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End of the Golden Age: Are Games Consoles Too Generic?

Games consoles are becoming homogeneous appliances with few distinguishing features, argues Will Luton

Following the Microsoft-Sony PR circus that was E3 a number of fairweather gamer friends asked me: "What's new about those new consoles?" That's a pretty tough question. "The games sort of look a bit nicer", I'd answer.

"So similar are these black electronic monoliths that the major focus of E3 was each system's DRM. And now even that's the same"

Traditionally the trigger to buy a games console has come from a feature over the past generation: CD sound, 3D graphics, online connectivity, DVD playback, HD graphics et al. However, the Xbox One and the PS4 seem at best to offer incremental updates on existing characteristics, such as TV and motion tracking, rather than sizable new features.

In fact, despite closely watching the E3 coverage I had to rebrief myself on what these machines actually did new. I struggle to find a clear (£350+ clear) distinction over the current machine under my TV or indeed a major distinction between the two consoles. So similar are these black electronic monoliths that the major focus of E3 was each system's DRM. And now even that's the same.

To me it's clear that games consoles are heading towards becoming generic appliances with little distinguishing features, like microwave ovens. Indeed in the current generation Xbox or PlayStation was a coin flip decision: ultimately they delivered the same content in the same way.

As budgets for AAA games continue to push upward, so to does the need for the widest possible audience. This financial risk makes betting on one platform, when there are two so similar with roughly equal audience share, a bad business decision. This is unlikely to change in the next generation, unless supporting both platforms is considerably difficult (looks unlikely) and one takes considerable marketshare over the other (ditto).

What does this homogenisation mean? Firstly the console market is unlikely to grow this generation by Sony or Microsoft's hand. Even as the best TV and movie experience, these machines are games machines and will be bought by self-identifying gamers. If you had no interest in the last two generations, you're unlikely to find this generation appealing.

Secondly, the uptake for this generation will be much slower. With ostensibly incremental feature improvements, the pitch falls on the shoulders of the content and with budgets increasing this content is likely to be incrementally more explosive, yet fewer. Whilst early adopters will early adopt, I expect the sales tail will be long.

Thirdly, with hardware and software so similar, like the previous generation, neither Sony nor Mircosoft are going to run away with the market. However, it's clear that consumers are concerned about the overall quality and convenience of the service (see DRM forum rage), which could well be how the platforms are able to distinguish themselves. This however is a long slow dance.

Finally, whilst I know that there's a great number of gamers to whom console gaming is important and to me that very much used to be the case, in writing this piece I have to admit something that I'd rather not: I'm no longer excited by games consoles. And I think it's not just only me.

The next generation of consoles are not only vying for my wallet, but also my time, against a backdrop of abundant free or very cheap fresh content on PC, web and mobile. Even board games. Whilst the titles on display at E3 looked pretty and deep, they also looked tired and generic compared to what new independent developers and startups (many of whom, as I wrote last month, are still locked out from consoles) are doing elsewhere.

Being so jaded by consoles makes me feel broken; I often drag myself to GAME looking for discs to feed my PS3. I meander the aisle hoping something will grab me, hoping that there's something on the shelves I can love. I look at the boxes of men with guns, the shiny cars and myriad sports and feel unable to part with £40. I'm pervaded by the sense that I've played these games before and they aren't for me.

"If you had no interest in the last two generations, you're unlikely to find this generation appealing"

And therein lies a truth: Console gaming is still a niche aimed at a sliver of the population. Over 16 years Grand Theft Auto, one of console gaming's biggest titles, has sold around 120 million copies, whilst in only four years the Angry Birds series has seen over 1 billion downloads. That's roughly a 1:8 ratio.

Gaming is bigger than just consoles now; it's a mainstream media approaching the level of reach and cultural significance as movies, music or TV. Yet I can't shake the feeling that, despite the abundant enthusiasm of many vocal gamers, that the next generation of consoles will be met with a great deal of apathy from many more. It's a sector that many in the industry have predicted runs the risk of stagnating and stalling. I fear it already has.

Whilst I don't expect the complete disappearance of consoles, I think their golden age is drawing to an end, leaving them wide open to erosion from the varied, cheap and ever evolving content on platforms already in players' lives and those on the horizon.

Will Luton is a free-to-play designer and consultant. This is part of a regular series of features for GamesIndustry International looking at the future of the video game business. You can follow him on Twitter and visit his personal site here.

