How long until Sony and Microsoft pull the plug on the previous generation?
Let’s face it, the previous generation seems to be coming to an end. Ubisoft have said they will no longer be developing games for PS3 or Xbox 360 (apart from the casual Just Dance series), and Call of Duty: Black Ops III will not be coming to last gen either, as far as we know right now. Could this be the beginning of the end for the PS3 and the Xbox 360? Firstly, let’s look at the statistics.
The PS2 released March 4th, 2000 and was officially discontinued worldwide on January 4, 2013. That is almost 13 years, the longest for any games console ever, and almost 7 years into the PS3 life. The Xbox released November 15, 2001 in North America, and was officially discontinued in the same region May 18, 2008. That is a life of around 6 and a half years, and only around 2 and half years into the Xbox 360 life. So, this means the PS3 is now reaching its 9th year and the Xbox 360 is now reaching its 10th, so does that give us a good idea of how much longer the consoles have? In my opinion, not really, as the difference between the hardware and other functions of the last gen are vastly difference to the generation before them.
Something to keep in mind is that the PS2 was almost solely a games console, it could play DVD’s as well, but its primary purpose was to play games. The PS3 on the other hand, not only functions as a games console, but also a DVD and Blu-ray player, it can be used to watch Netflix or listen to music online, as well as the fact the PSN Store holds a lot of titles and of course continued support with PlayStation Now. I think that primary hope for the PS3 is that the PSN Store could sustain the PS3 indefinitely through digital titles as long as Sony keeps supporting it. I know I have a lot of digital titles that are exclusive to PS3 such as Ni No Kuni (also on DS but exclusive to Japan) and Tokyo Jungle, but even then, developers are encouraged to be developing for the PS4 primarily, rather than for the previous generation.
When the PS4 was announced there was a plethora of indie games they showed off, showing that indie devs are more likely to be supporting the current gen rather than the previous. As for the Microsoft side of things, the Xbox 360 uses DVD discs so there is no Blu-ray functionality there, but again, there is an online store, online movies, and essentially everything the same as PS3. The ecosystems alone could support these consoles for the long haul, provided Microsoft and Sony do the same.
In a broader sense I think the fact that both last generation consoles have dedicated Internet features shows that they can last a lot longer than their previous counterparts. When a game released on PS2 it had to be in a finished state, the days of post-launch updates were yet to come. Online play was fairly barren in my experience (although that can probably be blamed on New Zealand being 10 years behind the rest of the world) so in reality, once the PS3 launched, there wasn’t a lot of reason to continue to play, or to develop on the PS2, when a superior console had released.
But comparing this to the PS3 and PS4, there are a lot less differences. The PS4 is actually the first main PlayStation console to not use a different form of media for games. The PS1 used CD’s, the PS2 used DVD’s and the PS3 used Blurays and Digital, so why are developers moving away from the PS3 when the PS4 offers nothing new? In my opinion, it comes down to hardware. The PS4 and Xbox One offer a lot more in terms of hardware compared to the previous generation, so much in fact that less than 2 years into their life, developers are already moving away from the last generation. All in all it comes down to whether it’s profitable to keep developing for the older generations, if they’re spending more money porting games backwards than they’re making, then it’s only natural to stop doing it.
To give my opinion on how long the PS3 and Xbox 360 have, I think we’re looking at discontinuation of the consoles in 2016 at the earliest. I think 3 years crossing into the current generation is more than enough, and in terms of how fast the PS4 and Xbox One are selling, almost all the games we will be seeing at E3 this year will be for current gen and PC. Not to mention that the latest NPD report showed an increasing decline in sales of previous gen consoles.
To conclude I’d also like to speculate on the future of consoles and where I believe they will be going in the future. I think the most likely way of the future is going to be cloud gaming. We’ve got perhaps only 1 more console generation ahead of us before we start seeing things like small PC’s capable of streaming HD gameplay to our screens, rather than downloading or having a physical copy, become the norm. The internet is growing faster and faster and with streaming TV and movies becoming more popular in the past few years, I think it’s only a matter of time before gaming will also reach this.
But a part of me doesn’t want to move this way, I want that new game smell as I crack open that case for the first time. I want to read the 4 page manual as my 5GB day 1 patch downloads. I want to have the Collectors Ultimate Survival Edition box sitting on my shelf to collect dust and bring regret every time I walk past it. I guess the one thing about the games industry is that it is changing and evolving fast and we will just have to see what the future holds for us.