As Sony mentioned at the PlayStation 4 event last Wednesday, console gaming is transitioning from singular usage to a multitude of usages. The first major change in consoles was online gameplay, but how did internet-based gaming start? Here's a snipit from an article by DigitalSpy:
"Many years before the behemoths of Nintendo and Sega ventured into online territory, an American entrepreneur named William von Meister unveiled pioneering modem transfer technology for the Atari 2600. Exhibited for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1982, the CVC GameLine enabled users to download software via a telephone line. Resembling an oversized Atari cartridge, the device granted subscribers access to a fair selection of games from third-party developers, all of which could be played up to eight times or until the console was powered off. Those who signed up for the service received free games on their birthday, a subscription to a short-lived companion magazine and the chance to play competitively for prizes."
Online gaming took a major leap forward when the Sega Dreamcast became the first worldwide console to allow a 56 Kbps ethernet hookup for Phantasy Star Online and DLC for a multitude of games. As online gaming progressed, so did social integration and the desire to make communication much more unique and fun.
Following the Dreamcast, the Xbox and PlayStation 2 utilized online connectivity that paved way for the PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360. By this time, social applications (Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and innovative gamer communication methods were the highlight of each console, but with the success of these functions, gamer's changed the industry to a more online-oriented state and paved way for the next generation of game consoles.
In 2012, Sony Computer Entertainment purchased the cloud gaming service Gaikai for $380 million which would eventually pave the way for a major feature for the PlayStation 4: the ability to play any remote-play supported PS4 games on the PlayStation Vita and older gen games on PlayStation certified mobile devices. This was a speculated feature for a while and was officially confirmed at the PlayStation Meeting last Wednesday. Sony stunned the world with the announcement of such a feature and is paving way for an even more interesting future that includes less physical consoles and more digital streaming.
Gaikai allows an internet-based device to stream full games while they are being downloaded. That's not the most interesting feature though. Gaikai also allows devices to handle more powerful games without having to worry about what it can and can't handle. Here's a great description of the major benefits of Gaikai from a Eurogamer article:
"Playback hardware: virtually any device with an h.264 decoder chip can run Gaikai, encompassing tablets, smartphones, and Smart TVs. Even current-gen consoles could run cloud games. We've seen World of Warcraft streaming on an Xbox 360 via Gaikai and it looked great.
No need for hardware upgrades: h.264 video compression is here to stay for many years to come, so you'll keep the same decoding devices and Sony will upgrade the Gaikai servers to accommodate the requirements of new games.
No more updates, no more patching: this will be music to the ears of PS3 owners in particular. Lengthy firmware upgrades, patches - all of this is a thing of the past.
Instant access: demos and games would not require lengthy downloads or installs."
In other words, your Vita can easily handle powerful games from the PS4 because Gaikai takes most of the beating instead of your device, but with video compression and a network that handles a lot of the power for you, gaming in the future will require far less physical upgrades in terms of home consoles and more upgrades to their servers. Consider your gaming future more affordable and awesome.
Overall, what does this mean? It means that the digital based console we keep hearing about from Sony will more than likely be here in the next couple of console life cycles. More and more consumers invest in getting their own internet and many more public locations also feature Wi-Fi for everyone to enjoy, so it's not ridiculous to say that complete digital gaming will likely be here in the next 15-20 years.
If this is our future, I am absolutely excited for what Sony will bring to the table for all gamers. What do you guys think? Are you excited for the possibility of a completely digital-based console in the near future or do you prefer physical media? Leave a comment down below!