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Over the past couple of decades, I`ve done a ton of gaming on PCs (including laptops and desktops), consoles, handhelds (e.g., PSP), and smartphones. When I first got my start working in the industry in a professional capacity back in 1997, I was working for Microsoft in the SideWinder gaming devices group. In the past 14 years, I`ve seen a lot of interfaces and devices come and go for various reasons, and I continue to see more on the horizon that are interesting -- but are unlikely to stick. The same holds true for gaming platforms.
Laptops for the past decade have been my No. 1 go-to gaming device. But it wasn`t always this way. (My earliest PC gaming experiences date back to the Apple IIe in 1983 that my Dad purchased.) This doesn`t mean I dislike PC desktops. I still own one, but I do find myself booting it up less frequently. One of the limitations desktops share with consoles is that they`re stationary devices. I would say I now live in a mobile, dynamic, wirelessly connected, digital content world.
I`m going to include some devices that I took some pictures of recently for one of my projects.
What you can see by looking at Picture No. 1 is that only the devices closest to you in the photo are actually standalone and self-contained devices. You don`t need a separate keyboard, display, etc. My hunch is that the 8th generation of consoles might head in the standalone direction and become more mobile. To that end, I believe they`re going to be playing a huge game of catch-up to the already well-entrenched and existing laptop/iPad/Slate/smartphone/iPhone markets. (Good luck!)
They also start running a greater risk of being construed as proprietary entertainment PCs, which might be sticky to navigate for console makers that partner with computer makers. Another option would be to integrate themselves into TVs, but I think in that scenario, their proprietary nature becomes an Achilles` heel. Finally, and what I would do if I were them, is to go the route of a proprietary Slate-like entertainment platform. However, while they`re sort of cool and sexy now, they have more limitations than a laptop and the proprietary path limits the options. Not very smart in this era, in my personal opinion.
The next point comes into play in Picture No. 2. From a gaming perspective, what game platform provides the least amount of compromise? What devices are best suited to carry around? What can you use from the comfort of anywhere in your home? When you`re traveling at an Internet cafe, or on a plane, what makes the most sense? Which of these is the most self-contained?
Laptops have really closed the gap in terms of performance from where they used to be. About 10 years ago, gaming on them was sort of painful. However, today they`re incredible devices. With modern-day OS`s, they simply plug into and play on practically any HDTV. HDMI cables work great. There are also several wireless gaming controllers that one can use to play console-like games from your laptop in the living room (e.g., BioShock).
Furthermore, the experience just keeps getting better. Laptop graphics are better and more stable. Solid state drives are becoming cheaper. Wireless display technologies are right around the corner, and everything is shrinking and becoming lighter -- and with better battery life. When you start adding all of these benefits together, I believe they far outweigh the few negatives. You end up with a very amazing and compelling gaming platform in a very portable package.
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