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back to article Lord British: Games consoles 'fundamentally doomed'

The creator of the popular Ultima RPG series has forecast that the games console is heading for extinction. Richard Garriott - aka Lord British - is a respected figurehead in the games industry and he reckons the future is bleak for console manufacturers. "I think we might get one more generation, might, but I think …

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Trollface

What’s he selling this week?

And why can’t he just do a press release about that instead of trolling?

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"you just can't play epics like Skyrim on a phone"

Why not? I wish I could play Skyrim on my iPad during my commute. A few generations down the line and I'm sure tablets will be able to handle it.

I would happily dispense with some graphical finesse in exchange for convenience. Just the same as watching movies on my iPad versus my HD TV.

Mind you, just like with my TV, that doesn't mean that the console will vanish.

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Why not? Sometimes you need to press two or three keys on your keyboard (or move the stick in a direction whilst pressing the jump button) whilst pressing left and right mouse buttons at the same time before quickly opening your menu up and scrolling through to chug down a mana potion or a HP potion, that is why you can't do that on your iPad unless you manage to grow 2 more hands and 15 more fingers.

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Facepalm

Missing the Point

No one is saying that playing good games on mobile devices isn't sought after - quite the opposite in fact.

The point is that by the time you can have such cool stuff on a hand held, anything that can afford to be a bit bigger and take up more power is almost certainly likely to be even more powerful and games will ALWAYS be at the cutting edge of technology.

It's a point that these "console / pc games are doomed" people always miss.

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Anonymous Coward

Um ...

I guess you can't divorce game controllers from game consoles in your mind.

*Goes back to playing Megadrive on android tab with wiimote*

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@missing the point

No, you're missing the point Semaj.

Onlive already proves that you don't need a bigger/better/faster client machine. All you need is a dumb terminal and fast connectivity.

There is no reason you couldn't play a game like Skyrim (or future generations of games far more complicated than that) on a crappy netbook or an I-Pad with a wireless keyboard and mouse, or even on your phone if someone sold a peripheral which gave you the ability to control it.

All the complicated calculation and rendering etc is carries out by a supercomputer, all you need is a device able to display the resulting video stream, send back a few keystrokes and a fast and reliable internet connection (I will admit this last bit is not there yet in many regions of the country, but it is already there in many regions and will be more and more).

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FAIL

So...

you're using a wiimote. That's obviously not a controller...

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Pffft

Try telling that to people who have gamed on consoles for the majority of their life. Whilst there is demand, there'll be supply. The only way I can see consoles going is if OnLive (or services similar) can match up not just to technical ability but on games library.

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Mushroom

Dionsaur who's good a self publicity waffles on again

Garriott is a great self publicist but stop giving him airtime for this sort of thing - he cocked up NCsoft US quite dramatically and his last title Tabula Rasa was flawed. Portalariam has so far failed to make any impact - this is just a soundbyte to get in the news.

Mind you I would say the gap between consoles and handhelds is getting closer but as portables are just handheld consoles this is semantics anyway it's a typical Lord British comment of hot air.

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Stop

funny that

It seems I remember people saying the same thing about my fake wood veneer styled Atari 2600 in 1980. Time changes everything but I am thinking at least two more generations.

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Indeed

Consoles were doomed due to the powerful 16-bit home computers like the Atari ST and Amiga! Except they weren't. The little, underpowered 8-bit Nintendo proved that consoles and computers (smartphones are in the latter category) are two separate markets - one does not encompass the other.

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Several points to make....

1) Respected? Didn't his last MMO whose name I forget, totally flop and get pulled even though he claimed it would be a WoW killer or whatever? I think only Ultima is his success?

2) Consoles get refreshed every several years? The PSP is 7 years old and it's replacement is the Vita, the iPhone is 4 years old, but do games developed for the "newest" iPhone still work on the original? I can buy a PSP game *now* that works on my 1st generation Japanese PSP, I don't have to buy a new PSP every year to play the latest games.

3) Console games give more value for money than phone games, sure, phone games may only cost 99p but how long do you play that game for? A console game may cost £40 but you'll play that game time and time again, even in a few years time.

4) He's obviously not looked at the PS Vita AR videos, I showed my brother today and he was flabbergasted, it's seriously cool and well worth buying a PS Vita for.

5) It's not just Skyrim, there are games out there that require a heck of a lot more controls than a phone/tablet can provide!

