The landscape of gaming has changed dramatically since consoles first started to dominate living rooms. The days of picking up the latest N64 release from Game or renting an old favourite from BlockBuster are long, long gone.
Now the console market is flooded with dozens of new attractions to entice consumers, the gaming aspect seems almost superfluous to the various online marketplace.
Things such as streaming, social networking and TV dominate the focus of modern consoles. Anybody watching the reveal for the Xbox One cannot have failed to notice that the event had already lasted a significant amount of time before the topic of gaming was even mentioned. Instead, Microsoft chose to spend their time selling the new TV streaming service on Xbox One as well as the plethora of privacy invading voice and video monitoring features provided by the now infamous Kinect mandate.
It seems aeons ago when gaming was the sole focus of these consoles, when the only available internet was dialup which provided a lethargic 0.06 MB/s – barely adequate for loading pictures, let alone streaming full HDTV (which didn’t actually exist at the time).
Gaming was the be all and end all of consoles: there was no dashboard to provide you with adverts for movies to download or DLC to purchase; if there was no game inserted, the console would just instruct you to insert one.
Gaming consoles have now become full entertainment systems which encompass a whole host of different things for their owners to use. This is not necessarily a bad thing though; the transformation of the console into a multi-purpose device does give a great deal more for players to do when they aren’t playing games, and provides the owner with great value for money.
This also allows those who don’t buy dozens of games a year to use their purchase to do other things and maximise the utility they recieve from it.
In terms of gaming, the extra content and full games available for quick and easy download directly to the device provide even easier ways to play more games, especially with the thousands of Indie titles now cheaply available.
But the market needs something which will look past all of this and provide gamers with the core experience: something which prioritises gaming above all else and eschews unnecessary extras.
Hopefully the Steam Machines from Valve, set to be released next year, will be our answer to this problem and force the big console companies to return their focus to what their machines were designed to do, although it is unfortunately yet to be seen.