The new consoles are hitting a market which has become more fragmented than ever.
Even within the consoles themselves, there are multitudes of gamers and types thereof – those who are indie fanatics, casual gamers, hardcore, Minecraft junkies, Call of Duty online gamers, those who watch their TV through their consoles, those who game outside of the living room and much more besides.
We’ve seen steps being taken by both Sony and Microsoft to try and make their latest console offerings as versatile as possible – both wanting to position themselves as a ‘hub’ rather than as a standalone unit.
This will mean consoles which are more integrated into other devices than ever before, but it will also mean that the console most likely to dominate this new generation will be the one which can adapt most quickly to the ever-changing environment the hardware now finds itself in.
Perhaps one of the most jarring things about Microsoft’s Xbox One announcement was that it would demand so much of the consumer. Always online, Kinect being mandatory and a bunch of other measures meant that it wasn’t so much easing its way into the lounge room as it was dominating it and demanding that the users play with the console on Microsoft’s terms.
Of course, presumably Microsoft intended for its walled garden to be so filled with entertainment for all types of gamers that it felt it would cater to everybody. Which is great! But you can’t cater to a non-existence install base, and the measures it was employing simply weren’t winning it any friends.
One thing is for sure – the consoles at the end of the generation will look nothing like the consoles at the start of the generation.
Previous consoles built in the ability to update their primary user interfaces, add buttons to the home screens, add online functionality at all (a couple of generations ago), and this has allowed both to change with the times.
What will end up being a key factor in this generation, however, is future-proofing of hardware by means perhaps invisible at this stage.
Remember, when the PS3 and Xbox 360 launched, there was no such thing as an iPhone.
Survival of the most adaptable will be the name of the game this generation.