After analysts, DFC Intelligence, released an overview of their estimates of the positions of the consoles at the end of this generation i got to thinking about one of their lines of thought:
How soon will Nintendo want to launch a new system with the Wii being so successful? Will Microsoft still want to stay in the game business given their losses? Is Sony really serious about pushing the PS3 to a ten year plus life cycle? Will new game systems just be an extension of the current game systems with some enhanced features and services?
I'm in agreement with the thought on Nintendo's reluctance to release a new console while it's still selling like hotcakes and there still hasn't been a price cut for the Wii. My concern lies in the fact that i'm not sure where Nintendo can go from the Wii except adding better graphics and internet/networking capabilities through online services. Unfortunately, due to Nintendo's network phobia i doubt that they could create an enticing online experience at the moment - though this would be relatively easy to resolve as both Microsoft and Sony have shown what to do/not to do.
The Microsoft musing really caught my eye. I doubt that MS would leave the console space after carving out such a decent slice of the pie for themselves, however, if DFC's prediction that the Xbox 360 would finish last by the end of the console generation then we might only see one more console iteration from Microsoft - unless the next generation Xbox becomes very popular.
Also, there have been rumblings about the development and release of the 360's successor for a few months now and i doubt that MS would just pull out half-way through seeing a probably successful product to market.
I do believe that we won't see a PlayStation 4 within the same time frame that we will see the next Xbox and so, although i doubt that the PS3 will be around for 10+ years without a new installment i think that we'll see a larger gap between Microsoft's launch and Sony's. If MS launches in 2011-12 then i'd expect to see the PS4 at around 2013-14 - maybe at the earliest a 2012 Christmas release. One aspect that i think the PS3 has going for it is the Cell processor. Graphically the 360 and PS3 are on pretty much on par with one another, and, while the Power PC processor in the Xbox is easier to programme for, the Cell has a higher theoretical throughput of hard calculations which i think will start to shine through for games that utilise large amounts of physics and possibly AI... though i don't really believe that any in-order chips are particularly good for advanced AI simulations. Of course, AI is dependent on the state of the software/technological development on intelligent systems in the first place and this is one area that has lagged behind development of graphics and physics processing.
The last line of the quote has me intrigued. While i would hope for much more 'powerful' (and i don't necessarily mean more MHz or processing units and shader units etc.) systems next generation, perhaps neither Microsoft or Sony would be willing to let the expenditure of the current generation's systems to go without due return or investment. Already Microsoft has been linked to their own version of a motion controller (similar in style to the Wiimote) and one has to wonder if they would rather produce the equivalent of the 32X (for Sega's MegaDrive) than push out a whole new system and virtually sideline the current one (problems and all) like they have done to the original Xbox.
Sony is particularly vulnerable to this line or thinking due to the heavy losses they had and continue to have on each console sold and is the reason behind them stating that the console will have a 10+ year lifespan.
Though i guess that in the end all this soothsaying gives us nothing but cud to chew on while not playing the games and systems that are already on the market. :)