Are the Days of the Games Console Numbered?


For decades, video gaming has been synonymous with the consoles which the majority of players have traditionally owned. Ever since the early days of the Atari 2600, right through to today’s PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, these machines have typically been the easiest, cheapest, and most convenient way to play the biggest and best blockbuster video games released at the time. 

But, with technology marching forwards at a faster and faster pace, there are new ways to play and more distribution channels through which developers can get their content into the hands of gamers. 

So, does that mean the days of the console are numbered?

What Is a Games Console?

Before we can understand whether consoles are an endangered species, we need to understand why they exist.

A games console is a device specifically designed for playing video games – a task which they perform exceedingly well. However, traditionally, they have not been great at anything else. 

Before the creation of the first consoles, video games were primarily played on giant computers in arcades. But these machines were not accessible to everyone as arcades were not found in every community. The only other alternative was a home computer, but these were prohibitively expensive. 

Games consoles were developed as a way to solve this problem, making video games more widely available and affordable for a broader audience. 

To make early consoles affordable, manufacturers used lower-powered hardware than conventional PCs but deployed clever optimisations to compensate for it. Many were then sold at a loss to lock players into their ecosystem where profit could be made from the games themselves. 

Modern Consoles – Deviating From the Script

The situation is different today. Modern consoles are essentially just repackaged PCs. For example, the PlayStation 5  is powered by an AMD Zen 2 processor with eight cores and 16 threads, 16 GB of GDDR6 memory, and an AMD RDNA 2 GPU. 

The console’s operating system is a modified version of the open-source FreeBSD OS, rather than something coded entirely from scratch. 

It isn’t possible to build the exact machine yourself, but it’s relatively easy to construct a custom computer with essentially the same components (aside from the motherboard). Yet, it will still cost you significantly more. 

This is because Sony and Microsoft both still sell their consoles as loss leaders and use economies of scale to find cost savings. 

Other Platforms Have Access to More Content

In the past, console gamers often had access to exclusive titles that couldn’t be played elsewhere. However, with the advent of cloud computing, Microsoft and Sony are making this content available on other internet-connected devices. 

On top of that, both mobile and PC gamers have a range of titles that aren’t easily available on consoles. 

One good example of this is online casinos. In recent years, iGaming brands have invested heavily in creating a vast array of unique content so that they can appeal to as many players as possible. This is why you’ll find multiple variants of table games like roulette, such as standard and American, as well as high roller and live dealer options. 

These casinos are typically available through a web browser, dedicated software for Windows, and/or mobile apps, allowing players access to thousands of games in one place. 

On top of that, PC gamers have one of the biggest libraries of historic content. By using tools like DOSBox, a Windows 11 user would be able to play tens of thousands of titles released as far back as the 1980s.

In contrast, a PS5 owner will have a couple of thousand backwards-compatible games from Sony’s previous consoles, at most. 

Here For a While Longer

In summary, we can see that modern games consoles have deviated from the traditional formula of offering a cheap and cheerful device that unlocks titles that were not playable anywhere else. 

The hardware inside is no longer cheap and there is less exclusivity in the games released for consoles.

That said, consoles still remain one of the cheapest ways to enjoy top-rate games and they continue to be a great way to lock players into an ecosystem. So, while the writing does appear to slowly be appearing on the wall for consoles, their demise is likely to be a slow one.