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'PS4, Xbox 720 aren't the next generation - your TV is'

If consoles forget what they're for, they'll be passed up, reckons Gaikai's David Perry

Making consoles is a thankless task, for one simple reason: they don't actually generate any profits until they are past it and in need of replacement.

It's a bit like those third-world countries that still have production lines churning out faithful reconstructions of 1970s Hillman Hunters or Morris Oxfords. No less a personage than Sony's Andrew House admitted as much when we interviewed him at the PlayStation Vita's Japanese launch.

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Hence the adamant denials from Sony and Microsoft execs that they won't showcase the replacements for the PS3 and Xbox 360 at this year's E3. At least Nintendo continues to do its own thing - in the past, it found a novel solution to the problem by launching a string of consoles that were past it and in need of replacement before they even went on sale.

But with the forthcoming generation of consoles, even Nintendo has to an extent joined the arms race - the Wii U will at least be more powerful than the Xbox 360 and PS3, so will be able to run cross-platform blockbusters previously beyond the steam-powered graphics processing capabilities of the Wii and its predecessors.

So, all the more reason for Sony and Microsoft to steal Nintendo's thunder at E3 - when it fleshes out the Wii U's bare bones - by offering at least a tantalising taste of the next-next generation.

Sony and Microsoft's next-next-generation consoles will surface soon enough: their devkits are out there, and no matter how draconian their non-disclosure agreements may be, details will inevitably leak out, and both companies would, of course, be incandescent if that happened without their careful stage-management.

So with a proper three-way console arms race about to break out, how will it pan out, and will the Wii U, PS4 and Xbox 720 constitute the last crop of consoles as we know them - as many commentators are suggesting?

Beware the multimedia creep

David Perry, head honcho of cloud gaming company Gaikai and a seasoned development veteran, highlights a problem that increasingly afflicts even the current generation of consoles, and will only, surely, get worse in the future. He argues that consoles are no longer consoles:

"For me, the definition of a console is a gaming device for the mass market. They plug in a cartridge, they flick a switch and a game appears on the screen." Anyone who downloaded last year's Xbox Dash update, or got suckered into buying a Kinect only to realise it's great for all manner of things, none of which involve actually playing games, will be tempted to admit a hollow laugh.

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Perry continues: "In America, for $129, Best Buy will now come to your house and help you install your PlayStation 3. We have got away from that original idea of "It just works" into this thing of maintaining and running, creating accounts on it. I think they're going to stop calling them consoles and they'll start calling them something else - media something or entertainment something."

Perry, of course, has a vested interest - Gaikai facilitates proper, hardcore gaming which makes no demands on whatever hardware it runs on, because it arrives via the cloud. But it's difficult to argue with what he perceives as the next threat to the consoles:

"The digital TVs are also including all of that media stuff. I think the mistake that the console companies are making is not a mistake of their choice - it's the evolution they have to go through.

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