Since the beginning of the gaming industry in the 1970s with the Magnavox Odyssey, gaming historians and industry people alike have classified gaming eras into generations. These have lasted about five to six years until the next generation began, marked by a new set of hardware releases that generally came out within a year of one another. Some generations still keep going instead of ending when a new generation begins, but most of the attention goes to the new guy because customers like new technology.
But something strange has happened recently. Back in Microsoft's 2016 E3 conference, they basically said they're done with generations and will be moving BEYOND generations. They're saying that Project Scorpio is not a new generation, but part of the perpetual continuation of the existing eighth one.
Sony, the company famous for proclaiming that their systems have at least a 10-year life-cycle, similarly released/announced the PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation 4 Slim. Now, hardware revisions aren't anything new to the industry, but this isn't just a redesign — there is added POWER. Meanwhile, there's no announced plans for a PlayStation 5 to exist... not yet, anyway.
You look at Nintendo and what they just did with the New Nintendo 3DS XL or New Nintendo 2DS XL, and those also have power upgrades within the same system life-cycle. The Nintendo Switch itself demonstrates Nintendo's willingness to move on from the eighth generation's Wii U to a newer one, but the editors at Wikipedia are currently unwilling to say there is a ninth generation just yet. That leaves the Nintendo Switch in some weird, hidden, “other generation” category.
What does this all mean?
|I-It's true! The PlayStation 3 really has been supported for over 10 years!|
The gaming industry is at an unprecedented time of uncertainty. Perhaps E3 2017, coming up in a month, will make things more certain. ...Perhaps they will be even less certain. Even Microsoft is confused about what Project Scorpio will mean, and if games will be exclusive to it or not.
That's not a good sign when the pioneer of the end of videogame hardware life-cycles isn't even putting on a brave face and bluffing their way out of it.
Interestingly enough, Nintendo of all companies is traversing the traditional route in trying to maintain console generations. Sure, the 2DS/3DS having power-upgrades mid-cycle is complicating things, but that's all a sideshow compared to the ultimate promise of the Nintendo Switch — a hybridisation of Nintendo's console and handheld lines. (Keep in mind that Nintendo is the only one WITH a handheld line, since the PlayStation Vita might as well not exist.) Being a hybrid system in no way overturns the hardware generation life-cycle mindset.
What Microsoft and maybe-maybe not Sony are doing is revolutionising the mindset — they just don't know where that revolution will lead them.
Why is this unprecedented uncertainty happened NOW? Well, if you look at all of the other components of the electronics industries, you'll see that this has been going on for a while now. Software has moved to an agile cloud-based subscription model on the idea that it's more profitable in the long-run. Hardware is pretty much “release something iteratively new as soon as you can” within a year or two after the previous hardware launch. Only videogames has had this clearly-defined pattern of hardware launches, telling software developers, “these are the tools you'll get to play with for half a decade”, even if what's cutting-edge has long moved on.
Now? Everything is in flux.
Oh, Moore's Law may or may not have something to do with it, but people can't even agree if Moore's Law is dead or not, so let's hold off on that.
For now, console gaming is going to look a bit more like PC gaming where there are many more platform variations to develop and compatibility-test for. That takes away a unique aspect of this industry, and I only hope that developers will be able to stay on top of things, especially with game development cycles being as long as they are.
Can't wait for E3? Neither can KoopaTV! KoopaTV hopes that for the sake of the industry (and the staff's collective curiosity), many of the questions raised in this article will be answered in a fun and entertaining way. Do you want the console market to look more like the PC gaming one? Can you even keep up with where this industry is headed? And do you count Cars 3: Driven to Win as on-going support for the PlayStation 3?
What is YOUR favourite generation of gaming? Vote in the Best Year in Gaming GameFAQs contest!