6) Immersion, you can get immersed in a real AAA title, you get to use whatever screen size you want, from small 32 inch LCD's up to bloody great massive projector screens on the side of the moon (maybe not, but maybe!)

7) Game companies reject consoles and PC's at their peril, if a console owner or a PC owner reads a statement that suggests their favoured platform is doomed, they will pretty much slam that company and avoid their games, so when they come back with their tail between their legs they may find that they are about as welcome as Clarkson at a Unison meeting.

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I think you are not connecting the dots. Games are becoming cloud based, a game like Skyrim on a mobile would be via a remote desktop connection optimised for gaming. Take that into the home and we are seeing smart TV's with web browsers in built.

As the TV's get smarter and have 3d chips added to them, you'll see less of a need for a console as a lot of the game can run in the cloud and the TV will be an open platform for subscription based gaming.

In essence all these parts are there already, it just takes time for the market to realise it.

Plus given that most consoles are sold either at a loss or at cost I am sure the current players would be happy to move to a platform that doesn't require their investment in hardware engineering.

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Anonymous Coward

re: Nextweek

What you suggest would in reality have many drawbacks that gamers hate.

The number one being the requirement to be online all the time. This has been seen as a problem for Ubisoft just to check that its no a pirated game (causing many people to demand their money back).

Also most networks have data limits, that a game would eat through in no time.

But for anything action based the response/delay times in having remote rendering would make them unplayable until gigabit telecoms become the norm.

Personally I dont see consoles going any quicker than the games PC. The sort of games most console users like are always regarded as a bit lame by PC gamers (direct ports are common now), as PC gamers have gotten used to far better visuals and depth, plus vastly better user interfaces and controls.

As an example look at Skyrim, most PC games hate the slow awkward UI, but it had to be that way to get it onto consoles with a vary limited controler.

The big issues with PC games these days is the fact that nothing recently has pushed the envelope. The last great action game was the original Crisis, since then few have come close to it's scale and depth of play, and there's no guarentee that even the next round of consoles could even cope with that.

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FAIL

"The race is on to become the ultimate home entertainment hub"

I think that's totally wrong, and anyone entering that race is going to lose by default.

Your entertainment 'hub' will be your smartphone, everything else will just interface with it. We're already carrying our music collections, a bunch of films, and a whole load of games around in our pockets. And there's already plenty of moves to connect that to the TV (apple tv and the likes).

Once the integration works a bit better, we'll have everything we need when we're out, and back at home the device simply becomes the remote control/game controller, with the hub built into the remote.

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FAIL

LOL, what an idiot...

Fancy making himself look such a fool with public statements like this that will come back to haunt him....

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Anonymous Coward

History repeating

There used to be huge industry making dedicated music hardware such as sequencers, synths, samplers, recording equipment, etc. Most of it required very high-end components and processors because off-the-shelf stuff didn't hack it.

Then, Pentium PCs started offering adequate performance to start making these things virtual. What CISC lacked in efficiency was more than made up for in raw clock speeds and bandwidth. The upshot of that is that that hardware you can buy today hasn't moved on much in the last 15 years, and is largely centred around user interface requirements rather than sound engines or buses. A virtual synth still needs a hardware keyboard to play it.

I still cringe when I think of people using a mouse to control virtual sliders and knobs on a screen rather than an actual mixing desk.

Anyway, it would appear that games consoles are going the same way. Up 'til now, they've required special hardware beyond the average home PC (yes gamers can make their own ultra PC, but normal people buy one from a Currys with integrated graphics), but even an average modern PC is starting to have a lot of CPU and graphics power, thanks in no small part to the obsession with HDTV formats and pretty translucent GUIs. The future for gaming hardware is (much like music) things like joysticks/controllers, floor mats and other dedicated 'peripherals'.

I wonder what other hardware will die out over the next 20 years thanks to high-powered general purpose computing, be it mobile or indoor?

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Ru
Meh

Power in a portable?

Until I have some sort of clever virtual screen projection HUD glasses or a fully immersive stereo display, portable games machine will be, above all else, small. I didn't buy a big TV or a big monitor just to cover up a boring patch of wall.

Maybe the average consumer doesn't care, but the current trend towards super high budget, high spec 'triple A' games developed by big teams wants powerful hardware, big screens and decent sound to really show off. Its hard to get that sort of spectacle on a phone.

