If you look at modern consumer technology products like tablets and smartphones, you'll notice that these devices are always being refreshed with better, faster versions almost every year. That kind of refresh cycle has lead Twitch co-founder Emmet Shear to question the sustainability of big game consoles like the Xbox One, Playstation 4 or the Wii U.
In an interview with Gamespot, Shear alludes to groups like Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony having to break away from their current business models:
"The problem is, the seven-year upgrade lifecycle doesn't work in the face of the two-year upgrade cycles for every other hardware platform"
Shear makes an excellent point. With console hardware sprouting up from several well-known OEMs, like the Razer Forge TV or the Alienware Alpha, the three big console manufacturers may not be able to afford to run 7-8 years without updating the hardware. Shear also observes that Microsoft and Sony could be priming themselves for hardware refreshes through the tightening of software:
"You can already see this on both Xbox and PlayStation where there's a tighter upgrade loop for both the operating systems and the games. This is the first step toward being able to iterate the hardware platform."
If any of the big manufacturers were to iterate on previous platforms, there are a couple ways to go about it. A console maker could simply release newer consoles every few years, but the issue of cost and maintaining backwards compatibility are emphasized. Otherwise a console would have to leave room for hardware improvements in the future, like Nintendo's removable memory cartridge in the N64.
Shear isn't trying to criticize current consoles. With Sony and Microsoft's consoles, Twitch has seen "smashing success" since its introduction to those platforms. But he feels that something closer to set-top boxes will eventually take over. Even with intelligent software additions like DirectX 12 that improve console performance, the future for console hardware may favor more frequent refreshes.