The 1Up show recently held an interview with God of War Developer David Jaffe about his perspective on the next-gen future, and he said a mouthful. One of his more interesting points, I thought, was that because games have gotten so expensive to produce, we're seeing more and more games go multi-platform to cover all their bases (read: markets).
He proposed the possibility that, in 10 years, there may be only one gaming console. I have actually been thinking about this a lot recently as I hear friends talking about which console they will buy (and consequently which games they will get/miss). If so many third-party developers go multi-platform with their games, will there even be a point for first-party games and exclusives? I find this a funny discussion, too, given that the other big battle being waged is the HD-DVD/BlueRay one. Why is it that movies must be in a single format, but games still have multiple consoles.
I think it would be very possible in the future to have one game format, but continue to have competing hardware makers. These different hardware platforms could still taut the best interface/menus, sleekest design, most connectivity options, etc, just like PCs do today. The only difference would be that games would automatically be compatible with all systems. Even unique control schemes like the Wii could theoretically be added to any console with a firmware upgrade and standard connector. Why make gamers choose whether to miss Assassin's Creed or Halo 3?
I do understand, though, that the different console giants think they're hardware framework is the best, and that games designed for these custom processing environments can achieve specific goals of the developers, but I think that a single-console model is inevitable. Maybe as we get further into this next-gen, or the next-next-gen, and graphical differences start becoming more and more trivial, this idea might become feasible. On the other hand, maybe the rise of in-game advertising will make the concept of an exclusive title less scary to developers. Plus, competition does produce better products.
Who knows? In the meantime, I enjoy the battle for games both in the marketplace and in my living room, and I, among many, will continue to buy multiple consoles if that's what it takes to experience all the biggest titles.