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Screen size is not the main issue

There are tablets and phones with HDMI ports and in a few years time they will be capable of very good quality graphics at full 1080p. So you could just hook up your device to your TV when at home, maybe even wirelessly if wireless HDMI catches on. But you'll need to add some controllers because touch screens just suck for anything beyond simple games and always will.

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Anonymous Coward

@Blank Reg: Are you sure?

Are you really sure that playing a 3D video game in 1080p is the same as a playback of 1080p H.264 movie? Dream on...

The problem is not the interface, the problem is lack of processing power. That will be an issue for all handheld devices. In the foreseeable future, you'll have either small & portable (cellphone), or big & powerful (PC, console). We are talking two orders of magnitude of difference between current Tegra and almost 4 year old PC graphics card...

I think that if consoles are going to be doomed, it will be through computers/laptops* rather than handhelds, but I doubt even that.

*) the major benefit of console is simplicity and custom DRM for customer and vendor respectively, nothing else really.

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jai
Silver badge

> "The creator of the popular Ultima RPG"

which isn't exactly a game that works well on a console platform, so possibly, Mr Garriott doesn't have the best experience from which to speak?

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Yup!

He's right, in the long run anyway.

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Happy

...the universe suffers entropic death (or God/Devil/Other destroys it, if you prefer that interpretation), so yes, eventually consoles will all be gone. (They may well go sooner, but that they will go sooner-or-later is the only given I will put my name to).

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OnLive

I was very impressed with OnLive when I play(ed) with it, but until it offers 7.1 surround and 1080p (and 3D), I can't see it replacing Steam. I was also surprised with some of the load times - I thought the idea of the cloud approach was to over-spec the server farms and make the whole experience feel faster.

Aside from "media hubs", I think the next step is for a phone with HDMI out (or wireless equivalent) and wireless controllers.

Go to a friend's house, plug it in, and play.

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Bronze badge

Quite Right, Except

I've always wondered why one would buy an extra box just to play games - but the advantage of a games console over a PC is that it's standardized and (for the manufacturer of the game) secure.

Things like the iPad are standardized too, and they are increasing in power. So they might squeeze game consoles from the other direction.

But the appetite of games for CPU cycles can grow - for example, full 3-D might be the next frontier that saves the game console.

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mouse

if it aint got a mouse, for playing FPSs I aint intrested.

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Silver badge

Bah!

So give us a portable console that can be used on the train. Goggles, 3D, the works.

Just make it work with headphones only so I don't have to listen to some selfish wuckfit killing things two seats over.

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Silver badge

Full immersive gaming on public transport?

You're just begging to be pickpocketed.

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Megaphone

Of course he's right.

When everything is headed towards device convergence, how anyone could believe consoles wont eventually be made obsolete reeks of short-sightedness. Consoles are going to suffer the same fate as dedicated MP3 players, rendered redundant by general purpose devices.

Why will people buy a dedicated gaming console a decade or two from now when you can just login to your OnLive account (or an alternative service) with your Internet-connected television? And that just covers one part of the market (18-40 year old male, traditional gamer demographic). Already right now there's a growing sector in more casual and social gaming (not saying I like it, but it's true). Women and older people are gaming more, and they don't own consoles, they use their laptops, tablets and phones. The userbases for games like Angry Birds and Farmville completely eclipse the ones for games like Skyrim or Battlefield 3.

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FAIL

Perhaps if he had one ...

I used to play PC games but stopped when I spent more time installing and configuring games than I did playing them, so unless we standardise PCs completely there is still a place for games consoles.

As to items such as phones and tablets taking over, by Lord British's logic the portible dvd player should have killed off the standard dvd player too.

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Anno 2070

On console ... methinks not.

I've been playing my PS3 a lot more recently; gunning around in GT5 and the amount of time I spend waiting for shit to load on the PS3 FAR eclipses any installing/configuring time I spend with games on the PC.

Not to mention the fact that consoles now have all the downsides of consoles (limited power, no upgrade route without a new system, potential backwards compatibility issues, long load times) COMBINED with all the downsides of PCs (having to install, patch, update and connect to the Internet)...

However, a modern console is no longer just a games device; the PS3, for instance, is a Blu-Ray player, internet connected 'whatever'Player (iPlayer, 4OD etc), movie/music rental/purchasing system (lovefilm, qriocity) and client for connecting to say a WMP server to play music/movies, good with a home theatre system.

