Consoles are over (not really)

Ages ago, when Sony released the original, PlayStation 3, I remarked on the snowballing size of their consoles by suggesting that the PlayStation 9 would end up being the size (and shape) of the Jupiter monolith from 2001. Then, because I was on a roll, I predicted that Sony would only build one, and that it would beam the games directly into users’ minds.

All of which means I can claim that I totally called this: Sony Computer Entertainment is buying the cloud gaming provider Gaikai, which might allow it to stream next-gen games to current-gen consoles. I just wish I could decide if I was happy about it.

Says Kotaku:

That’s got people dreaming that the idea of the game console as some sort of physical box that you bring into your home could be going extinct. Who would need to buy a PlayStation 4, the thinking goes, if you could use Gaikai to stream PS4—level-no, let’s just say actual PlayStation 4—graphics and sound into your living room through your computer while you send commands from a DualShock controller back upstream?

Most of the rest of the article is devoted to throwing cold water on the idea, but this idea still has a lot of potential. The main reason why I switched from PC gaming to consoles in the first place was because when you buy a console game, you pretty much know it’s going to run properly. For a Mac owner, especially one who had to live through the switch to OS X, then the switch to Intel and now Lion, that’s a pretty big plus. And one of the most encouraging features of the rise of downloadable games is the return of previous-generation titles that my PS3 won’t run.

On the other hand, I’m already less than crazy about the idea that my future games will depend on a constant online connection to a service that could be discontinued at any time. Already I refuse to play MMOs because I don’t want to buy a game that I then have to keep paying for in order to play, and with stuff like Diablo III requiring a constant Internet connection I can see the lines getting blurry. I’m pretty sure the world is going to ignore me on this one, and it’ll end up being my old man gripe — “In my day, games came in boxes, and you could hold them in your hand!” — but I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t kick in until at least my mid-forties.

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