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If you've been around for more than 10 years, the evolution of the game console isn't anything new. We're so accustomed to it that it's just another part of life and we realize that our once prized possession of a console will inevitably become obsolete. It's a sad truth, but one that we all know too well, yet that doesn't stop us from purchasing the latest and greatest consoles. I can say that over the years I've owned quite a few of the, at the time, latest consoles and I've never been 'brand-locked' like some players. I've owned systems from Nintendo, Microsoft, Sega and Sony, I even did a flashback in my mid-teens when I found an Atari for sale from an old lady who was getting rid of "all her deatbeat son's shit", her words NOT mine.
Currently I own an Xbox One and a PlayStation 4 and it's been heavenly to play all the biggest and best games as often as I can while having two young boys in the house. Yet, there's been that nagging question in the back of my mind is when will these consoles be old enough to need a new one. The announcements from this year about the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox 360 finally ending production were a long time coming, but it still hit me right in the feels because those were THE consoles when I was younger.
So, it doesn't really come as a surprise that we would probably endure a similar transition out of the Xbox One and PS4 and the recent leaks would have us believe that at E3 this year we might get some confirmation as to what the future holds, but these are the rumors.
Microsoft looks to evolve
A few weeks ago Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's Xbox division, made an interesting comment about the future of game consoles. He spoke about how he wanted the Xbox system to become an innovative hardware console. He saw Microsoft upgrading rather than replacing consoles. His aim being to unify Windows 10 and Xbox One development under the same moniker of "Universal Windows Platform" while offering backwards compatibility and shifting the playing field away from Sony's market dominance. He's looking to take his console to the next step in evolution by taking a page from the PC handbook and introduce an upgradeable console.
"You'll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible," Phil Spencer tells us during his keynote at the Xbox Spring Showcase "...that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovations without invalidating the games that run on that platform."
Microsoft believes that they can utilize the same innovation that PC's utilize to upgrade their hardware specs. So we could be looking at the end of generational model shifting like we've become accustomed to: Xbox to Xbox 360 to Xbox One. Now we could be looking at keeping a singular console and adding the flexibility of upgrading the components within the console itself to allow for bigger, faster and more process heavy games that would have originally been confined to the newest console generation.
If this turns out to be true, it could be a huge step forward for Microsoft in the console wars, as the turnover of consoles has been a major gripe of fans worldwide, who want to be able to enjoy their current system without feeling like they're missing out on the latest and greatest. The hope is that Xbox One owners would be able to purchase optional hardware upgrades that could be installed in order to keep up with new and emerging technologies. It could bring about a re-focus on putting out the best games regardless of platform, and it could theoretically reshape the console launch era, or at the very least spread out the 'new console craze'.
Sony wants to shift focus to a virtual world
We've been hearing rumors of the PS 4.5 for a while now, and it's looking to be closer and closer to a reality at this point as sources all over the place are talking about potential specs and capabilities. Yet, if there's anything we've learned about the gaming world, it's this: nothing is set in stone until it's in your hand. The current trending rumors are that the PlayStation 4.5 is somewhere between a brand new console to an external attachment that interfaces with the upcoming VR system.
Regardless of if it's a new console or a just an interface that upgrades processing power, one thing is for certain: Sony wants to invest in VR and gameplay that pushes 4K resolution. This push is certainly a great direction for Sony in general as they've pushed the limits of their systems and it's put them ahead of the curve from day one compared to the competition. The currently code-named "NEO" looks to squeeze some extra processing power which would boost the already solid gaming experience, as well as bode well for the PlayStation VR integration.
There's no denying that the PS4 is the front runner in the console battle, it's been that way for a while, and by focusing on virtual reality gaming (and doing it well) could easily cement Sony as THE console to develop on. Developing VR games is, quite honestly, the current trend in gaming and it could easily skyrocket Sony into the next generation of consoles without actually releasing a new iteration of the PlayStation (that is if the NEO isn't a new console in and of itself.)
Nintendo could shift to a hybrid device
Nintendo has, sadly taken quite the backseat to both Sony and Microsoft in recent years even though they've had an innovative line-up of consoles over the last decade. Except what many consider to be Nintendo's downfall could in fact become their saving grace in the next iteration of consoles. Over the years Nintendo has devoted their time and developmental energies into two facets of the industry: handheld and console. That split focus had many people thinking that they would eventually go under and the console division would be dead. But if the rumors turn to be true, it looks as though Nintendo will attempt to merge both sides of the business into a new hybrid. That hybrid is currently being called the NX.
The rumors are that the NX will bring Nintendo into fair contention with Sony & Microsoft as it will have similar processing power to that of the Xbox One, which in and of itself is a huge step forward for Nintendo. The rumors also point to a true hybrid handheld/console similar to the current WiiU but with far improved graphics as well as the return of the sorely missed third-party content. If all goes as I believe it will (as the rumors point) the Nintendo NX will be a handheld system that lets you stream via HDMI to a television and pull your game library from the cloud.
Wait, what? the cloud? - Yes, based on the rumors and a patent filed by Nintendo that could "couple to a supplemental computing device" there's a definite possibility that Nintendo is looking to make a console that is as mobile as you are. A base unit where you can load games to your storage, but then access them from somewhere else. Now this idea is really vague, but just think about the potential of not being limited to playing Super Smash Bros while hooked to your television. You could drop Bowser while you're in the bathroom dropping something else. The potential seems limitless if this really is the direction that Nintendo is heading.
Ultimately, it's all rumors and speculations, but it's interesting to think about the future of gaming and what's in store for all of us faithful gamers.