Last week, we talked to you about how the president & CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) America stated that we wouldn’t see a PS5 for “some time”. I mentioned that I am OK with that, as I am hoping to see good things from them. Giving the company more time to wow their customers with something more powerful, engaging and long-lasting, is certainly better than rushing out a full console that just doesn’t quite cut it.
The article then sparked a conversation in my office, where one of my co-workers & I began talking about how cool it would be to see actual modular & upgradeable consoles in the near future. Sure, we know that the hard drives in the last 2 generations of PlayStation consoles have been upgradeable, and that one of PlayStation’s last updates allows for external hard drives to be connected to the console. Well, what if you could do the same for a video card, sound card, or video player (i.e. Blu-Ray to 4K) in your console(s), without having to wait for the next generation?
The idea that was brought up for the way this could work is fairly simple. A company like SIE (or Microsoft or Nintendo), could produce a base console, with the assurance that every game that was put out for that generation could still be played using the base components. Then, as gamers were able to save up money throughout that console’s lifecycle, they could purchase newer & better components for it – like the aforementioned video card, sound card, etc. – swapping them out as they went. The manufacturer could continue improving on their components, and gamers could keep upgrading their consoles until the actual motherboard lifecycle was through. At that point, the hardware companies (SIE, Microsoft, Nintendo, Atari, etc.) would release the next generation of the console, starting over with a base model capable of more than the last generation, while still being upgradeable. Hardware companies would basically be adopting the PC way of doing things, but attempting to keep everything in the familiar and compact set-up of a console.
“But Doug,” I hear you saying, “PC gamers can already do that!”
Yes, I am aware of this. However, some of us either don’t play on PC due to one or more factors: either we never got used to it, there were prohibitive cost issues, or even because some of us have physical issues that prevent us from operating a keyboard and mouse at the same time. Organizations like Able Gamers Foundation and Special Effect UK have spent a lot of their time working with console gamers, as the hardware, software, and peripherals are actually more modifiable.
This could also tie in to the theoretical movement toward more digital-based gaming that we talked about back in March. With less of a focus on disc-based gaming, this could leave room in consoles to put increasingly larger hard drives & better sound/video cards in them. In that same article, we talked about the theory that moving to a more digital-based system would reduce the technological limitations for consoles. If we had a modular console which could go hand-in-hand with the release of more digital (vs. hard copy) games, this would leave console developers more time & capability to focus on creating a more varied stock of components. With technology advancing as fast as it does, who knows what kind of capabilities we could see in a console with swappable video cards, audio cards, etc.?
Not only could something like this be a boon for gamers and developers, but there could also be a positive environmental impact as well. Picture this: The “older” components that gamers pull out of their consoles could be sold to someone who needs them, or recycled into different things. We all know that electronics recycling (or “e-cycling”) has become more and more prevalent, so a movement like this could be great to get more gamers doing it. Smaller components being shipped or purchased at stores would also mean less packaging material, so that would be another way of reducing waste. Finally, there would be fewer consoles ending up in trash bins and landfills, thus less plastic and metal cluttering up the natural world.
While none of these ideas have been formally talked about (that we know of) by any game companies, speculation about the future of gaming – and technology in general – is always something that will happen. So tell us your thoughts, dear readers! If you’re a console gamer, would you be interested in a modular, upgradeable system? Do you think something like this would be a boon to the gaming industry, or would it be more of a fad? Leave us a comment down below!