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It hit me yesterday, specifically, after seeing an advert for the new Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliance game. Can one box, designed with the sole purpose of satisfying our gaming needs, really survive past the PS4 and Xbox 720?

As recently as last week, I had totally dismissed any statement like this. I saw a post on gaming news site N4G; a link to an Examiner.com article entitled ‘Playstation 4 and next-gens in danger of being final consoles, says game devs’. My eyes caught the headline and I instantly scoffed, thought to myself “What ever” and carried on looking at other headlines. However, now that thought has had time to fester in the recesses of my mind, it doesn’t sound as ludicrous as I first thought. The meteoric rise of mobile gaming, referring to actually mobile games courtesy of smartphones, and web browser games; predominantly Facebook ones, I actually believe our beloved gaming boxes, which ever pasture you graze from, could be under threat.

Around 2008/09 I started playing a little Facebook game called Mafia Wars. Its principle was amazingly simple, you had ‘energy‘ to use on ‘jobs‘ which were completed by just clicking a button. Once your energy ran out, you waited in real-time for it to replenish. Rinse and repeat. There was no animation and absolutely no movement on screen, interactivity; possibly the looses use of that term ever, was literally the clicking of a button, that was it. Somehow, despite being the graphics whore I am, I kept coming back to play this game, it was addictive.
Now come to 2010 and I got hooked on a different Facebook game, Battle Pirates. Vastly more resource intensive than Mafia Wars, yet only a few years newer. I’ve gone from clicking a button 50 times a day, to controlling a fleet of five ships on a battle map, navigating them to destroy the opposing fleet in a pseudo 3D world. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, we now also have a C&C browser game, that looks rather nice as well. Now I know this is hardly Uncharted or Gears of War but the progress is easily visible.

I know its not uncommon for something in its infancy to progress rapidly early on, but I can see this rapid progression having the potential to meet a plateauing games console head on. That may seem farfetched now but we’re not talking about a couple of years in the future. The PS4 isn’t out yet and the earliest we’re likely to see it is the last quarter of 2013. Sony also loves long life cycles; the PS2 is 12 years strong, the PS3 just recently turned 6 with a reported 10 year life cycle, so it seems logical a potential successor to the PS4 would not emerge until around 2020. That’s a long time, Facebook was 1 year old 7 years ago, with hardly anyone knowing what it was. Expecting the same expansion for Facebook over the next 7 years seems high unlikely but its gaming potential isn’t that old, so could easily reach a peek in 7 years time.

Its not just the technical advances of web browsers that could see the end of consoles, its convenience. Half the reason I play Facebook games as often as I do is because, obviously, I’m already on Facebook and its just one click away. I am also using my computer as my main device for connecting to Facebook, as I imagine most people are. The fact my work is computer based, as well as my interests, this means I don’t have to take myself fully out of my work space in order to have a 10 or 15 minute break playing a game. Whereas if I wanted to play my PS3, it could be 10 minutes before I even get to control my character, once I’ve waited for the machine to load, fetched the disc and then waited for the game itself to load. Why would I waste all that time when I can play something as equally enjoyable (personal preference I know), almost instantly? Consoles will be reserved for weekend sessions where people can get fully stuck in, not something to leap to for a 30 minute blitz.

Do I want this to happen? No. COULD, it happen? Yes.
I for one will keep buying Sony’s gaming boxes as I will always enjoy a good gaming session viewing top of the range graphics and animations. My circumstance may also change meaning I’m not at a PC as often, encouraging me to feed my inner gamer with console action instead of browser action. The games industry could itself change dramatically in 7 years, will we still have physical discs or will we have progressed to full digital content? Regardless of things like that, the convention of a stand alone gaming console could still be at risk. So please, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, keep pushing the boundaries and capabilities of your consoles. I don’t want to be on here in 7 years time writing a review for Farmville 5!

 

Agree with my thoughts? or think pigs have a greater chance of learning to fly? leave a comment ๐Ÿ™‚

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