This is been something that's been rattling in my head for most of my gaming life, only to occasionally come out in the form of statements that other people see as extremely controversial. It usually happens in discussions where people talk about the idea of "one console" or some kind of "unified game platform." I think it's also at the heart of why people keep asking for every freaking game to be released on PC these days.
Basically, I've never really liked the idea of certain games being perpetually locked to one platform, but most people who use consoles have been used to it for almost the entire history of the industry, so few people ever think about alternatives. Maybe it's a slightly auspicious time to talk about it now, what with Rise of the Tomb Raider being almost the only really notable third party console exclusive right now, and Sony possibly announcing support for PS2 games on the PS4 at PlayStatoin Experience this Saturday. I've tolerated the idea of games being locked to platforms, but I've never actually PREFERRED it to possible alternatives.
The idea of consoles having distinct "identities" defined by their different game libraries as having no use outside of marketing ammunition for the console manufacturers. Unless a platform is extremely unique and some piece of software is only possible by that platform's extremely unique hardware, I don't think exclusivity ever really directly benefits the consumer. You may have some small cases where a platform holder was the only company willing to finance a game (ex: Bayonetta 2). And I think people fighting over the identities of those consoles -- console warriors, as people fighting an essentially pointless battle. It should just be about games. Even if these arguments made sense back in, say, the Super NES and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive era when console hardware was exotic, even that system was kind of a mistake in my opinion, and it is disappearing today.
PlayStation and Xbox to me today are like competing cable services -- offering most of the same content with slightly different service. When people talk about PC gaming they try to champion the extra hardware power or Steam sales, but honestly the main reason I cry out for more PC ports and prefer PC today is simply because my games feel less restricted on it. Even if a game is locked to Steam there's some possibility I could crack it if need be, and Steam itself to me feels less restrictive than when I'm playing a game on consoles because I can install it on any computer.
Mainly, I just don't like having to keep 13 game machines in my house simply to maintain access to classics I care about.
I like to think no other entertainment medium has this problem. Maybe it just depends on how much you care about your medium of choice. As I was thinking about this I took a look at my parents' music collection: Over the last 35 years they've maintained a reel-to-reel with some reels of music, a record player with a few shelves full of LPs, a tape deck with a container full of cassettes, shelves and shelves of CDs, and probably many gigabytes of mp3s. The difference? A lot of it is probably the same music re-purchased in successive new formats.
Publishers have figured out they can get away with doing a shitload of HD remasters to pad out their release calendars, and I think it might be because maybe, just maybe, some people would actually like backwards compatibility. I think the Xbox One BC poll revealed the shitload of people still playing COD Black Ops 2 on Xbox 360. Why should a game as great as Read Dead Redemption be locked down to the PS3 and Xbox 360 for all time? This brings me to the argument of closed platforms versus open ones.
All the benefits (and drawbacks) of PC gaming come from it being an open platform. That makes game preservation a lot easier for one thing. I think somebody just released a fan update for Star Wars Republic Commando to fix its compatibility for modern operating systems. I feel like this is a main reason people ask for so many PC ports these days. There is actually a chance you'll be able to fire up the PC version of Disgaea or Dragon's Dogma one day 20 years from now on a contemporary computer of that time, but how easy will it be to track down a PS2 or PS3 in 2035?
I'm not saying everybody should jump over to PC. The hurdles of getting into the platform are insurmountable to the average consumer. It would be really cool if somebody somehow came up with an open platform that still has all the accessibility of a console. I would personally imagine it being essentially a beefed-up version of one of those homebrew consoles you see small companies manufacturing every once in a while, or like a vicious-ass Raspberry Pi. A reasonably powerful machine sold at-profit with virtually no control exercised over its software. To work though, while getting support from major publishers, it would have to have the backing of a major player like Samsung or somebody. Ouya failed because it tried to control its software too much, treating it too similarly to existing consoles. The Android consoles never become individually successful because of how fragmented that ecosystem is.
And if consoles are going to stay closed, they should at least do what iOS has been doing -- maintaining a singular software ecosystem over successive generations. I have a feeling that's what PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo plan to do going forward. The switch to x86 architecture is a big sign. By all rights PlayStation should have already achieved that idea instead of being four separate console libraries. When the PS3 first came out I thought it was a sign of the future that you had one console which could play (at the time) 15 years worth of game discs. But Sony hampered this (and a lot else) by once again designing it around exotic hardware that today can't be emulated and had to be left behind for the sake of developer convenience. Now games like Demon's Souls might be trapped on it forever.
I don't know man. Sometimes I think about downloading ROMs and ISOs for every old game I own physically.
If one thing sticks with you from this long-ass ramble of a post, it should be the hope that console games don't remain this disposable toy of a medium people still see them as. Netflix works because people care about movies from 30 or 40 years ago, but the same company once said it wouldn't rent out games because nobody cares about a console game from 10 years ago.