So LB might be right, the "games console" is dead, but then it has been since say, the PS2; modern consoles are so much more than just gaming platforms.

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Anonymous Coward

I basically agree...

...but most of what you metions as the added features on consoles are becoming standard in new TV's.

With the exception of the BlueRay, many new TVs have internet access and access to iPlayer, 4OD and the rest, plus playing from networked NAS or PC's with you own media content.

As for PC Gaming: Loading games is hardly a big deal, and since DirectX was introduced hardware issues have dissapeared. The only problem is that most cheap PC's purchased in the likes of PC world have utterly crap (99% Intel) graphics, and are just not capable of playing anything.

Compared to an Intel chipset even a ~£30 graphics card is a vast improvement, they even come with dual monitor and HDMI ports these days, and will play most games (at low(er) res/details).

Pay ~£60 and you get a card that can play anything, though again not at maximum resolutions, but probably as good or better than current console can manage.

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Bronze badge
WTF?

What configuring?

PC game = install and play.

Every game I've played for the last few years auto configures to your PC. Occasionally you might need to change the screen res, but that's usually it. (Yes you can tweak settings if you want, but it's not normally needed).

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Consoles will be just fine

Right up to the point when SDSL gigabit is the norm, then they won't be able to compete with the pace and convinience of online game engines pouring the visuals to any screen you have to hand.

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Devil

respected!?

Gariott!? By whom? He has yet to do anything since Ultima that actually succeeds.

I've never owned a console after my 1st one went largely unused unless I had folks over to play on it. Now when people visit we don't play games... well... online via wireless sometimes... but still!

For gaming a PC just can't be beat.

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Stop

For gaming a PC just can't be beat.

It can if your budget is £250. A top notch PC gaming experience comes with a top notch price tag, with which you could probably buy all the latest consoles and still have change left over from.

The gaming experience may be bettered elsewhere, but for bang for your buck you can't beat a console.

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Bronze badge
WTF?

@ miknik

That's depends on if your looking short or long term.

If short term, then yes, a console is cheaper initially.

But long term the games are way more expensive on a console, typically twice the price of the same game on PC. And a passable gaming PC would only be about £500

You'd only need to buy about 20 games, and a PC becomes cheaper than a console.

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hmmm, well my PS3 with 2 games cost over £400 when I bought it - and the games are £40 - £50 a pop (for new releases)... PC games are about £30 - £35 on release, generally £10 - £15 cheaper than the console equivalent and many PC games now don't actually require a top-spec machine to run (basically your PC has to just be about as powerful as the current-gen consoles) ... so you _could_ get away with a £600 - £700 PC for gaming.

If you buy more than 20 - 30 games over the lifetime of your console - it would in theory cost more than owning a PC ... well, apart from the fact that console games have resale value (atm) whereas PC games don't. If the publishers kill the second-hand console game market (DRM that requires online activation for instance) that'll certainly make the PC a cheaper option in the long run... especially since you can keep a PC running games, with say a £100 - £180 upgrade to graphics or RAM after 3 years or so, for about 6 or 7 years before a full system upgrade is required.

With a console you'd need a full upgrade when the next-gen comes out.

Thankfully I've not had to make that choice, I've got both a PC and a PS3, currently I'm chopping and changing between Anno 2070 on the PC and GT5 on the PS3... 2 totally different games, each better suited for the platform it's on *shrugs*

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Anonymous Coward

Since odds are you need a computer anyway, £250 is more than enough for a graphics card capable of playing every game available. Either buying one and putting in a desktop yourself, or opting for one over IGP when you purchase your machine, be it desktop or laptop. Even £100 is ample in fact.

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Joke

Who?

Never heard of him. I want to know what David Darling thinks.

"Absolutely Brilliant"

Thanks David.

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Trollface

He's absolutely right

Now that my smartphone can browse the internet properly, I've thrown my PC out the window.

</sarcasm>

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FAIL

He didn't say it was doomed today or tomorrow. He is talking about the future. I don't agree with him, but your comment is ridiculous.

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WTF?

But what about phone calls?

I do not want my phone as a games console. The games console is for everyone in the household to use. It is rigged up to the big lovely display and my lad may want to play while I do work calls.

OK, I unplug my phone and he plugs his in and downloads his save from the 'net...Jeez what a palaver.

