PCs will replace consoles, says Ben Cousins

Ex-Sony dev sees hardcore gamer crowd moving to desktops after death of dedicated gaming boxes

Consoles are doomed, destined to lose their mainstream audience to mobile platforms and their dedicated core gamers to the PC. That's according to developer Ben Cousins, who runs mobile-focused DeNA subsidiary Scattered Entertainment after lengthy stints working on consoles and PCs.

In a guest column on Kotaku today, Cousins said the console market was on the way out for a number of reasons. He cited the massive expense of making console games, and noted that the Microsoft and Sony business divisions that housed the companies' console businesses combined for nearly $8 billion in losses since R&D on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 would have started.

While there may always be gamers who want and will pay for consoles, there may not be enough of them, Cousins said. The problem is that the mainstream gamers who buy Call of Duty, Halo, Madden, and not much else are being targeted and won over by mobile platforms, where they can play games cheap or for free on devices they might already own.

"Without this huge group of people buying consoles or console games, the console platform holders will no longer be able to make enough money to justify developing, marketing, and manufacturing the devices," Cousins said.

In turn, the console diehards will be left with PC gaming, which Cousins said is becoming an increasingly attractive pursuit thanks to controller and TV support, digital distribution channels like Steam, free-to-play titles, and indie games.

"I spent eight years of my life working on console games for companies like Microsoft, Sony and EA," Cousins said. "The reason I moved to mobile a year and a half ago is precisely because I came to the conclusion the consoles were on their way out. I bet my career on it."

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Latest comments (21)

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
This is a cogent view.
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Jose Martin Entrepreneur & Financing - Media / Tech / Interactive Entertainment 5 years ago
A few problems with this analysis, consoles as we have known them may end up dying out but make no mistake, a "media box" that also happens to play games is where the future lies. These TV connected boxes may not be pure consoles but at least a couple successful survivors will definitely retain the console DNA that allows for AAA gaming . Look at the Xbox evolution from the original Xbox to the current capabilities of the 360 - You now have a somewhat functional version of Internet Explorer running, Hulu, Netflix, Last FM, VEVO, HBO GO, ESPN, NBA GAME TIME etc...fantastic all in one entertainment solution for gamers and non gamers alike.

I have all three current gen consoles and a very high end PC and I have to say, in terms of total hours, I spend more time on 360 media apps than I do gaming on all the consoles and my PC but as a gamer, I would always choose a device that also plays games over a Roku-like media only device.

Its quite laughable to say that "mainstream gamers" who usually play AAA titles like the COD or Halo franchise games are being "won over" by cheap and free to play mobile titles...that's utter nonsense, only casual gamers who rarely play on a console would ever be won over by the typical trash being peddled on Android and Apple mobile devices, utilizing small screens and touch controls. The Vita is a perfect test case - a product that by any measure offers the very best in mobile gaming - you would think, that if mainstream gamers were at all interested in adopting mobile gaming as a console-replacing option - the VITA would have sold like hotcakes...obviously not the case - mainstream gamers have no interest in mobile gaming as a REPLACEMENT for console quality gaming on their TVs - mobile gaming is simply an addition to their regular gaming habits, if utilized at all.

...and if mobile technology becomes robust enough for full featured AAA console gaming and these devices can be connected to your TV...then of course traditional consoles would surely die but then the question becomes, aren't these future mobile devices that have the high end hardware capabilities to run a game like Far Cry 3 on your 50 inch LED, simply consoles in a smaller form factor?
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Andy Samson QA Supervisor, Digital Media Exchange5 years ago
" I came to the conclusion the consoles were on their way out. I bet my career on it."
So how come new consoles like the OUYA and Game Stick are popping up? It's a bet wherein I think he will lose. They're not on their way out, they're simply evolving, converging technologies that will sustain it for at least 10 more years. Consoles are becoming more like PCs but without the hassles of hardware compatibility issues for the user.
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Show all comments (21)
A console can be viewed as a pre packaged PC, ready to play. Sounds like doom mongering or wishful thinking really, as not everyone is PC (there is linux and mac too)
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
I'm starting to think that Valve are timing the Steambox just right. What's that? A gaming machine that's easy to upgrade, has a whole library of games in existence, and can run media files on-the-spot? No need to transcode flac or mkv files? With other companies (Intel/AMD) paying for the core (processor/gpu) R & D? And that can sit in the living room?

