Will gaming consoles be a thing of the past?

Xbox held their summer showcase, announcing a year’s worth of titles, and most of them will be available on Xbox Game Pass, from Day One.

The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S gamepads

Xbox held their summer showcase, announcing a year’s worth of titles, and most of them will be available on Xbox Game Pass, from Day One.

Last week, Microsoft and Samsung announced they’d be partnering up to bring an Xbox TV app to Samsung’s 2022 models. This means gamers don’t necessarily need a console to enjoy the full gaming experience. 

The entire week and weekend saw several developers and companies hold their own showcases. Playstation announced the remake of The Last Of Us Part I for Playstation 5 and Netflix announced The Queen’s Gambit Chess, based on one of their hit shows from last year, but Xbox’s showcase seemed to be the juiciest one. 

Xbox’s showcase differed in the sense that at the end of many of the title presentations, the words “Play It Day One With Game Pass” appeared, meaning the game would be part of the Xbox Game Pass Subscription from release day. It’s a rarity, with most games only making it to the cloud-based gaming subscription after several months of being available to purchase. 

Xbox Series X

But if anything, it seems to be a sign that times – and the whole industry- is changing. While Sony and Playstation are sticking to the more traditional model of releasing a game for their consoles first, Xbox seems to be gearing up to ditch the console altogether. 

This, of course, is still many years away. Consoles have always been at the heart of gaming and both the Xbox Series X and S launched in November 2020, same time as the Playstation 5. Both Xbox and Playstation have consoles that are digital-only, with no disc drive, allowing players to de-clutter their lives and not invest in physical copies of games.

Playstation hasn’t invested as much time and effort (nor money probably) to their Playstation Plus service, which seems to be more of an afterthought to them that Game Pass is for Xbox. Playstation has also focused on bringing older titles to their service, whereas Xbox seems to be all about bringing in the newest games to gamers almost immediately. Playstation is still very much committed to producing the highest quality hardware, but the question is, are consoles a thing of the past? Or will they be in the future?

Cloud-based gaming relies heavily on a strong, steady and fast internet connection, so if your internet is finicky, Microsoft’s strategy might not work for you. But it seems to be working for them; Microsoft has reported that Xbox Game Pass has at least 25 million subscribers, all of whom pay roughly £10 a month for the service. 

But consoles and discs have sentimental value to many. Much like films, there is still a market for physical media; some people simply like the feel and look of a shelf full of cases. There’s also a whole market for collector’s editions and steelbooks, as well as deluxe editions with exclusive artwork. 

Even in the film industry, streaming seems to be the way to go. Netflix, one of the earlier streaming giants, is also branching out into video games. Several video games, such as the The Last Of Us franchise as well as Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn and it’s spiritual successor The Quarry, focus on more cinematic narratives. The Quarry, an interactive horror game, features a Movie Mode in which the player can make choices and the game will play out almost like a film. The game also features a Hollywood cast consisting of David Arquette, Justice Smith and Ted Raimi. 

It’s titles like The Quarry that are making gaming more approachable. Video games are often combat-heavy and that’s where the difficulty lies, but games that focus on exploration and choices rather than active combat can work as an easier alternative to blooming gamers, who find Call of Duty a little too intimidating still. Titles such as The Last Of Us are providing gamers with unique experiences in terms of gameplay and narratives, creating a cinematic experience in which the player is an active part of the narrative. 

Xbox has previously spoken of wanting to make gaming more affordable. There have been rumours of a streaming stick, which would allow players to access Xbox titles and gameplay without a console, but with the announcement of the Samsung partnership, it seems that this is much closer to reality now. 

By focusing on cloud-based gaming, Microsoft might look to completely avoid problems like the chip shortages that are making buying an Xbox or a Playstation 5 near impossible for consumers now. If gaming goes online completely, console stocks or production issues won’t hurt the company’s planned profit margins anymore. 

At this stage, it’s still just as if not more expensive to play without a console as it is with one, but it seems that Microsoft is heading towards a completely new and different kind of gaming future. There’s no timeline, like there rarely is with change, but gamers can expect their gaming experiences to be radically different in the next decade or so. 

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