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Latest comments (45)

James Steele Senior Software Engineer, Nintendo of Europe GmbH8 years ago
For me, it's really not about the hardware. It's about the software and the whole eco-system that the platform offers. We're done with the days where we needed really exotic hardware solutions to get performance at a low cost. And it's absolutely correct that console platforms are more about great content, rather than who can make the best use of every single clock-cycle.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Steele on 21st June 2013 8:22am

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Andreia Quinta Photographer 8 years ago
Hit the nail on the head.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
I often drag myself to GAME looking for discs to feed my PS3. I meander the aisle hoping something will grab me, hoping that there's something on the shelves I can love.
Remember when having a mid-life crisis was about getting a convertible and picking up women at bars?
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Show all comments (45)
Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
I think the builders aren't helping themselves.

I already have a sky+ box that records tv and a decent hifi and bluray player. (And they all just work without having to ask someone elses permission). I could make room for an absolutely bonzer kick ass hardware video game machine, but there isn't one. My PC is still more powerful than anything "next gen" coming soon, or at least it will be when I easily upgrade it next for similar outlay. And my PC gets my mail, facebook, word docs and I can do my job on it from home when I need to.

Consoles had one draw - big impressive games you couldn't get anywhere else. And they've deliberately pissed that one usp away.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 21st June 2013 8:45am

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Although... I bet in 50 years' time people will still be playing Super Mario Bros. and no one will recall a pissed off avian or say "WoW" that MMO was awesome back in the day!"

Memorable characters and games on any platform outlast memories of created characters and some types of gameplay gone for good once a fad ends and there's no history of it other than text, images and video footage that might get wiped off a server at some point...
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters8 years ago
I had to rebrief myself on what these machines actually did new. I struggle to find a clear (£350+ clear) distinction
I could quite easily apply that sentence to smart phones, and yet people rush out every couple of years (or sooner) to buy the latest one. I have a Galaxy S2 that's almost 2 years old now, and I've been looking at the S4 or Nexus 4 and wondering "what do these do that my current phone doesn't?"

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dave Herod on 21st June 2013 9:40am

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
But nostalgia aside, there is no denying the fact that established brands and franchises usually do not attempt to grow up at the same speed as their audience. Case and point Nintendo as the prime example.

Who cares if a twentysomething out of college does no longer like the new Call of Duty. Plenty of younger players to get audience levels back to where they were and then some. People change faster than the audience they belong to during parts of their life.

But if an individual looks beyond brand loyalty, he/she will find there is a platform with games to like. Chances are that it won't be a console, since they are dialed in to a very special demographic. Beyond that, Nintendo might use your nostalgia to make a play for your kids someday and Microsoft is making a run for the after-work couch slob.
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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 8 years ago
I agree with this article 100%. While I do not think console will ever entirely disappear, I do think they will lose popularity as PC picks back up. I often ask myself, why buy a $400 console when I can just build a computer for a little more?

The only thing that is left is the software, Which in my opinion, the consoles don't have the software worth that $400 price tag. Course that is just me. I am a PC gamer for the most part.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 8 years ago
Yeah I've stuck with my S2 too.
I've tried gaming on my smartphone and the ones that really gain any traction are the ones I can do during an advert break and don't require my full attention, the more meatier games that I've bought just seem to sit on there as I'd rather play on the TV when I want a more immersive experience and that is still where consoles win for me, as I want to sit on my sofa, not at my desk and I want it to just work without any hassle.
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd8 years ago
It's jumping the gun a bit to assume that the software will look similar, and that the machines will naturally be neck and neck in the market. The more powerful machine is $100 cheaper this time, and we're not going to be waiting several years for tools to exploit the hardware effectively.

And let's just ponder for a minute why something you can obtain for free by tapping a button has shifted more units than a full price console game. That "slither" (sic) of an audience buying into high profile console releases is about the size of any given high-end television series.

While I think it's safe to say that no console is ever going to his the sales peaks of the PS2 again, it's easy for pundits to underestimate the under-served appetite for something genuinely new and exciting. The current console generation has dragged on so long that even a useless white elephant like the Kinect managed to shift millions of units.
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters8 years ago
Most people don't rush out to buy a new smartphone, it's part of their phone subscription.
Not true, but you've demonstrated the actual truth about people's perceptions. When my contract runs out this year, if I don't have a new phone I'm going to have a significantly lower monthly fee because I'm only paying for the service, I've already got the phone. Or continue paying the same ridiculously high price and get a new phone. So... having the new phone is still buying it, but the phone company spins it to make it seem like it's coming at no extra cost. So, it's all about how you market it.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
Playing a game on a mobile phone and Tablet feels generic and empty. While playing on consoles feels like seeing a movie in a movie theater compared to watching it at home on a TV. Consoles are my prefered choice for games.