Though I must agree with Jose, the CoD/Halo market is not paying attention to mobile games, so I can see both sides of this.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 7th January 2013 9:07pm

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Jamie Read 3D Artist, Neon Play Ltd5 years ago
You will see a decline in console as other forms of playing become available, but not everyone likes portable gaming, playing on a small screens or playing on PC/Mac/Linux, so there will always be an audience there.
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I just dont see this whole fascination with having "one system to rule them all". There is and simply will be demographics, needs, and realities that allow for different gaming choices dependent on your specific needs. I see a future with mobile/console/ and pc all having their share of the market.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
"I bet my career on it."

Well Burger King is always hiring so atleast you'll be able to get work after this.

As others have already alluded to, consoles are no longer just for playing games. They are now all in one media boxes capable of playing cds, dvds, blurays and streaming movies, tv shows, music and other live entertainment. You can also use them as a phone with voice chat. As consoles continue to evolve and change with the times the only conclusion I have come to is that they still have a very long life ahead of them.
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd5 years ago
It seems a bit redundant to point out that the games console business model as it was defined 7-8 years ago doesn't work any more. Are we supposed to assume Microsoft and Sony don't realise that? Hardware is cheaper, tools are more mature, and developers don't necessarily have to bet several years of work on shifting 40 boxes in a two week window any more. Perhaps this new landscape won't support multi-$100m 'event' games from Activision and Rockstar, but the vast majority of console and PC games aren't in that category.

Whoever's logo is on the hardware (one of the current platform holders, or Valve - certainly not Apple, short of a cultural shift radically beyond the most desperate reinventions of ailing companies), there will need to be cheap, standardised platforms that are marketed as gaming devices and steered by companies that can actively support content creators. The last few console generations have given mainstream consumers - not hobbyists, as the reductive 'us-and-them' argument always paints them as - expectations about the quality and complexity of games they play at home.
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Matt Martin Editor, GamesIndustry.biz5 years ago
"Console gaming is dead" is the new "PC gaming is dead".
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
In terms of business model consoles reason for existence was to act as anti piracy dongles. The 8 bit and 16 bit home computer markets were destroyed by piracy.
But now that games are free (think World of Tanks) piracy is no longer an issue. So consoles as an anti piracy dongle have lost their relevance. There is no longer a need to control the market to force consumers to pay $60 for a game.
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Matt Walker Production Coordinator, Capcom5 years ago
"There is no longer a need to control the market to force consumers to pay $60 for a game."

That being said, and excuse my ignorance - is F2P making more money annually now than traditional, packaged $60 titles? Honest question.

Additionally, if the F2P market is indeed making a comparable amount of money, is that allocated across as many separate titles?
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Nuttachai Tipprasert Programmer 5 years ago
In terms of business model consoles reason for existence was to act as anti piracy dongles. The 8 bit and 16 bit home computer markets were destroyed by piracy.
Get the fact straight, Bruce. 8 bits and 16 bits consoles were easy to pirate as well. Heck! Even the consoles hardware themselves can be pirated.

The reason console existed because its accessibility. Instead of buying PC games and manually configure setup files to match individual hardware setup, people just plug the cartridges to the console, turn on TV and then everything is done. The accessibility is not the problem anymore when we have smartphones and tablets that can do almost everything console can do and that the reason why consoles need to evolve. But still, it is hard to believe that people will stop playing high profile games on dedicate gaming devices and play solely on tablets and phones.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Nuttachai Tipprasert on 8th January 2013 11:52am

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Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts5 years ago
Console Gaming may well be phased out over the next 10 years but it will not be replaced by PC's. Maybe a complete Media/Console style hub and I would say its more likely Smart TV would win out over PC's if we could get standardised platforms for the publishers to work with. But PC's no....Half my friend don't even have PC anymore just using Netbooks or Laptops and some just with Tablets which don't offer the same gaming potential from a useability viewpoint. They like the console because they can buy one and know they can use it for 5 years plus without having to upgrade it all the time. Its all about plug and play for the general public.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Lewis Brown on 8th January 2013 12:06pm

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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up5 years ago
Its just the business models and services that will change. Hardware will become more generic. Potentially more of a PC architecture. Current games console makers certainly wont be able to continue with attempts at controlling the living room entertainment via their hub, that's for sure. You need to offer a much more sophisticated eco systems these days in order to be a contender. I don't see any games console manufacturers ever coming close to developing a rival for android or iOS. They were caught napping. They might as well bite the bullet and switch to android on their games consoles.

