John Carmack, once a visionary in video games and today technical director of id Software, said that the life cycle of next-generation video game consoles will be long, despite of emerging and existing competitors. While Mr. Carmack does not give a precise prediction about the life cycle of next-gen consoles from leading platform holders, he does warn about extinction of consoles as we know them.
"Console gaming might morph. You can certainly see cloud gaming being built into every display device and traditional consoles could become more like the audiophile niche of people who want the extreme experience there. [...] I hesitate to predict anything five, six years into the future, but the next generation should last a long time," said John Carmack in a brief interview with CVG web-site.
Both Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. predicted very long lifecycles for their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles in their early years. Sony originally said that the PS3 would last a decade, from 2006 to 2016; Microsoft was initially more cautious, but eventually also started to talk about a decade lifespan for the Xbox 360, which is from 2005 to 2016. At the end, analysts now believe that both companies will release their next-generation offerings in late 2013, which will still result into very long cycles for both leading platform holders.
With proliferation of cloud streaming of video games, mobile gaming, social gaming and other new types of gaming, the high-end PCs and game consoles may lose their popularity among casual and non-frequent gamers as they will see no value in spending money on hardware. As a result, there is a chance that game consoles will begin to see their end already this year.
Michael J. Olson and Andrew D. Connor, analysts at Piper Jaffray, expect an average decline of 53% for software sales in the first 14 months of the next-gen console cycles from the three companies. Hardware sales will also suffer. Nintendo Wii U will sell only 35% of the volume of the original Wii during its first 14 months. Unit sales of Sony PlayStation 4 "Orbis" in the first 14 months will represent 50% of the PS3's sales in the same timeframe. The successor of Xbox 360 will sell only 55% of the volume that the Xbox 360 has in its first 14 months before it.
Will game consoles become an audiophile-like niche? Only time will tell.