Long story short, we're seeing the peak of the current console generation. The franchises that have been the staple of the two heavy-hitters (360 & PS3) are either on their third installments, or will be within the next two years. Nintendo, meanwhile, finds its support in franchises that aren't tied to stories that need an ending, and can be adapted to new hardware easily. While it's true that this current run has a longer lifespan than previous generations - something that has only been extended by the recent additions of the Kinect and the Move - I think it's time to start thinking about what kind of announcements we can be expecting 3-5 years down the road. I've decided to do a series of posts that examine what the Blackout team has in mind, with support posts from my compatriots.
1. The Idea
2. The Hardware
3. The Software
4. The Subscription Service
5. The Beta
6. The Final Launch
7. The Big Picture
I'll get straight to the point on this part:
• I think the first genuine next generation console will be completely download based.
• I don't believe it will have any sort of disc-reader, nor will there be any way to purchase a hard copy of the games.
• Current subscribers to the older generation service will be able to move their profile over, along with any supported content.
• The initial games will also have versions available on the older console, and there will be support for cross-generation interaction.
• At launch, backwards compatibility will be limited to a few downloadable "classics."
Just let that sink in.
Before you go into knee-jerk reaction mode, take a look at the current industry. Steam, or other services like it, have more or less eliminated the hard-copy side of PC gaming, something which was met with severe resistance at first. While it's true that the same drawbacks still exist - no physical copy of the game to call your own, no nice paper manuals or art books, etc - that has not kept these services from exploding over the past five years.
Current console-based online services already offer services that could be used as the groundwork for such a system: games on demand, downloadable expansions, older-generation classics with updated gameplay.
Players have already been acclimated to the concept of an online profile that contains large amounts of their data, both on the front-end (XBL, PSN) and within the games themselves (all of a player's advancement in any Call of Duty is stored on the servers).
There's one more thing I'd like to get out of the way now: we've already hammered out one very specific point, which is that this would more than likely be a Microsoft console. The concept, as we see it at least, would need the specialization of a software company, and one that already had a solid foundation in online console services. To be blunt, none of us think that PSN is worth the price - and it's free. I would not trust Sony to produce this sort of device and support it efficiently. Anyone who disagrees is more than welcome to Google "PSP Go" and then get back to me.