But ask the wife which unit she prefers in the living room. That should be a good indicator of the survival of living room gaming.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 8th January 2013 1:38pm

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Tim Browne Game Studio Design Director, King.com5 years ago
@Matt Martin - Couldn't have put it better myself.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tim Browne on 8th January 2013 1:38pm

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Mariusz Szlanta Producer, SEGA Europe5 years ago
Console gaming as a form of entertainment is far from dead and it is not replaced by tablet/mobile gaming. It is supplemented by it.

From end-user standpoint it does not really matter if box that plays games is labelled Sony, Apple or Commodore as long as it is cheap, quiet and offers good accessibility. Plug, stretch on couch in front of big TV, play. Or touch and have some turns of Civilisation on tablet when on the bus.

It would be great if it also could browse internet and play music and TV.
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Craig Bamford Writer/Consultant 5 years ago
I do think that consoles are on their way out. Where I may differ from most is that I don't think they needed to be.

There's still a place for intuitive, simple-to-use, focused, no-hassle gaming devices. That's not what a modern console is. A modern console (as Jim Sterling so ably put it) combines all the worst parts of PC gaming without any of the good parts. It has broken game releases that are only slowly patched into usefulness. It has obnoxious anti-piracy and anti-resale schemes. It's still too costly for what you get, and it still over-focuses on non-gaming downloads and streaming over actual games.

(Why keep consoles around if they're just glorified Netflix players?)

All that, and consoles still lack the openness, upgradability, vibrant indie scene, or deep long-tail digital discounts that characterize modern PC gaming. PC gaming is arguably the best it's ever been, even while mobile gaming reinvents itself to take advantage of smartphones, which are the OTHER ubiquitous multifunction device.

Consoles could still have an advantage. They could still be straightforward, focused, immersive, "it just works" gaming solutions. PCs can still be a slight bit of a hassle, and smartphones just aren't powerful enough to drive an immersive console- or PC-style experience. That's the role they used to play back during the SNES, PSX and PS2 eras, and they did an excellent job of it. They aren't anymore, and unless they rediscover that focus, they won't be missed.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 5 years ago
" I came to the conclusion the consoles were on their way out. I bet my career on it."

You better start looking for a new job...
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Nick Ferguson Sr. Business Development Manager, Amazon5 years ago
About 6 months ago I picked up an Alienware X51, with the expectation that it would serve as my primary gaming box under our living room TV. I estimate that for every 2 hours I spent gaming on that box, I spent about 30 minutes troubleshooting or waiting for an update / patch to install.

I was really looking forward to Steam's "Big Picture Mode" but I felt it was a colossal disappointment - it didn't remove the need for a keyboard and mouse except in a handful of circumstances, and I ended up using Steam in the classic view most of the time.

After Christmas I gave up and moved it upstairs to replace my ageing desktop, fed up with the constant battle with Windows drivers, upgrades, wireless sync issues, etc.

The final straw was when Battlefield 3 simply stopped working for no apparent reason, and then a few days later my system started to crash repeatedly due to a failed driver install, necessitating a full refresh.

I have a lot of sympathy for Ben's view but I simply don't believe that the console is "dying", other than in the sense of a standalone, dedicated games playing machine with no other functionality. I mean, Wii U launched with built-in support for Netflix, YouTube and LoveFilm so I think we can all agree that has already happened.

I play a lot of mobile and tablet games, but they are very different experiences from the games I play on my 360. Frankly, I think the future of gaming platforms is that the hardware serving up experiences is completely irrelevant and that it is the service and accompanying software which will determine the winners and losers.

The current debate is a little like saying Sky TV is better whether it is being delivered on a tablet or on a 46" TV. Well, surely that just depends on the content and the context in which you're watching it?
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 5 years ago
Not this circle again!

It pretty much culminates with a PC attached or streaming to a 4k TV and playing Microsoft, Sony and Steam games with a glowing logo representing the particular company you happened to get the machine from be that Microsoft, Sony, generic or maybe even valve.

Quite possibly containing a chip to allow exclusive content locking for select titles from each company. Version two will have no locking because all companies will have worked out (it usually takes them a whole generation to work out they've limited their potential audience) that they should just allow anyone to buy their games as it's all money in the end and ultimately it's quality that matters most in the gamers eye.
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