What keeps the WiiU from feeling generic is that it has content you can only find their. If Nintendo were to sell out and have there content everywhere it would feel generic as I doubt the quality would be the same since they try to cater to everyone. But in trying to cater to people who just play games, they dont feel generic at all.

it feels more like an exotic expirience different from anything I can ever get on a mobile phone or tablet. So in a sense, these console wars we have keep the industry moving, from growing stagnent, like it is with the mobile game market. I can hardly find a gaming expirience there that would grab my attention long enough to be a memorable expirience, like I do with many Nintendo games and console games.

So to say that the consoles have become generic is a terrible understatment and I totally dissagree. Consoles offer gaming expiriences that cant be found on any other platform.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 21st June 2013 4:29pm

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For all our nerdling naval gazing and hair splitting (... we love it!) in my heart of hearts I don't think in consumer terms there's that much between the two consoles so far. Of course there is a lot of talk, and promises of a real difference, and tbh I wish both platforms had their own Steam-like online marketplace. But ignoring the PR, it's surely obvious that every developer out there is going to release every next-gen game they can on both consoles. Talking about percentile differences in memory and CPU speed means little to the consumer when the hardware is actually mind-bogglingly similar and 99% of games will be standardised to work on both machines as they have been since the 32-bit era came about. I personally may prefer Sony's attitude but MS are a bit like EA, cursed to forever be the golf-playing uncles who are terminally uncool no matter what they do. Price is a factor now but I'm quite sure MS will release an XBOXO model without Kinect that will compete squarely with Sony on price because they are rich and they can, and as Rob pointed out they're not totally dim. So given I can't predict the future anyway, so far it looks business as usual to me and that both consoles will coexist for another 8 years. I'm just glad that the era of platform holder domination over the industry (and esp. developers) is finally giving way - now that IS a success and a real bloody difference.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
But that doesn't explain, why some media/brands/ips stay relevant, while others not. In video games for example, look at some extremely successful franchises from the 1990s like Command & Conquer, Wing Commander, Lemmings or Myst, they all vanished (there is a new C&C now and then, but it doesn't have the impact, it once had). Obviously, there weren't enough younger players to replace the people who left.
It is a publisher's task to keep an IP relevant to an audience and hedge an audience within a generation of gamers. All the franchises you named rose to fame on platforms which were not representative of where things were heading. All those IPs failed to transition to the console audience which its IP holders started to target. They are perfect examples how expectations of large revenue caused those IPs to abandon their original audience and promote it to an entirely different audience.

Particularly C&C is such a case. It was a small fun game on the PC with a dedicated fanbase. Then EA tried console versions on the PSone. Then EA tried fps versions, they tried rebooting the setting, they were the first to aggressively push "esports & commentating" features. In the end they blamed piracy for lack of success, DRM the hell out of their product and changed to gameplay so drastically that even base building was gone. After some grass has grown over the debacle, an f2p zombie is resurrected. C&C is the perfect example how an IP was leveraged to hunt down emerging audiences in hop of being "the thing" again. Meanwhile, all the original fans wanted was good old C&C. A type of game nobody creates because it won't generate the type of profit companies are after.

Meanwhile on Nintendo's side. Some jaded old gamers might say Nintendo was releasing the same game over and over. Nintendo knows that their games have the ability to draw an audience without Nintendo chasing trends. Some customers might have grown too old, but for the same reason people bought Smash Brothers ten years ago, there will people who buy the very same game today. Just as EA knows there will always be football fans buying FiFa and do not try to turn it into beach volleyball because sex sells better.
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Caleb Hale Journalist 8 years ago
The Nintendo Wii fooled everyone into thinking the console gaming base could grow permanently this generation. Sure, the Wii attracted some non-traditional gaming console buyers early on, but what ultimately happened? They played Wii Sports, perhaps picked up a few more titles, but their libraries never grew to more than 10 games.

Microsoft and Sony tried to mimic Nintendo's actions to little success, and by the end of this generation, the console party was pretty much made up of the same old crowds.

