Will video game consoles soon disappear?

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Will game consoles disappear from our living rooms? In view of technological advances, we can quite imagine a future without consoles. The question is when. And things could change faster than we imagine.

Microsoft and Samsung have just announced that Xbox Game Pass (Netflix for video games) and Xbox Cloud Gaming, the American’s cloud gaming service, are now integrated into Korean TVs sold in 2021. Those sold in 2022 already included these two services.

Concretely, this means that players who subscribe to Xbox Game Pass can play a selection of games without buying a console. A controller connected via bluetooth to the Samsung TV is enough, as is already the case with iOS, Android or Google Chromebook devices.

With such possibilities, we can therefore imagine that in the near future, game consoles will disappear. This would also solve the problem of shortages (which Microsoft and Sony are familiar with with their next-gen consoles) and would reduce the production of electronic components that are so destructive to our planet.

Moreover, the constructors are formal: the consoles bring them almost nothing but make it possible to retain players and sell games and accessories, which are much more profitable. So why continue?

The answer is simple: cloud gaming as we know it today still has a few hurdles to overcome before you can replace a home console.

The technical limits of cloud gaming

On paper, the idea is excellent. Through an application, you can access your game library and have fun by simply connecting a controller to the nearest connected device (smartphone, tablet, TV).

In practice, the current state of the market faces two major issues. First of all, cloud gaming applications are not available on all media. While Xbox Cloud Gaming can be installed on most smartphones, tablets and computers, it is only available on a limited share of televisions.

What about manufacturers who have not sealed a partnership with each cloud gaming service provider? For owners of these TVs, you will have to go through the TV box box (Android or Apple TV). Again, the availability of applications must be negotiated. That takes time.

Second problem: the connection speed. Today, to enjoy a good cloud gaming experience, it is essential to be connected to a very high speed network or even necessarily to fiber, if possible in ethernet. Because the quality of the network will depend on the comfort of play. If we accept a few slowdowns in exploration or adventure games, it is unthinkable to suffer these technical bugs on very nervous online games like Call of Duty, on sports games like Fifa or NBA 2K or car racing games.

The end of consoles not for now

Some companies have already paid the price for the technical limitations of cloud gaming. We think for example of Google and its Stadia service. The French Shadow, specialist in cloud computing (your entire PC is available on the cloud) also had to review its entire model. Microsoft also recognizes that its Xbox Game Pass with cloud gaming included is not profitable.

Beyond the technical limits, it is also the economic model that must change. If players have to pay for their games only in dematerialized form, they demand an optimal experience. Some will argue that a purely dematerialized video game industry would be catastrophic. However, a Resetera study published in May 2022 reveals that 80% of games purchased on PS4 and PS5 are dematerialized.

Nevertheless, cloud gaming forces us to rethink the entire industry. If home consoles are no more, physical games no longer exist. What happens to video game stores? What about the second-hand market?

Microsoft has announced that it is abandoning its Keystone project, a small Chromecast-style box that would allow access to Xbox Cloud Gaming from any television. The company prefers to focus on the application allowing access to the service from any device. Yes, in view of technological advances, it is very likely that home consoles will disappear one day. But not right now.

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