I was having a debate today with someone about the future of the Console Market. We made a bet as to whether or not console systems would still be around in 5 years or not. I said yes, he said no, we had a little banter, but I get the last word here at least. I'm not saying I'm right, I'm going to try to prove it.
There have been a few editorials written over the years about it. The major issues involved are those of hardware and software compatibility, cost, and effectiveness. Both computers and consoles have their strong points, but as far as gaming is concerned, console systems have the stronger points.
Let's face it. Code is getting bigger, and more mistakes are coming with most programs. Outlook has let the Love Bug spread, little tiny loopholes in programming allow people to gain access to your computer without a patch or proper configuration. If you've ever built a machine, you know that first one you build generally doesn't work because your hardware doesn't like your other hardware off the bat.
Consoles solve this problem with consistency. No matter when you get your playstation, you know that it will always run playstation games. You know that when you flip the "On" button for your N64 the first time, that the game will start up just fine, and you won't need to worry about hackers or patches, or anything else. The hardware and software is designed to be specialized and work very well together.
As far as cost is concerned, it's true that computers are rapidly dropping in price. But don't consoles run on the same equipment? Last I checked, consoles use processors, RAM, video cards, all parts typically found in computers. As the prices on computers drop, won't consoles drop their prices as well?
Consoles are essentially stripped-down computers designed for graphics. Yes, a $2-3k computer is going to be able to emulate a $200 Dreamcast at least on a graphical level. But what about compatibility and speed? Granted everything about the computer is faster, but the compatibility issues can create some sticky problems.
When you get down to the heart of the matter, people have grown up on late nights in front of the nintendo, controller in hand, playing whatever game you want to play for hours on end. Even with my gamepad and a genesis emulator, I play my genesis whenever I'm home, because of the feel of the controller in my hand.
Even if computers get really cheap, a console is a cheaper alternative to having a computer dedicated to games. Toss in the simplistic nature of a console system (anyone can pop in a CD and press power...anyone), and the fact that there are never compatibility issues, patches, or upgrades for consoles, and you have a winner. Throw in a bit of nostalgia, and you have a winner.