Polygon's Brian Crecente wrote an opinion piece today titled "The console needs to die and Nintendo should be the one to pull the trigger." It's an interesting proposition, but I'm not sure I buy into it—at least not yet.
When streaming services like OnLive and Gaikai appeared, it was very alluring to consider a future in which you only had to worry about games instead of also worrying whether or not you had the latest hardware. And while a service like PlayStation Now exists and works reasonably well in some locations, it's hardly a silver bullet for the traditional disc or digital download models. There are still many issues: latency, connectivity, bandwidth, library, etc.
However, if you put aside all of the potential pitfalls with non-local computing for a streaming service, you also have the issue of hardware. Even if Nintendo decided to allow their theoretical streaming service to run on other devices, like Smart TVs, Roku boxes, and the like, you run into the immediate issue of controllers. Different devices might support different controllers, consumers won't have a standard, and accessories will be a more confusing market (than what they already are).
It's far more likely that current console makers would make a proprietary streaming box for their platform that included a controller. It's easier to understand, it's easier to consume, and it's...well, it's a console. A smaller console, perhaps, but a console nevertheless.
Is it really preferable to have a streaming-only console that hinges on a great internet connection?
Perhaps a future exists in which this scenario seems stable and reliable, but it's not here yet. The U.S. still has many regions without consistent high-speed internet (and Google Fiber is taking a long time to roll out), and bandwidth caps continue to be an issue for many. Additionally, console makers want to sell in many markets around the world, and there is an even wider variety of network infrastructures, especially in developing countries.
The other limiting factor is, of course, retail. While this is more a reality of the present and shouldn't necessarily dictate the ideal future for the industry, it's important to consider the impact physical retail has on gaming. The sales figures of the PlayStation 4 show that the dedicated gaming console business is healthy. Meanwhile, digital-only consoles like the Ouya are sold at retail but occupy a sad, little shelf on the floor off to the side of the video game section. It's safe to say they aren't breaking any Black Friday sales numbers.
The reality is that Sony is already paving the way for the kind of future Brian is proposing with PlayStation Now, ahead of Nintendo and Microsoft. That's not to say they're doing it well: the limited library and confusing/too-high pricing model have rendered it almost D.O.A., but the key thing to note is that it exists on and alongside existing consoles, not in place of them. This sort of gentle, additive rollout not only helps Sony test the market but avoids a "cold turkey" cutover to a streaming-only system that would likely be prone to massive launch road bumps.
While Nintendo's NX may be a new type of gaming console, it's more likely to be a home/handheld hybrid than an all-streaming affair. Nintendo hasn't laid any kind of groundwork for a streaming service like Sony, they haven't invested in online infrastructure as aggressively as Microsoft, and their current Amiibo platform shows a strong support for plastic stuff sold at retail.
The biggest hand they have shown is a closer relationship between their home and on-the-go experiences: a few years, ago, they combined their hardware development teams, they added a second screen to their home console (allowing previously portable DS games to be emulated), they added the Wii U's Miiverse social networking service to the 3DS, and they're experimenting with "Cross Buy"-like purchasing options for games on both platforms. If anything, we'll see a bigger push for digital games purchasing by way of more onboard storage for their next system (especially since the eShop has nicely found its legs over the last few years).
While it may be a noble pursuit, a future without consoles will only happen if and when the business dictates it and network infrastructure makes it widely viable. So far, that future remains a dream.