Reader, it is time for you and I to have a little chat about the future of gaming. We are on the verge of the birth of The Fifth Console. Its growth will be rapid, and everyone will ignore it this generation. But at the dawn of the Ninth Generation, this console will be seen as a rival to the other four.
The first three consoles are what you think: the Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft consoles. The fourth console is PC gaming and not exactly a console as it does not directly compete. Yet, PC gaming indirectly competes with the dedicated game hardware. In a similar way, the Fifth Console will not directly compete with the first four consoles. However, it will be draining entertainment dollars and the gamers’ free time.
The Fifth Console is the unleashing of gaming’s graveyard. Thanks to the magic of digital distribution, the old games will compete with the new. But it is not fair to say it is PC Gaming as PC hardware seems irrelevant to them. These Fifth Console games seem to fly to hardware people don’t even realize such as the 386 still in the closet or to Linux systems. And since computers can hook up to television sets with a variety of controllers, what difference is there between this and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3? Very little as the Xbox and PlayStation are essentially computers hooked up to TVs anyway.
This Fifth Console will be confused with Retro Gaming. Yet, brand new games will be released for it so the Fifth Console can’t exactly be defined as a graveyard of games. Since the games will have no DRM, they may not even be Windows games or be played on a PC. Soon, all old console games will be available on the Fifth Console.
The Fifth Console has one incredible advantage over the other four consoles: time. The Fifth Console is DRM free gaming which frees the games for any platform. The hardware for the Fifth Console cannot ‘run out of a lifecycle’ as with other consoles.
When you look at GoG.com’s library, you find hundreds and hundreds of games. It would take a lifetime to go through them all.
“But those are PC games.”
OK, how do explain SEGA’s games entering the Fifth Console then? At DotEmu, a little GoG competitor, SEGA has started to sell its console games to the Fifth Console. I expect other companies to follow. I expect Konami to sell its Hudson’s Turbographx 16 games to the Fifth Console.
“I don’t understand this Fifth Console. Don’t you mean Steam?”
No. Steam is a part of PC gaming. The Fifth Console has no DRM so the games are free of PC Gaming and the hardware of the dedicated game consoles (SEGA being the first).
“Why are these Fifth Console games any concern? I don’t see what has changed here.”
The gaming market has always been the current game content of these four game consoles. Do you see old game console games on sale? How about old PC games? You don’t see them because they don’t sell even with the Virtual Console and other download options. The reason why they don’t sell is because they are attached to the console company (or on the PC side, attached to some form of online DRM). The Fifth Game Console floods the gaming market with these games at a very cheap price point. Why pay $60 for a hyped up game you are unsure about when you can pay $6 for a game everyone says is ‘a game for all time’?
The Fifth Console is essentially the Anti-Console. It does not tie the games to anything. Not to dedicated hardware. Not to Windows. To nothing. If software requires an Internet connection to install to your game, it belongs to PC Gaming. But if the software doesn’t require a connection and lets you do whatever you wish, it is *unique* and very different. The Fifth Console is timelessness. DRM has many disadvantages, the chief among them is tying the game to time itself (be it the hardware of the console or the operating system in the PC).
The three main consoles are like a walled garden. PC Gaming is like a garden with gates. But the Fifth Console is a garden with no walls. No disks or DVDs to lose. No hardware to stash in your closet.
The Fifth Console will be my console of choice for the Eighth Generation. It will be difficult for the four other consoles to compete with it. Keep in mind that iTunes music didn’t really take off until it was offered DRM free.
If you thought the Seventh Generation challenged the view of what a game console is, the Eighth Generation will surprise everyone.