console gaming from a niche market to the biggest gaming market around.

But times are changing.

The leap from the days of the SNES and Genesis to the Playstation and Gamecube marked a major technological leap in graphics and gameplay complexity. Games with true 3 dimensional graphics and high quality audio became the standard. The Xbox 360 and PS3 brought console gaming into the HDTV arena, in addition to bringing the power of the internet to the average console gamer. The PS2 did this quite well, but the connectivity was a peripheral and broadband internet was a rarity in most homes at the time. So what are the “Xbox 720” and PS4 going to offer to keep them relevant?

Currently, I’m building my own gaming/workhorse computer. When all is said and done, it will be several times more powerful than current console hardware and will easily outpace the next generation of consoles in every “power/capacity” regard. In total, I’m spending around $900 on this PC. $900 might sound like a lot, but considering the next-gen consoles are probably going to debut for ~$500-$600, be half as powerful, and not upgradable, I think it’s a perfectly reasonable alternative to buying new consoles when they come out. The main reason, however, for building your own PC instead of buying the new consoles is 4K UHD.

Right now, 1080p is basically the standard HD resolution that most TVs support. That’s going to change in the next few years. 1080p is basically a very low resolution compared to what’s going to become widely available, 2K UHD and 4K UHD, or 2160p and 4320p. To help understand the difference, here’s a nice graphic:


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My concern is that the next-gen consoles won’t be able to support 4K UHD output and that when 4K UHD TVs become the standard, either the console makers will have to release brand new systems or will get killed off because the consoles on the market will look like garbage on most TVs (higher-end 4K UHD TVs will provide decent upscaling, but those TVs will be absurdly expensive). All of this of course depends on how quickly affordable 4K UHD TVs become available. If they become the standard right after the consoles release and the consoles can’t keep up, new hardware will have to be developed. If it’s a few years down the road after the new consoles release, the transition will be more gradual and less expensive.

Based on current hardware trends, computing power gets about 20% faster every year. Considering that the current consoles have just barely managed to stay relevant by just barely supporting 1080p, I’m worried that next-gen consoles will only last for a few years rather than the 7-10 that the current consoles have been out for. What this means is that the $500-$600 price tag for consoles is only going to drop to about $400 at the end of a console’s shelf-life. Considering consoles are selling for around $200 now, I’d say that’s a pretty significant jump in cost-per-lifespan. The point is that consoles are going to be expensive for longer, which means less holiday savings, which means less sales overall (this is why the Wii was such a success, it was cheaper and more family friendly, despite being inferior graphically).

In other words, unless the next-gen consoles support 2K or 4K UHD for $600 or less and their price drops to under $400 within 4 years of their release, they’re going to be paperweights when UHD TVs become the standard. This could spell the end for HD console gaming. Mobile gaming is becoming more and more popular and it looks like it’s poised to replace consoles as the defacto gaming system in our homes. What purposes current consoles serve will be replaced with all-in-one media hubs built into TVs or standalone boxes like the Apple TV. Gaming will either be done on a mobile device or a custom built PC. And gaming will go through a major change over the next few years. Of course consoles will always be less powerful than current PC hardware, but they’ve always managed to be comparable. If they don’t support 4K UHD, however, their lack of horsepower isn’t going to be ignorable this time around.

Essentially, hardware and hardware standards are improving much faster than they were 10 years ago and the idea of a single device lasting more than 5 years these days is pretty absurd. After all, there’s a new iPhone every 6 months. Consoles can’t keep up with the new faster hardware upgrade cycle without either being more expensive upfront (future-proofing with high-end hardware) or being modular (upgradable over time as hardware improves). Both option defeat the purpose of the console in both price and ease of use.

To prevent the demise of the consoles, their makers need to support at least 2K UHD out of the box for the next-gen system OR provide an optional upgrade when 2/4K UHD becomes the standard in most homes (think the Wii’s Motion Plus or Xbox’s Kinect) that can be bundled with the core system for the holiday season. Current consoles are already serving plenty of home entertainment content, so those services just need to expand and become more streamlined. Hopefully Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are paying close attention and have plans to support future hardware improvements in a way that’s cost effective and efficient. If they aren’t, they’re screwed.


#2 lomas

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 09:59

PC gaming will die first, following by console and eventually replaced by tablet gaming..

#3 TheLegendOfMart

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 10:01

tl;dr.

No they aren't, 1080p TVs took years to become the norm, and technically they still arent as companies still sell sub 1080p TVs. This gen managed fine with 720p and sub 720p games.

As long as they can do 1080p with all the bells and whistles turned on there won't be a problem, by the time 2k/4k TVs become mainstream and as cheap as 1080p TVs are the PS5 and Next Xbox will be out.

#4 compl3x

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 10:09

If consoles died, the whole industry would be in trouble. Like it or not, publishers and devs probably make most of their money in the console market. We're seeing some movement towards mobile/tablet gaming, but, in my opinion, most tablet games seem to be the same idea over-and-over again. There was a time when it was fun and interesting, now I just feel like we've seen it all before.