Gaming at the console/PC caliber is niche and always will be. I've had my bouts of boredom with the medium in the past, but I've always come back. I find the attitude of the console companies these days (well, at least Sony's and Nintendo's) a little more promising, since they are opening their platforms to a host of developers capable of delivering unique and compelling games along with the gun-toting AAA titles.
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Actually, it doesnt matter what kind of hardware the next gen gaming comes on, as long as there i continuation of core gaming, on whatever convenient accessible device that can deliver it.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus8 years ago
All this talk about the hardware, the DRM, etc. is meaningless in my mind. What it's always been about to me: it's the games. It's ALWAYS about the games.

THAT is where the worry is, to be honest, because most of the marquee games beings shown off at E3 were not exclusives, with the exception of Nintendo's.
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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 8 years ago
End of the Golden Age? The audience is expanding, the awareness is growing and the number of consoles is expanding. Sure, there's Sony and Microsoft doing their arms race. But there's also Nintendo, maybe more notably, the upcoming Android consoles and then there's SteamBox. Inexpensive game systems with the ability to self publish could very well be the future.

If we're looking at just Sony and Microsoft we might be looking at a fossil of what the industry was.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Cody on 21st June 2013 5:19pm

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Will Luton8 years ago
Yes, I only really consider the Sony / Microsoft race as I spoke about the market position of microconsoles in my last column. Those to me are much more exciting.
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Donald Dalley Freelance writer 8 years ago
I expected nothing less from someone who has a vested interest in free-to-play games, etc.

People have predicted the demise of expensive games consoles as long as I can remember. One of the most expensive that we ever bought was the PS2. The package was around $700 by the time I got it in the door. Today's are more powerful and are cheaper.

I buy the PS consoles because of one game. The one thing that games don't have is a DLC add-on called time. I wish I could buy more time to play, but I can't, so I settled on a compromise - turn'em-on-n-play game consoles, not waste-my-time-fiddling-PCs. I have three cell phones, but none of them will I ever play a game on - some I can't anyway, thankfully. There is no time for that. If I even get to use the phones in the first place, since I sit beside a landline phone all day. We don't have TV service (no time for it), so I can't get bored between commercials, thankfully, either.

Developers were dying for new hardware. The PS3 gave them shivers trying to get up to speed and that choked PS developers. Now they have a wonderful open 8 Gb playground. Do you really think that devs will ignore that? They asked for this, so they had better get a move on. Can SONY support indie devs enough to open the market to new ideas? We'll see. They have some interesting ones, now, on the PS3, such as Journey, so I have some confidence that they can do it again.

At some point, things such as better graphics top out. We can only perceive better quality up to a point, then higher res doesn't mean anything. We are getting closer. CPU/GPU speeds and other capabilities are good enough to last while hardware improvements exceed current ones. That's always the case. There is nothing better today than Bu-ray for disc delivery, so you can't hold that against them.

I just thought that this was written by someone who is jaded or blinded by peripheral things. Time will tell who survives, consoles or mobile. Writers won't stop doing this, though, with next gen consoles. See you then!
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Donald Dalley Freelance writer 8 years ago
every game will be massive multiplat in the future
Nope. Won't happen. Some games just aren't suited to that kind of playing environment.
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Anthony Gowland Director, Ant Workshop8 years ago
Although... I bet in 50 years' time people will still be playing Super Mario Bros. and no one will recall a pissed off avian or say "WoW" that MMO was awesome back in the day!"
I'll take that bet.

In 50 years time people will be nostalgic for the games that they remember from their childhoods (not their parents' childhoods) - stuff like Angry Birds, Minecraft, Skylanders.
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Charles Herold Wii Games Guide, about.com8 years ago
I find it perplexing that you don't even mention Nintendo, the one console maker that has actively attempted to differentiate their consoles in major ways. And has gotten a lot of flack precisely for not doing what the others do.
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises8 years ago
I'm excited by the new console generation because games from the old one look unimpressive on my 120" screen, and 99.9% of mobile and free-to-play games are crap.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
Will Luton is a free-to-play designer and consultant. This is part of a regular series of features for GamesIndustry International looking at the future of the video game business.
Now I see whats wrong with this article. Of course a free to play designer will find consoles generic and boring... Why did I even bother reading this.

