How Much Longer Will Consoles Be Around?

After Sony's gaming leader Kaz Hirai said at the Consumer Electronics Show recently that his company would not be unveiling new hardware at the E3 Gaming Expo later this year, a slew of people took to the Web to wonder when it might finally offer up a new console. Some say it could happen next year, while others think it could be 2014. There are even some folks who say Sony won't release its new console until 2015.

Whatever the year, it's clear that Sony will eventually launch a new console. Microsoft will do the same. And Nintendo is already planning to do so in the coming months.

But all this talk of consoles has me thinking: do we really need more hardware?

The fact is, we're inching closer to the day where hardware connected to our televisions will be a thing of the past. Samsung and DirecTV at CES this week announced a "boxless" solution that lets users have the full DVR experience on their 2012 Smart TV without actually needing to hook the device up to the set. There's talk of Apple wanting to include apps, iCloud, and other features into its own television.

And all that fails to mention we have downloadable games already available to us both on the PC and on game consoles. We've already come to the point of being able to enjoy content without being required to have a set-top box to do it.

[aquote]How important will consoles be in, say, 2014 or 2015?[/aquote]

So, how important will consoles be in, say, 2014 or 2015? Will broadband speeds be fast enough to accommodate downloading a big game, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3? Will televisions come with application stores in them to allow us to access games without requiring that middleman?

It's certainly a possibility. But there's one major issue standing in the way of us finally detaching ourselves from the console life support: the hardware companies themselves.

Like it or not, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony all rely heavily upon hardware to make their businesses as big as they are. And there's a good chance that they will be the first companies to denounce ideas of eliminating hardware and getting direct access to titles from game makers.

Microsoft and Sony might be especially outspoken about such a plan. Those companies have not done nearly as good of a job as Nintendo delivering first-party content consumers actually want to play. If television makers and game developers sync up, there's a solid chance those companies' game divisions will be marginalized, to say the least.

As for us? Well, we can only hope to get the best experience, regardless of whether that comes via consoles or downloadable content. But I suspect the latter will deliver a better experience at some point in the future.

Who's with me?