A year ago I said this gen will even the field and entertainment/media will be equally as important as games are on the consoles.
Since then Nintendo has a console with dramatically better digital space, great browser and apps for all the primary web-based internet entertainment as well as the promise of more apps coming. Along with a tied-in social network and a clear pursuit of digital sales. Considering Nintendo is a gaming company first, its obvious this takes time for them to build and they're still reeling from slower than expected sales and major OS fixes (mostly fixed in Spring, but some new ones coming still).
Sony has introduced a powerful gaming console that at this point hasn't focused much on its non-gaming aspects, but that is clearly more to do with marketing and being competitively different than MS than anything the device will or will not do. Looking at Vita/PS3 and combining that with what we have seen on PS4 UI/Sharing/PSN+; its obvious Sony is greatly expanding its non-gaming aspects. It will easily surpass Nintendo in built-in apps and likely have a similar browser as PS3 used the same company (though an older variant) as Nintendo's WiiU. Finally, Sony has a lot to gain by expanding their streaming capabilities since they offer a lot of hardware beyond Playstations.
Then we come to the Xbox One. Clearly MS is positioning this as a full entertainment device and not a "game console". MS is taking the more direct approach and even advertised its media functionality first and foremost over its very good selection of games shown later.
How about the similarities in each? All three have a robust online shop that will dramatically push digital games over what was done last-gen. All three will offer seemingly open-ended storage options for consumers. All three have all of the major access for web-enabled video/music streaming. In fact the only major difference is Nintendo's lack of physical media playback (non-gaming), but that is really because Nintendo refuses to pay for licensing and next-gen digital only base will make that feature obsolete.
So that brings us to next-gen. To me these are clear steps in one direction, especially for Microsoft. Next gen will be digital only devices with strong options for streaming high-quality gaming and other full entertainment.
First let's discuss the internet bandwidth issue as that's really the only bottleneck. Its rapidly expanding to be a point of no concern. Services like Google's Fiber are growing fast throughout the world and in 5 years time there will be a large segment of the world that will be connected in high bandwidth scenario's. Additionally, wireless is moving at a fast rate and in 5 years time LTE will also be approaching the 100Gb range which would be most beneficial to poorer nations as its cheaper to put out cellular than fiber lines. This also means a whole new way to play for portables.
Nintendo is the most behind in this scenario as they have no experience in this. But I'm sure we'll see samplings as this gen moves on and Nintendo realizes they need this capability. This is also hinted at in their move to combine their portable and home console divisions. Their next console is likely to be both a portable and home console and along with the limitation on storage when portable, Nintendo will want to implement streaming options. With the rise in wireless bandwidth, it make this portable+home console idea with streaming a fantastic option for them. Especially considering that unlike MS/Sony/Apple/Google, they don't build PCs/tablets/phones/etc... just game consoles.
Sony is already building this and will have it in place soon for many of their offerings and especially older titles. This is exactly why they bought Gaikai. They also have a huge stake in music/movies and PS4 will have an unlimited usage option for both categories. Additionally, Vita is already positioning itself for similar features. I really shouldn't have to explain this for Sony as the systems are already in place, in their infancy and will only grow. The only possible exception for Sony is their desire to launch truly global. But in 5 to 7 years I'd think that even most of those areas will have greatly improved wireless technology. So Sony might feel less hampered and more willing to put in place online requirements.
Microsoft will have this same tech as Sony this gen and they've already created an online requirement. I'd even wager that Xbox One will be this device before the launch of its successor. In my opinion, MS successor will come in 5 years and will be a simple redesign of Xbone in a similar fashion as phones/tablets change as they move their entire ecosystem to digital only. This is MS's end goal. Think about it. If everything is digital and they can stream content in high quality, then there is no need to care what the hardware is. It could be your Windows Phone, Windows tablet, Windows PC, Windows Xbox... it doesn't matter. Its all Windows which is the entire point to them. It'll have their yearly OS with $50 upgrades and access to plethora of applications/games/media via there store.
MS will get here first with Sony there at their heels and Nintendo playing catch up as they learn the competencies to play in this new game.
2018 will be interesting.
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