I love playing on consoles, Im sure many people do too. Not everyone likes playing on the phone. Free to play isnt the only way to play... consoles are not generic. Between the WiiU, PS4 and XboxOne, there are plenty of differences, between exclusives, features, software and hardware.

If they were so generic, the choice between which one to purchase would not be so difficult. If it was so Generic, picking between a WiiU, PS4 or XboxOne shouldnt really matter, because according to Will Luton there is not much difference.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 21st June 2013 9:21pm

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Brian Smith Artist 8 years ago
The USP for me with consoles is that they are the same. Multi player on other devices is open to advantages/disadvantages from the various configurations of hardware. Back when I gamed mostly on pc, multiplayer gaming was full of massive hardware differences along with much hacking and cheating. The always seemed to need ridiculous amounts of fiddling with techy files as well. I recall many sessions where just setting up took most of the time.

Consoles on the other hand offer same hardware and are made to be no-fuss solutions. This I've found to be the biggest USP on consoles and the reason I'll continue to invest in them. Good multiplayer, particularly fast action multiplayer needs a level playing field to be fair.
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Donald Dalley Freelance writer 8 years ago
Getting the first console can be expensive. In Canada, the console alone was $450, plus we needed a game or two and a racing wheel, etc.
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The key to understanding the new PS4/XBone consoles is developers, not consumers. Sony in particular has come around to understand that lowering the barriers for development is now the most critical thing - so boxes are now aligned with development environments that are the de-facto for these games.

By doing this we will have more games, better games, and lowering development costs - which has become critical.

Its also where Nintendo has stumbled badly: the problem with the WiiU isn't the specs, but that comparitively to the other consoles its a complete pain-in-the-butt to develop for. Hopefully Nintendo learn from this for any future attempts...
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Cale Barnett Animator 8 years ago
Since when did video game consoles have to be about so much more than playing good games?
You don't see people writing articles about how TV's are generic because they don't beam content directly into your brain or whatever.
The selling point of these new consoles is that they will do what we know and love about consoles now exceptionally well.

In my (controversial) opinion, the Wii was one of the greatest innovations in gaming hardware, but ultimately is was completely let down by a lack of good content. I, for one, am very happy for the hardware to take a back seat this generation, so that the content can shine. I believe that is the goal of both Sony and Microsoft as well.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 8 years ago
I agree with the article as well and have said the same thing about the last few gens. Basically we get the same promises from one generation to the next:

-more realistic graphics
-more realistic A.I.
-10, no 100, no 1000 on-screen characters, each with their own individual A.I
-theres so much more memory that game creators can make even more believable worlds
-we can finally make Pixar-like graphics

Yup, nothing much really changes with new consoles, regardless of how much more powerful they become. Thats why I often struggle to be an early adopter because my current gen systems are always more than capable of keeping me perfectly entertained when the newer systems roll out with their new system price pointss.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 22nd June 2013 2:44am

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I bought the ps2 at launch on launch day and it cost me 1000 AUD. It did come with an extended warranty though.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee8 years ago
Consoles have been generic for a long time but I've found myself constantly echoing comment 1. Its all about the software and ecosystem, the hardware doesn't matter too much at all.

I've also felt that ecosystem is where Microsoft may have an advantage over Sony, with the connectivity between different windows platforms and Xbox but we'll see if that becomes a factor.
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 8 years ago
And they MUST become homogenous!


Remember that good old fashioned device, the telephone? When you spoke on the telephone, IT - the machine - was invisible to you.
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Where do great gaming experiences happen, on gaming devices. The devices sole purpose is for gaming. The additional features are an after thought. In my opinion what we should be discussing is will the tools to create great games rise or become more affordable. With sony now embracing self publishing, will there library be more vast with great games or tons of garbage like there mobile counter parts. Also angry birds is definitely not a great comparison when it was free or already installed on many devices out of the packaging. I would love to see games have different price points like mobile. Ex. 1,5,10,20,40,60. This would open up gaming to more people. Again all this will most likely be only possible (based on current information) on sony's platform, as Microsoft still has the walled garden for indies.
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Abraham Tatester Producer 8 years ago
So much nonsense in this opinion piece. Consoles always have been, and always will be, pre-packaged selections of computer hardware components in which the consumer has no choice. The fact that two in the coming generation are quite similar means absolutely nothing with regard to the long-term success of consoles as a platform type.

