When a company authoritatively predicts the demise of its rivals without a shred of evidence, it's usually a situation akin to spreading a rumour that a kid at school is gay because you've noticed that he has a bigger knob than you in the shower. And there's every chance that's happening here. You see Nanea Reeves, an exec at cloud-based gaming provider Gaikai, has come out with a statement that one of the main console manufacturers will drop out of the race at this year's E3. Yeah, I know.
Speaking to Industry Gamers at CES, Reeves stated "Not all of the current console makers will have one more generation. That will be the big news at E3". Nintendo has a new machine on the way. We know that. So that just leaves Microsoft and Sony. Neither company has officially announced anything new, but next-gen rumours persist on the internet like the general sense of confused disappointment persists on an X-Factor winner a year down the line.
Either company pulling out sounds as likely as jam turning out to have been the renewable energy source humanity has been looking for all along, but there are a few ways it could happen. Though none of them are strictly a case of a console manufacturer simply giving up and going home. They are, as I see it, as follows:
1. Microsoft is technically backing off from console manufacture, in that its next Xbox is geared much more towards being a living room media hub rather than a games machine. Check out my recent feature on why this is the probable direction for Microsoft next generation. It's no secret that MS' first-party games line-up has been all but non-existent for a while now, so it would be no great surprise to see the company make that more of an official policy. A bit of Halo here, a few Kinect and Fable bits and bobs here, and a multimedia focus everywhere else. In fact MS need not necessarily even release new hardware to provide any of this. System updates to the current box could do the job.
2. Sony is going to stick to the 10-year lifespan idea with the PS3. Which would be fine. We don't need new consoles yet, and another few years expanding on what can be done creatively with the current hardware now that devs have mastered it could only be a positive thing from a game development perspective. As for not having another generation, it's entirely feasible that given the company's various financial troubles this generation, Sony's plan is to use the extended PS3 lifespan to accrue enough time to get a new (cheaper) gaming direction ready.
Above: ...responded Kaz, upon another question about the PS4
Kaz Hirai has already stated that a PS4 will not be at E3, but has also stated that a new machine
would have to be disc-based, due to current broadband quality making streamed and download-only gaming infeasible at the moment. All of the above in mind, it's possible that Sony's seeming desire to tread water a little longer might tie into the notion that...
3. Gaikai itself is in bed with either MS or Sony for a new game delivery development, hence the claimed knowledge. Gaikai has already announced a deal with LG which will see the game streaming service built in to future TV sets, with games playable through a dedicated 'channel'.
So it's feasible that an MS or Sony-partnered service could be on the way, Gaikai handling the games provision for Microsoft's new media machine in the same way that LoveFilm and Netflix handle movies, or running an eventual PlayStation-branded, cloud gaming box (or even a PlayStation channel within Sony TVs) a few years down the line, which would be home to Gaikai's standard third-party games line-up as well as exclusive SCE titles.
Or it could just be a load of old bollocks, intended to make Gaikai (and cloud gaming in general) more of a talking point in the run up to this year's E3. We shall see in June.But in the meantime, brace for a bigger pre-show rumour-storm than you've ever weathered before.