It’s worth noting that game consoles always lag behind the PC in performance. That’s because console makers have to lock in on a design a couple of years ahead of the launch and then give that specification to game developers so they make launch titles. The custom chip takes a while to design, and it can be engineered better than a general-purpose PC to run games.
But PC makers have the advantage of just taking the fastest off-the-shelf graphics chip and marrying it with other state-of-the-art components. They can build a more modern machine that isn’t based on last year’s technology. So it’s no surprise that a new Nvidia graphics chip with expensive PC trappings will be able to run circles around game consoles that haven’t launched yet.
This highlights what I view as a fundamental problem with the console business going forward. While smartphones and tablets are eating into gaming from the low-end, Microsoft and the other console makers are aiming for the high end. But that high end already won’t really be the high end by the time the console launches because you’ll be able to get PCs that are more powerful.
Sure, such PCs may not be specifically tailored for gaming, but that gives the consoles maybe a few months — a year at best — as the pinnacle of high end gaming. Meanwhile, the smartphones and tablets will continue to evolve at a much more rapid pace.
Said another way: the last console upgrade cycle was 7 years. In 7 years, we’ll have seen 7 new iterations of the iPad. Does anyone think the 2020 iPad won’t stack up well against the Xbox One when it comes to specs? If so, you’re crazy. The 2015 iPad will probably stack up pretty well.
That means Microsoft will have to release another new Xbox much sooner than they did in the last cycle. But as Takahashi notes, the reason the hardware is already dated by the time it comes out is that it takes a lot of time to make these systems. And a lot of money. So…