Personal devices as the primary way of accessing games at home..bah.

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power??

hmmm... my PS3 slows to a crawl when playing Black-ops, 4 player split screen in 3D...

when a mobile phone is capable of doing this task without breaking a sweat, heating up to melting point, or juicing its battery in seconds, then maybe ill succumb to the fact that smartphones rule the world! or else i will fire up my PSXBOX 900000 and indulge in some fully immersive VR, 3D, AG, Tactile, surround experience!

Ive been using smartpbones since the SPV C500 way back in 2005ish... so am a huge fan, and casual gaming is the current big thing, but they serve a totally different use to a console/media station...

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Comment only due to long console generation

The only reason that people think there is any true in a statement like this is due to us having had such a long console generation (longer than usual). If next gen consoles had been with us this year, the usual 6 years after the previous release, with current PC comparable processing power, no-one would be making this comment as they would look stupid.

The truth is that mobile devices have been being refreshed very fast recently, about once a year, where as consoles have stood still. So idiots believe that mobile devices are catching up to consoles at a rate of knots. They fail to understand that new consoles will be released in the next year or two. And unless the console makers are idiots themselves, the new consoles will make a massive jump, which will suddenly make a big divide again between consoles and mobile devices.

This is not to discount the power mobiles will have as a gaming market due to audience. These are people who don't care about having the best fidelity with their gaming and will are just happy to get it mobile. This will be a big community, but arguing the growth is due to the fact that mobile devices will be so close to the performance of consoles is stupid.

Also those saying that big end clients are no longer needed because the processing will be done in the cloud. Well since On-live can only do 720p and consoles are just about to move to 1080p I don't see the cloud as being able to compete either with big end client fidelity for a while. It might be the future at some point, but it is still a long way off.

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Anonymous Coward

Actually, there's a pretty strong indication that the next generation of consoles are not going to be the massive jump previous generations have been, and that gaps between generation refreshes are going to get longer; a la Nintendo's strategy.

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Silver badge

They've been predicting the games console would kill off PC gaming for about 20 years but it hasn't happened. Now handhelds are supposed to kill off consoles? And presumably PC gaming as well, for that matter...

They will coexist, filling their own niche. Only idiots and Lord British assume that One Big Thing will kill off everything else to which it is slightly similar.

To be honest, I think he's still bitter about Ultima Online being superseded...

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Anonymous Coward

Damn straight

You haven't wondered why there is absolutely no sign of PS4?

You can't play Skyrim on a phone, but you can play it on a *current* console. This is talking about *next-gen* consoles, and beyond. Phones and pads have eaten away significantly at the traditional console gaming market, and the cost of developing a console is enormous. The business model behind consoles isn't going to work for much longer - perhaps, as British says, one more generation. But then it's going to become a platform for hardcore gamers only. Platforms for hardcore gamers only do not survive.

Add to that, what is the PS4 supposed to contain? The PS2 was a custom processor with a custom graphics chip. The PS3 was a custom processor with a stock graphics chip. PS4 is going to be a stock processor with a stock graphics chip - maybe they can get an exclusive on one or more items, but only for a few months, and probably only on one particular configuration. There's no longer any logic behind having specialized hardware in consoles - the stock hardware rocks, and it's far too expensive to create radical new designs just for a console these days, not to mention difficult and risky (PS3's custom graphics chip was a design failure; Larrabee was a design failure; while x64 and nVidia GPUs continue their incremental spiral upwards).

Combine these two and the death of the console as we know it is inevitable. There's no USP any more.

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Got to say my PS3 is a multimedia hub now

Connected to my NAS I have music, photos and movies on it, it plays Blurays, it surfs the internet, it streams the iPlayer and it also plays games.

Yes, the hardware may be 'getting old' but when I see some kids complaining about the lack of 16xAA on MW3 I stop and remind myself of where I came from (Spectrum 48k) and, you know what? The current PS3 is good enough for me for now - remember when that kind of output was arcade only?

I'm happy for that trend to continue. My mobile will probably not do all that for some time (in comfort at least).

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Angel

missed point?

is there a missed point here? regardless of whether or not consoles can keep ahead of mobiles in terms of power so that games like skyrim are possible, if enough people don't buy a console because they are getting all their gaming needs from mobiles, then will games like skyrim be economically viable to make?

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