Over the years the gaming world has changed a lot. Modern titles are very limited by the current console generations limited processing power (especially memory). If we want PC gaming to evolve, then so must consoles.
While nothing concrete has been announced yet, and both MS and Sony have claimed they intend their consoles to have a 10 year life-cycle. So that would would mean we can expect the Next-Generation to pop up sometime around 2012.
I'm going to ignore the Wii here as it doesn't really share much in common with PC gaming and has little direct impact on it.
If we look at the hardware of the current models:
CPU: 3.2 GHz PowerPC Tri-Core Xenon
Memory: 512 MB of GDDR3 RAM clocked at 700 MHz
GPU: 500 MHz ATI Xenos
Extra: HD-DVD drive
HDD: 250 GB
Strengths: hardware and chips close to PC hardware make it easier to program the games,
Weakness: Less processing power compared to the PS 3
CPU: 3.2 GHz Cell Broadband Engine with 1 PPE & 7 SPEs
Memory: 256 MB system and 256 MB video
GPU: 550 MHz NVIDIA/SCEI RSX 'Reality Synthesizer'
Extra: Blu-Ray drive
HDD: up to 320 GB
Strengths: very very powerful processor for such a well-priced product
Weakness: very limited memory and chip is hard to program
Now there are a couple of things to bare in mind here when comparing console hardware with PC hardware:
-Consoles can get you A LOT more performance for the hardware they offer compared to a PC, simply because they are easier to optimize.
-Consoles weak-spot has always been memory, or rather, the lack thereof. That's why consoles games must often resort to "tunnel-levels" as they can't storage large levels in their memory.
-Much more than PCs, consoles must be quiet an energy efficient. Hardware must be as cheap as possible while still offering performance.
Based on that we must consider the following trends for future console gaming:
-3D gaming will probably make a break-through, either with or without 3D glasses.
-Online distribution has a very high profit margin and will become increasingly important.
-Full-HD gaming will become standard (currently most games play at 1280x960)
-Casual Gaming and movement controls will become even more important. However they require different things (unique controls, low price, simple games) to core-gamers.
What to expect:
-For the Next-Gen consoles to support stereoscopic 3D and 1980x1080 the visual processing power would need to be quadrupled (roughly double the pixels + twice the FPS). Not really too much to ask and is easily accomplished.
-Full 64 bit-programming: While it is hard to predict what impact it might have, it would make sense since PCs have been 64-bit compatible for years now. (maybe consoles are too idk).
-Direct X 12 visuals: While Direct X 11 hasn't really had much of an impact so far, by 2012 Direct X 12 should be well underway. The visuals should be greatly improved over Direct X 8 visuals the current consoles have.
-A lot more memory: Memory nowadays is dead cheap and as it is the main bottle-neck on todays consoles. We can only hope they increase it by a lot. 4 GB dedicated memory minimum...
-Online distribution: Potentially MS could decide to fully embrace online distribution with their new console. No more discs, just downloads similar to Steam/XBox Live. It would save them an expensive Blu-Ray drive and increase the profit margin by quite a bit, but would require large amounts of Hard-Drive space. Probably a Terra-Byte or more.
-If Online distribution isn't fully embraced expect to see Blu-Ray drives for all consoles. That would allow a lot less Hard-Drive space.
-SSDs: In theory SSDs are ideal for consoles. Fast loading times, very little power needed, virtually silent and hard to break. Unfortunately they are still very expensive and might still be so in 2012.
-Serious MMOs are still very much a PC domain (one of the last few). If the Next-Gen consoles allow for keyboards to be connected, the increased memory might allow for some serious MMOs to finally get underway.
Anyway, I can't wait for the Next-Gen consoles to finally get underway because it's time PC Gaming continued evolving instead of being limited by gimped consoles.