State of the Game Address: The Evolution ( and death?) of home videogame consoles.

Many people credit the Atari with being the true grandfather of videogame consoles. Certainly there existed other home console based games but the Atari supported  inter-changeable hardware to actually play the games, the cartridge. Console attempts before it had either had a limited number of games hardwired into the console (yay! you bought a console and now here is the same five games to play forever!) or just use screen overlays to change the “graphics” of the game a la the Odyssey.

The Atari changed this with its game cartridges, that could be sold seperately and allowed for awesome cover art on the cartridges themselves. As a retro videogame collector, I think that may be one of the biggest reasons I love old games so much, that awesome box and cartridge art. Sure the actual game may just be dots shooting at other dots but the cover art could be epic and help to build your imagination as you played. Those dots over there? Yeah they are bad guys like on the cover of the box, blow em up!

Okay. Lets focus now.

Recently in the gaming universe I’ve seen some comments from big names bashing consoles and saying that their day is coming to an end. Most of these comments come from PC developers and gamers, but even some of those who have been involved in console development have become naysayers as well. Their main point of agitation is the fact that console gaming is archaiec and represents a business model that is no longer viable or sane, and that streaming and “cloud” gaming is going to bring the horseman of death and destruction to the console world and  make that beloved piece of hardware under your TV as obsolete as a n-gage.

Those on the other side of the argument present valid points though, like those that don’t have access to high speed internet. Streaming and cloud storage is useless to them. Having an actual piece of hardware and software that they can physically own and store is the only way they can enjoy their pastime. Even though high-speed internet is probably available to more people now than it ever has been, there are still vast groups of people in areas that simply can’t get access to it. So are we just going to leave them out of the loop? Let technology pass them by and hope they catch up one day?

I don’t think this is really going to happen. I think consoles will evolve, as they have continually done. Internet play, LAN connectivity, upgradeable hardware and firmware, these are all things that consoles have evolved over time to compete with PC brethren and to offer more exciting features to the consumer. There is no reason to believe that consoles won’t adapt into streaming and “cloud” gaming as well as keep physical discs and hardware available to the consumer. Though some rumors have bounced around that ps4 or xbox next won’t have physical disc drives, I seriously doubt that is the case. Though those consoles may have many new features for streaming full games and movies than even now, I fully believe they will retain their physical disc drives and features as well. No company is going to be willing to cut out a vast number of consumers with economic situations like the one we reside in, it would be foolish.

Will there be a day that your traditional console is useless and all games and media are streamd directly into your TV? Many years down the road I say, and if for no other reason than the vast majority of consumers still prefer to own physical copies of their games and movies. So don’t worry those of you without broadband internet connections, I don’t think the videogame world is going to be leaving you behind just yet.

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Brandon

Collector of retro video games, blogger of blogs, and caster of pods. I'm a resident of Northeast Mississippi where I live with my wife and hold court as the Chief Video Game consultant for the Just us Geeks empire.
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