We’re only just starting to really think about the next generation of consoles, but according to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, it could be the last.
After the release of what we're speculating will be the PlayStation 5 (likely), Xbox Two (less likely) and Nintendo Stick (a wild guess), Guillemot believes we could see a significant rise in streaming that will render dedicated hardware less necessary.
Speaking to Variety, Guillemot said: “I think we will see another generation, but there is a good chance that step-by-step we will see less and less hardware. With time, I think streaming will become more accessible to many players and make it not necessary to have big hardware at home. There will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming, all of us.”
From where we stand at the moment, it’s hard to imagine Guillemot’s predictions coming true. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have sold hundreds of millions of units between them, while the Nintendo Switch is being embraced by players around the world.
What the future holds
Although we do have streaming services such as PlayStation Now, there’s certainly no danger of them replacing dedicated consoles and downloads, never mind physical copies of games, any time soon. That is, in part, because physical hardware is what’s familiar, but it’s also because internet connections and speeds around the world are so varied that, for millions of users, streaming high-quality games isn't an option.
That said, we’re still around three years away from the next generation of consoles, which could then last for another six or seven years. That would mean that Guillemot is looking at 2028/2029 – and when you think about it in those terms, what he’s imagining may not seem so outlandish.
In the next decade, just as in the last, we could see technology advance in significant ways that would allow for stable and reliable streaming. Average broadband speeds are increasing, governments are committing to creating more reliable internet infrastructure, and we’re starting to hear more and more about 5G.
The rise in popularity of digital downloads suggests that perceptions about permanent ownership of games are already changing. Already we’re seeing Xbox play around with Netflix-style libraries with its Game Pass service, and it’s not hard to imagine this becoming a service that’s streaming-only, and accessible on any streaming device.
It's possible that in time we could reach a point in gaming, as in music, TV and movies, where consumers are able to choose the option that suits them. A rise in streaming would not necessarily negate the desire for games that can be purchased in physical and digital form, it would just sit alongside those as another option.
If the industry did reach this streaming-focused point it would “help the AAA game industry grow much faster,“ according to Guillemot. He added: “We have to work on the accessibility of those games, to make sure they can be played on any device, but the fact that we will be able to stream those games on mobile phones and television screens without a console is going to change a lot of the industry.”
Guillemot’s predictions are truly a case of ‘only time will tell’ and, as unlikely as they may seem right now, a lot can change in the space of a console generation.
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