Moore’s law not fast enough for game consoles, so what’s next ?

One of my favorite things about technology is the fact that nothing is for certain and nothing is a birthright.

Take the game console market. It was long believed that Sony was king of the hill, Microsoft was making a good run at it and Nintendo was left for the dead.

We know that isn’t how things turned out. The Nintendo Wii has been an enormous success and they did it without taking on Sony & Microsoft head on with more graphics and more expensive hardware.

In fact it may turn out that the current “high end” game consoles may be with us for a long time. Microsoft has said that Xbox 360 should last until 2015 and Sony talks about a 10 year life cycle for PS3.

Why is that? My friend Steve Perlman believes that Moore’s law is simply not keeping up for the current game console model.

via IEEE Spectrum:

“…my realization that the amount of computing power that was going to be needed to achieve the level of realism video games were approaching would soon be impractical for a device you hook up to your TV in the living room. I began to realize, Gee, these boxes are getting bigger and bigger.

One of the things about being an engineer is that you like Moore’s Law. Given the growth of some sort of demand—in this case computer graphics demand—you just project what size silicon is needed and how much power and cooling will be needed. If you follow that, you realize that what would be needed for the new games coming out would outstrip the pace of what could be developed in a home setting.”

The PS3 already has a nine-core processor. The Xbox360 I believe has 3 cores. These things are very expensive to manufacturer and are highly subsidized to support their current business model. No wonder we are a long way from seeing their next hardware platforms.

But the web doesn’t wait for these life cycles and it doesn’t care about traditional business models.

Right now Apple is making a big move into games with iPhone/iTouch and the App Store. They are distributing games for free or 99cents vs $30 games sold for the PSP or DS. That is disruptive and a big deal.

And they are just getting started. Just wait until those mobile games all connect to your favorite social networks, or when we see augmented reality games. The mobile device life-cycle is revving up, not slowing down.

We live in exciting times. That’s for sure.