A whole lot happened in 2016. We had our first mid-cycle console refresh in the form of the PlayStation 4 Pro; Nintendo made its first genius steps into mobile and announced the Switch, an intriguing new console; and Blizzard released a blockbuster team-based shooter, in the process making moves in the esports arena that may soon look like tectonic shifts in the way everything from teams to merchandise to television rights are handled. What seemed like significant one-off events in 2016 will this year fuel the trends that define everything from what’s in your pocket to which games you stream. Here, seven trends to watch out for in 2017.
The Death of “Console Generations”
It’s safe to say that the notion of a big paradigm-shifting “console generation” happening every five years or so is pretty much dead. We saw the beginnings of this in 2016 with the November release of the 4K-enabled $399 PlayStation 4 Pro. In the year ahead, we’ll see Microsoft release its beefed-up Xbox One Scorpio at (likely) a similar price. As new, more powerful and expensive hardware arrives, we can expect the older versions to get much cheaper. Sound familiar? Apple’s model for iPhone iteration has proved successful for 10 years now – they put out a new, enhanced model every year and then position last year’s phone as a cheaper “entry level” device while keeping everything compatible. Now that both the PlayStation and Xbox One are basically just PCs in funky boxes, this is how we’ll see each of them evolve. It may not be every year, or even every two, but it’s the future of these consoles.
The good news is that we’ll surely see the original models get cheaper and cheaper. Although the official price of a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One S starts at $299, you don’t have to look too hard to find one for $249 or less. Don’t be surprised if these entry-level 500GB boxes slip to $199 in the coming months.
While Sony and Microsoft battle it out on the high end of things, Nintendo – ever aloof in the face of these kinds of power struggles – will release the Swtich, its hybrid console/handheld, in March, and answer the question of whether there’s really still room in the market for something else. There’s currently no clear indication that gamers really want something that is neither as powerful as their PlayStation nor as convenient and ubiquitous as their phone, but given the fact that it’s a brand new Nintendo device, there’ll be plenty of buzz. While it’s all but guaranteed to sell out at launch – thanks to the promise of Nintendo’s roster of big-name games, the passion of its rabid fanbase, and no doubt a constrained supply – it could fizzle by the end of the year if the company doesn’t actually deliver on the hype and all the positive noises coming from third-parties like Bethesda come to nothing.