And then there's this:
And therein lies a truth: Console gaming is still a niche aimed at a slither of the population. Over 16 years Grand Theft Auto, one of console gaming's biggest titles, has sold around 120 million copies, whilst in only four years the Angry Birds series has seen over 1 billion downloads. That's roughly a 1:8 ratio.
So how many copies of GTA have been downloaded for free? Because my wife and I have at least three ad-free versions of Angry Birds on each of our phones for which we've never paid a dime and which I've cumulatively played perhaps 30 minutes, tops, while I've spent hundreds of hours in the sprawling cities of GTA and have spent spent hundreds of dollars on the games themselves.

This "truth" is utterly invalid—it means nothing. (And as an aside, all words mean something, and "slither" does not mean what the author thinks it means. Not only does he need an editor to call his BS, he needs a copy editor to catch his literary flailing.)

Finally, GI, can you please put a more visible disclaimer at the top of agenda-driven opinion pieces like this? It comes as no surprise that someone who makes their living on platform A predicts the doom of platform B (hi, Bruce). To make this your top headline for a weekend without calling attention to the author's clear interest in the matter only reflects poorly on your own journalistic integrity. And no, simply slapping "OPINION" under the headline on the front page while tucking the eye-popping fact that this guy is a F2P consultant at the bottom of the story does not cut it.

Edit: And I should point out that I work for a studio that only creates games for personal computers (not consoles). I have no dog in this fight other than my actual love of gaming.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Abraham Tatester on 23rd June 2013 4:32am

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It has been commented on already, but the useless comparison of number of downloads of free2play games Vs number of sales of full price games keeps cropping up. Rovio made 300m revenue in the last couple of years at a nifty 50% profit. My guess at GTA revenue is around 3bn. Flash games on handheld devices might replace Vita and 3DS purchases, but aren't they really additionally games revenue to a new audience and the ability to sit down and play on the big screen with high end processing will remain a distinct market.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
@Abraham, wind your neck in mate.

Are we talking about money or games? If we're talking about games, the amount of people having voluntarily played it is the most important metric, surely. 8 times as many people have played angry birds as have gta. Which means its 8x more popular. No, it really means that.

Want to talk about money, ask a bean counter. And whilst there, ask him to guess which of those two companies made the most net profit.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 23rd June 2013 11:07pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Paul, solitaire is then the most powerful and important game in the world.
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Michael Carter Jr Studying Business Administration, Ivy Tech Community College8 years ago
I find the argument of cost pointless. Fans will pay and not even think twice about it. well maybe twice but its not a barrier to buying the console. and as for high launch prices for console don't forget the Atari 2600 had a launch price of $599.00 and that was in 1977, and it dominated over all the early consoles. Bottom line is Gamers will follow where the games go. New consoles will sell because all the new games will only be released on them. I play games on consoles, handhelds as well as my phone. I stopped playing on the PC because I'm not a big fan of multiplayer games, and the ease of other gamers being able to cheat or hack, but that's just a personal thing. I still mostly enjoy the feel of sitting in front of my TV with a controller in my hand to play, but I find I actually play my 3DSXL more than any other system. and the touch screen games on my phone are only things I do when I need to waste time for a few minutes like in a waiting room, and I forgot to bring my 3DS. But ultimately I still buy the gaming system that the games I want to play are released on.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
The only reason for the existence of consoles is anti piracy.
Home gaming arrived, grew and flourished on home computers. General purpose devices. But these were destroyed as a business model by piracy. When people can steal with zero chance of getting caught then most of them will.
Consoles came along that were copy proof. They were more expensive than home computers and the games were far more expensive. Also the hardware was far less capable. But the games could not be easily stolen. This single advantage allowed consoles to dominate gaming for a long while.
However now there are other ways to beat the pirates and so the consoles are no longer necessary. They are just surviving off momentum but have been in sharp decline since 2008. The last two major console launches bombed. The Wii U and the Vita.
Consoles are now just a gaming niche. Most gaming now happens on other platforms, by a huge margin.
From a game publishing point of view the mantle has moved on. The console publishers are in decline, mostly they have failed to adapt. New publishers have come along who are better adapted to the new reality. Zynga, Rovio, SuperCell,, GungHo.
This is a time of opportunity. Social Quantum is just a year and a half old but already they have 5 million unique users every day.
We are in a post console golden age where everything is possible. New gaming ideas pop up all the time. The global customer base is measured in thousands of millions, who can be reached individually and instantly. Gaming as a service allows an amazingly close relationship between the game developers and the game players.
Now I feel sorry for all the good development people stuck in the console ghetto, churning out annual iterations of tired old franchises that have been over exploited to the point of tedium. The people who have seen the light and moved on to digitally distributed games are having vastly more fun.
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@Bruce Consoles are only *partially* anti-piracy systems, and even then that's a very 'I'm a publisher' way of thinking about it. I know you've had hard experience seeing great gaming companies fall down during the 'highy piracy' era and so piracy rings louder for you than the rest of us, rightly so. But saying consoles are only successful because they made piracy difficult is like saying the Automobile was only successful because they invented door locks & solved the horse thievery problem. It's a too-narrow point in a much wider discussion. For example, where is the consumer? If consumers were used to an orgy of piracy as you say, why then would they suddenly buy a closed system? You are missing the lovely romance of it by focusing only about piracy, the real reason consoles established themselves in the 80's was because joe geek (like me) saw owning one as almost like owning an arcade machine in your home - AMAZING! And there was no question that once the SNES arrived they were very powerful machines - it could no things no PC or Amiga (my gaming platforms at the time) could do. And once consoles arrived in the home, devs got better and started making well-crafted original games and the rest is history.

