With the increasing cost of manufacturing consoles (and more and more consoles not becoming actually profitable until they are firmly entrenched in the retail populace), the lifespan of the general console has been increasing steadily over the past few years. Digital distribution has taken center stage in terms of software sales and marketing, with many quality titles (expanded from simple arcade fare to full fledged, high production games), no longer is the population of gaming enthusiasts set to purchase a console every 2-3 years. Consoles are now reaching 5-10 years in lifespan due to the complexity of their inner workings, developers taking longer and longer to push a system to it's limits; thus reducing the need for a faster, more powerful system to do the things they need.
In addition, little separates one console from another anymore. The Wii is a bit of an anomaly in all of this, but the detractors of the console will say that it's nothing but a N64 with added motion detection. Not having owned a Wii myself, I can't say whether one side of the argument is true, but for the sake of argument I'm leaving it out. Sure one console can say they have Blu-ray this, HD that, but in the end they play games. For the most part, those games are identical, and look almost exactly alike. It's come to a point where media is more for the video watching enjoyment of the owner and not linked directly to the quality of the games released.
All of this got me thinking. Are we nearing a future where the likes of Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony will no longer feel the need for a console war? With the ever increasing costs for R&D of new consoles, the price of new tech to be the "first" at something, and the production values of class A games rising to the point where it doesn't make financial sense to be loyal to a single console (see "The Final Fantasy Debacle"), what is there to win? Microsoft has just finally started making money on 360's sold after a good 2-3 years of production, and Sony still losing money on every PS3 sold (last I heard, please correct me if I'm wrong); where is the money being made in all this?
Microsoft makes it money from it's first party game studio, Xbox Live, and the sales from the Marketplace. Sony makes it money on it's own marketplace. So why even bother with hardware? Let's combine efforts. Let's take the best of the best, smartest of the smart from each of the big three companies and let their knowledge be combined. One console, every 10 years or so. Let each of the companies offer it's own services to those who want it. Microsoft will makes it money from it's own offerings in the Marketplace, Sony will make their money in theirs and Nintendo in theirs as well. First party game studios will continue to push out the hits, and all the companies will get a cut from the cost of the online service. read