It's a simple enough question, but the answer is something that has long eluded consensus. For some, a "games machine" is something made by Nintendo, or something with "PlayStation" or "Xbox" written on the packaging. For others, it's all about the amount of RAM, and the speed of the CPU, and the number of GPU cores they've managed to shoe-horn into their LED-encrusted black-and-silver beauty.
For years now – decades – these two points of view have divided people. On the one hand, the console faithful tout the stability of their platform, the assurance of a 5-year lifecycle, and the relatively low-cost nature of the hardware. The PC crowd on the other hand flaunt the flexibility of their hardware: their ability to improve performance at a moment's notice and to cater for new and developing trends in gaming for as long as their screaming wallets will allow.
Now, though, for better or worse we are beginning to see a real revolution in console gaming. Where once console specifications were defined and immutable, they have started to become varied and variable. Console manufacturers, it would seem, are starting to take aim against one of the major strengths of the PC platform: flexibility. But this change is going to come at a cost, and if not handled well could end up doing more harm than good.