Yes a difficulty copying games helped make them stable platforms but good hardware and expert game makers made them thrive into something much more than the electronic novelty they originally were. And maybe times are different now but piracy isn't - there is a 10-1 ratio of piracy on mobile platforms, PC even higher so really you shouldn't think this is a huge factor any more, its just part of the story.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
Honestly i find gaming expiriences more generic and on mobile devices and tablets. I mean, when Zynga made farmville, petville, cityville, yoville, Cafe World, fishville... then I played games from other companies... nightclubcity, petsociety... and then there was this other game where you had to manage a hotel, and a mall. All you did in alll these games was buy stuff, wait, level up repeat. In every single one. Without any different gameplay mechanics, they here all the same game with different graphics. These are mostly free to play. And in most free to play games, I never put down a single penny. One I maxed out what I can do with the free part, I normally just put the game down and moved to another.

In what way are consoles generic? That in every cycle you have a more powerful version of the same thing? In a sense thats all you really need. You need more CPU speeds, RAM, Processing power, interconnectivity to do MORE STUFF! Duh! that doesnt make consoles generic. It opens more doors for diversity.

But lets go back a little, Between atari and NES, SNES and PS1, PS1 to PS3, then gomepare the first gameboy with the 3DS now. Consider the fact that the DS implemented 2 screens and a 3D display. Then lets talk about what will make the new generation different. Its all about interconnectivity. Connect to the internet, to the cloud, to different devices, to different people in any place any where. And also, multimedia devices that can play just about any media, music, movies, photos, apps. I think major leaps have been made since the previouse generation.

And if we go back to the SNES days to Present I think the more powerful hardware has allowed for many innovations in terms of software.

The biggest problem with games in general, that they often appeal to younger crowds. They are generally regarded as a kids thing, where adults and older people view them as such. The current adult older generation did not grow up with video games. It may be too late for them. However, current gamers will eventually one day grow older, and its a matter of finding out how to make them stay as gamers.

In terms of hardware I think they have been very innovative, exploring everything from multiple screens, 3D, HD 4K, multiedia, internet. I mean we have come a long way. And when i expect a new console, I expect it to be able to do more than the last generation. More capabilities and able to push games foward.

I am truely extatic about the new consoles. I honestly think, its a great time to be a gamer. I never see a console gamer convert to a mobile gamer. However Ive seen a smart phone user shift to playing games on consoles.

You have more than 5million new users activate a mobile device every day, however which ones do it exclusivly to play games? Honestly a mobile device is used to keep in touch with others, to communicate. Nothing more. Sure it can play games, but its not what people use them for. It is hardly an ideal space to play games. Few people play games simultaniously while crossing the street, walking or on the move. And most people when they wanna kick back to watch a movie or play a game, its in the living room. Not at work, not in the bathroom, not on a crowded train, not while they are driving. Of course one would argue the validity of a 3DS or a VITA. The person who purchases those devices purchases them exclusivily to play games unlike mobile users.

Then we have the problem of quality control, for every good game that comes out in the mobile free to play market, you have literally thousands of crap games and clones. And going to an appstore and finding a good game is murder.