Consoles will be fine. People seem to accept they're not as powerful as PCs and are willing to sacrifice power for useability.

(◐‿◑)

#5 Egocentric

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 10:17

So long as there's millions of punters spending £40+ on CoD, halo, fifa etc.. consoles aint going anywhere regardless of advancements in TV technology.

P.S. I'm one of those punters :)

#6 Yogurtmaster

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 10:18

You are going to have to wait until all of the next generation consoles are available to the public to answer that question.

4K is just crap on TV and movies. You would need to have a screen as big as a wall to really make use of that and the only people who are going to have a TV that big is someone that is rich.
1080p is enough right now and the prices of 4K TV's are going to be like 3D TV. So, I don't think the public will be interested. It's a waste of money and a waste of bandwidth.

#7 UKDarkJedi

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 10:30

1080p will be standard in the next gen and judging by this gen will last 7-8 years, and it was this generation of consoles that MADE 1080p the standard, alongside the bluray war. There are a handful of ludicrously expensive 4k sets in the wild, and absolutely no reason to purchase them as there is no content for them in production.

While we may have 1080p, we are missing a lot of fidelity in texture resolution, compression ratios, physical number of polygons etc etc meaning that while we have sort of crisp graphics, the human technology (ie, the creative skills to come along side it and draw the best out of it) still have a long way to go.

Console gaming will be fine until we can max all of that out. We're more in danger of being drowned in a see of unoriginal annual call of duty games than not having a console in almost every home.

#8 68k

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 10:41

I am sure game consoles will keep up (hardware just [amazingly] keeps on getting more powerful), but I presume the demand for HD 1080p TVs will still remain strong for the next few years to come, even if 4K and 8K ($$$) TVs are introduced next year. I personally don't see the point of upgrading to a unit with a higher resolution (than 1080p HD) - movies and games look great on 1080p, even on a projected 150" screen.

#9 nekkidtruth

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 11:14

PC gaming will die first, following by console and eventually replaced by tablet gaming..


Lmfao. Oh wait, are you being serious?

PC gaming isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Which means consoles will be around at least just as long. Tablet's have a LONG way to go before they're viable gaming options. Aside from being able to provide high end graphics for longer than an hour of straight gameplay (obviously I'm over exaggerating), the mainstream games currently out there require a little more involvement than "touch". *rolls eyes*

#10 The Teej

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 11:26

I've seen plenty of big TVs out there which aren't 1080p - so while yes, 1080p screens are cheap, I'd hardly call it the de-facto standard across every TV.

Secondly, you say your PC will be at least double the horse-power of a next-gen console. While, in terms of raw horsepower you are correct. However, build a computer with 256MB system RAM, a CPU nearly a decade old, and an 256MB nVidia 7600 GT, and get it to run Battlefield 3, Crysis 1/2, or any AAA game in the last 2 years, at any resolution above 480p @ 30 FPS. Tru-fax: it's not going to happen. My point being is, while PCs are awesome at running the current-gen games at a graphical fidelity that will destroy any current-gen console, it costs more to begin with and costs even more to maintain that gap.

If you look at games like Halo 4, Battlefield 3 or Crysis 2 running on PS3/360, while they don't look as good as their PC equivalents running on max, the fact that 7 year old hardware is able to pull it out at all, while looking quite respectable, is very impressive. Consoles have longer legs then you think. 720p was the target benchmark for games this generation and it's only recently that games needed to pull off sub-720p to really squeeze out the maximum out of the console. Considering 1080p HD 3D is now the rumoured benchmark for games next-gen, who's to say that a few select games (here's looking at you, Virtua Tennis 5!) may even be able to pull off 4K without 3D?

I genuinely think the next generation of consoles are going to blow our socks off. RAM is becoming incredibly cheap - even 8GB of DDR3 1800Mhz RAM is under £40 and that's a high-end performance RAM at retail - built onto a mobo direct from manufacturing will be ridiculously cheaper. Graphics chips are getting a lot cheaper... I definitely forsee having a powerhouse console for under $500, easy. Given people are willing to buy tablets which do similar functions (but worse) for more then that, $499 is a reasonable target, which adds a lot of room for technology.

Anyway - I'm not worried about the next generation of consoles. Once they come out, people who want the best gaming performance without shelling nearly a grand on hardware will be heading for the consoles; Plus, next-gen hardware is going to make tablet gaming visuals look laughable, just watch.

#11 Praetor

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 12:28

1080p + becoming common? 1080p isn't even widely as common, since there's lots and lots of of SD televisions still being sold, even now; also it took some time for the TV prices to go down.

#12 Arceles

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 13:30

Consoles may die... but when that happens they always go for a reliable platform, which is the PC.

#13 +warwagon

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 13:45

and eventually replaced by tablet gaming..


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#14 Praetor

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 13:50

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lmao

#15 The King of GnG

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 14:23

Yeah, consoles are dead, touchy-touchy toys and $0,99 apps are the future of gaming. For sure. No really. Oh, and PC gaming is dead as well: at least 5 times this year, the last time I checked.