I recently bought a used Xbox. It is an old machine, manufactured in 2011. I got a decade-old gaming console for 6000 Rs ($90). I am not a serious gamer and there are more than 100 must-play classic games the console can neatly handle. I was told that if you are new to consoles, this Xbox is for you.
Back in 2001 when dad bought us a personal computer, gaming was not big in India. Indian kids were happily playing the classic games of the 80s and 90s on their 8-bit consoles, Mario, Contra, etc. Consoles like Xbox and PlayStation were rare. Only the rich imported them from abroad. I am not sure whether gaming consoles were even retailed in India back then. It was my dream to have a gaming console.
But I managed to play all the games on my PC. Some were demo-versions and some were pirated discs circulated among friends. By 2005, gaming PCs became mainstream in India. Can’t afford a console? assemble the power required to run the latest game. Graphic cards were hot. Every kid who longed to play the latest game kept a tab on all the latest trends of computer hardware. This industry was so dynamic that the latest processors, motherboards, RAMs became obsolete within months if not weeks. I observed that the hardware simply couldn’t match the software.
Intel was notoriously known to launch a slew of processors only to cannibalize their older processors. It was a mad race. Intel Vs AMD. Dual-core, triple-core, quad-core it went on. No one knew if this kind of power was necessary to do the mundane and common tasks on personal computers; watch movies, browse, etc. Towards 2010, I lost track of this madness. But I believe the gaming industry was still pushing the evolution of hardware.
In retrospect, hardware was getting better because it simply could get better. All the investment that the semiconductor industry deployed in R&D always resulted in some progress. But this curve had to hit a plateau. The mad race for faster processors had to stop somewhere. By 2015, gaming consoles had not only become widely available in India but also became a lot more affordable. It was a big blow to the so-called “Assembled PC” market. People went mobile. It was the age of high-performance laptops and mobile phones.
In 2018, I was stunned to see the kind of graphics mobile phones supported. The kind of graphics PUBG (popular online multiplayer game) used was a distant dream back in 2004. It was satisfying to see how gaming was made accessible to all. Hardware was irrelevant. There was a lot of standardization. The race for faster had almost ended but maybe it was replaced by race to achieve higher efficiency for mobile devices.
Gaming has still a long way to go. But this is the age of mobile. I predict that in matter of a few years, consoles will struggle to exist. A mobile phone could be turned into a console you want with all the projection technology to play any game of your choice on the surface of a wall. Let us wait and watch.
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