I really appreciate a more closed ecosystem of consoles. No software compatability issues, better ratio of quality games and ease of access. meaning I just turn the console on, pop in the game or click on the game icon and thats it. Xbox will make this a bit harder with mandatory installes. But whatever.... on the PS4 however that wont be an issue. Plus you can play games now while downloading on the new consoles.

Game consoles generic. I think will Luton is just vouching in favor of the industry he works in.... "Will Luton is a free-to-play designer and consultant."

Indies are focusing on platforms such as PC and mobile because they’re accessible and give them even footing for tens of millions of players.

You know, tens of millions of people own a mobile device, but its hardly exclusivly to play games. A 3DS and VITA owner will buy those devices to play games.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
>> Paul, solitaire is then the most powerful and important game in the world.

I said "popular", but no general argument from me, although being installed with an O/S is pretty biasing.

Why, isn't solitaire a game now? Does it deserve less credibility because 800 people didn't work on it for too long? Is a game that NEEDS to sell 5 million copies somehow more worthy? I think it's ridiculous. For a long time, Uno was the number 1 seller on XBLA.

A lot of you guys HAVE to get over your elitism and smell where the market is headed. And get chasing sharpish, you're already behind a shitload of people.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 24th June 2013 11:11pm

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Donald Dalley Freelance writer 8 years ago
The style of games on a phone, to me, are nothing more than fluff. time-wasters. I play simulators, racing ones in particular, so it is a whole different mindset. I either have to use a PC for them (no thanks) or consoles (thank you very much). There is no way to get a good quality simulator on a phone or tablet. Sure it's a niche product, but I don't have time for fluff, so I don't care. The one I play most has gotten better with each revision. Coincidently, consoles have gotten better at the same time, in lock-step. The realism has gotten better, the AI has gotten better, the physics have gotten better, and the graphics have gotten better. What's not to like?

I can't wait to see what the next ones allow us to do.
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Kareem Merhej Designer, infoLink-inc8 years ago

I don't see it. PC sales continue to be worse than they ever have been while this console generation has proven to be most successful one ever in terms of hardware. No one dominated like the PS2, but all in all the numbers are UP. Meanwhile every report we've read tells us that while mobile is a massive space actual profit is low (unless you are Zynga, and even then...). Very low. Worse, adoption rate is trash. If a mobile gamer plays a game for 1 hour it's the equivalent of a lightning bolt striking buried treasure. Something like 1% of all mobile gamers account for 99% of all sales. Most mobile gamers spend less time playing a game (in total) than they do downloading it before they remove it from the OS and try something new.

Whether consoles are "generic" or not seems wildly irrelevant. Maybe I misunderstood but really there's no difference between consoles and phones, tablets or PCs. It's the software and services that matter. And it's all that has ever mattered. The truth about consoles is that they are cheap PCs. That's it. That's the magic trick, and that's all the trick needs to be. It's a bottom dollar question. The fact that you can do more on a PC is a garbage argument compared to the price point. That consoles are more straightforward and less finicky is a cherry on top. And we also need to remember *the couch*. THE COUCH.

Whether it is in a spacious living room or a bachelor the pad the couch is a cornerstone of our society. And it's not going anywhere. Cable packages are en route to getting fucked out of existence but TV is here to stay, and the couch with it. If we agree humans want to sit in front of a couch we can also agree some of them will want to play games on that TV.

There is a possible future where TV manufacturers match Apple TV services, and maybe even provide games through an App Store front that can be manipulated via tablet. That said, most App Store content is not designed to be played sitting down for a long time. They aren't couch games.That awful adoption rate I quoted on mobile is leading that entire branch of gaming down a dark, dark road of energy currency and false gaming. Most of those games are barely games. They are monetizing systems. If there is a generic segment in gaming, it is on mobile. The ADD nature of that space makes it hard for games to succeed outside penny purchases and flash-in-pan luck.

Consoles are not in competition with PCs. *Tablets* *phones* are in competition with PCs. For decades desktop computers were brought into homes because they were a family tool. They are no longer seen that way. My Mom is better off with a tablet to check her mail and play games the 5 hours a month that is her interest rather than pulling her hair out at the computer. Laptops are too much a double edged sword to replace consoles. They are cheaper, yes, but they are outdated quickly and still cannot be easily upgraded. The console is the only product, among the Tablet, PC and Phone that has a pure purpose and a place (the couch), and this is why its longevity is nigh guaranteed.
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