|PS2: The First 10-year Console (and counting)|
However, the PS2 achieved this feat 4-5 years after the start of the current console generation, so it's not like it can really be regarded as the catalyst for the elongation of the life cycle. Instead, we must answer a fundamental question: why would Sony, Microsoft, or (to a lesser extent) Nintendo even want to release a new console right now? The PS3 and Xbox 360 are still growing and have yet to hit critical mass. Further, the cost of actually releasing a new console is tremendous, and the manufacturers often launch new consoles at a loss and make up the difference over time in game licensing fees, accessory sales, and (down the road) cheaper and/or more efficient components. There's no reason for these companies to go back into the red when the current generation is still in its prime and still growing. The economic turmoil that has tightened up budgets around the world--and that played a role in slowing growth in the generation's early years--has only reaffirmed this position.
|The PS3 Slim makes the unit cheaper for Sony to|
To further strengthen the console manufacturers' position, the developers and publishers are more than happy to keep the current consoles around for as long as possible. The installed bases (number of people who own the current consoles) are still growing. A new set of consoles would mean higher development costs and a need for developers to learn how to develop for entirely new computer architectures when they are only just now tapping the full potential of the PS3 and 360. The publishers would also not want to combine these higher costs with installed bases that would inherently be only a fraction of what's available right now, which would severely limit the sales potential of any next-generation game, no matter how good. The increasing installed bases of the current consoles also decreases the risk of developing middle-ranged niche titles that can sell to just a small segment of the market rather than needing to achieve AAA blockbuster success.
|Because of Xbox Live's heavy integration to the 360 dashboard,|
Microsoft was able to completely overhaul the dash to
accommodate changing times.
Any rational consumer doesn't want a new console either. With the developers finally getting a firm grasp on development for this generation, gamers are able to play increasingly higher-quality games. The aforementioned benefits of growing installed bases also means that developers and publishers will be willing to take more risks, which opens up the door to new, more radical gameplay ideas. Consumers also get the advantage of sequels and entire trilogies that can actually build off previous titles in the same generation; it would be almost impossible for BioWare's Mass Effect trilogy to maintain the sense of continuity from game-to-game if the generation were cut short as currently these games import previous games' save data directly off the hard drive (of course, a cloud-based memory solution like what Sony's launching with PlayStation Plus could alleviate this hurdle). Perhaps most importantly, these consoles still cost about $300, or the traditional launching price of a new console (though that has already been thrown out the window). Should sales start declining like what the Wii's beginning to see, there's plenty of room for price drops, which trigger a massive increase in sales. With the abundance of quality games still being released for the current consoles, the last thing a consumer wants to do is shell out hundreds of dollars to start over again.
|Kinect and the Xbox 360 S: a recipe for longevity.|
Finally, 2010 saw the launch of major peripherals for both the PS3 and 360 that provide a new method of interaction that could easily be associated with a new console, but instead are simply additions to the current hardware. Sony and Microsoft certainly hope that the PlayStation Move and Kinect Sensor for Xbox 360 can carry their respective hardware for the equivalent of a new generation, but as we've been over this whole time, even if they flop (which they aren't), these consoles are plenty capable of continuing growth on their own.