With recent talks about next generation consoles, the question remains who the big players will be and whether or not they will turn to a physical streaming console or cloud based computing and streaming service to deliver games into our homes with a "Netflix" type service.
Playstation has revealed the PS5 without an official release date so far, but speculation is Q4 2020, with Microsoft holding the cards close to their chest about their next generation console and even what it may be called (Microsoft always loves to surprise us with names but it will probably be XBox 2). Sony has always been a staunch player in the market and if they will deviate from their traditional physical hardware approach remains to be seen.
No doubt with next generation consoles we are going to see a move towards 4k gaming (it's already here) and with that improved frame rate, better GPU's, storage and obviously smoother and more life like graphics. I believe we will also see a large focus on VR Gaming and hardware with both virtual and augmented reality which will be more accessible and more refined than what we have seen so far.
My opinion is that whilst in the future we may see streaming cloud based services and/or consoles, I don't believe it will be in the next generation until manufacturers have ironed out some obvious issues. Sony is already in the game streaming business, having aquired Gaikai for US$380 million five years ago and launching "Playstation Now", a service where gamers can access PS1-PS3 titles.
Whilst it is reported that Sony hasn't had too much trouble with latency issues or "breakages" with their Playstation Now service, I for one am quite skeptical living in a country with poor internet speed. Judging by the fact this service is currently used by around 700k gamers, approximately 1% of Sony's total customer base (based on 70 million consoles sold around the world), this technology may be too early in its infancy to gain any ground. I'm also not interested in streaming games most likely at a lower FPS and probably lower resolution than games I currently play on a physical console.
Another thing to note is that whilst streaming games will open us to a plethora of games at hopefully a small price point, I feel games that require precision timing such as Dark Souls and certain platformers (boshy) would be near impossible to play if there is even a second of lag from the input.
Current generation system graphics capability on the PS4 Pro is 4.2 GPU teraflops whereas on the Xbox One X they are getting 6 GPU teraflops (NVIDIAs GTX 1080 provides around 8.9 teraflops with adequate cooling). Ideally next generation would provide 8-10 GPU teraflops and whilst a physical streaming console may hold the power to increase graphics quality, I believe they would need to take a step back from current capabilities and performance to allow for a streaming service.
Another point I would like to make around next generation consoles is that the last time I got hyped about a consoles release was the PS4. While I still use it (probably not as often as I should) what I noticed is that game developers had finally started using the full potential of the PS3. So, whilst I was enjoying the PS4 band wagon I was still buying new games for the PS3. Next time I won't be fooled into buying a new console because of the hype (wish I had this same revelation about certain games) because based on what new games have been announced I doubt game developers have started making games for the next generation and will merely show us the full potential the PS4 has to offer... At least in the short term and before they start optimising and porting games over to the PS5.
Having said all of this, Google has announced a streaming service called "Google Stadia" which uses your PC and is not a physical console. I can see the benefits of this from the standpoint that you don't need to purchase expensive gaming consoles to enjoy games, you merely click a tab on your Google Chrome browser and launch into a catalogue to choose from. If this service is priced around what Netflix currently costs as a subscription per month this would be very attractive.
If anyone was able to pull this off it would be Google, they have access to the best technology cloud computing has to offer and Google has boasted their cloud computing service runs at an equivalent of 10.7 GPU teraflops which is more than the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro combined. Seems pretty legit if you ask me but I doubt more teraflops will equate to much in the end as it still won't improve my internet connection!
While it seems like the natural progression moving forward are streaming services and even streaming consoles when it comes to gaming, I'm still a firm believer that this will not be the next generation. Perhaps it is the generation following the next which means based on current console cycles we still have another 5-6 years. I hope this move won't limit and restrict access for gamers in countries that don't have a fast internet connection but because of this I believe physical retail consoles will probably still remain.
While I do get excited about whats to come in the console market and in gaming generally, I still do the majority of gaming on my PC but with new games under development such as Death Stranding and The Last Of Us 2, I will probably use my console with these games because these high end titles will most likely run better on my PS4 and because I just like the feel of a controller in my hand (among other things ;)