Oct 15, 2012

Is the founder of EA right when he says console gaming is going to fade?

Trip Hawkins, the founder of Electronics Arts, stated his view in a recent interview that, "[console gamining] is going to become a smaller market,....more like a hobby market." I'm not so sure that he is right. I think that there will be tighter integration of various entertainment and information streams, but I just can't see game consoles becoming something akin to gaming oriented PCs, where only 'core gamers own them. Plus, we are in an era of electronic distribution where small indy developers can produce innovative and original content without the backing of a giant studio like EA. I'm thinking of people like Phil Fish with Fez and Edmund McMillan and Tommy Refenes with Super Meat Boy moving game design forward and keeping things interesting. Where will console gaming go in the future? Is Hawkins right, or have gaming consoles firmly established themselves as a component of the modern living room?

I think the proliferation of mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad, etc. has really affected the sales of gaming consoles. There are so many games available for the mobile devices that the need for a console becomes less. The mobile devices are also getting better and better in terms of graphic horsepower, plus things like AirPlay let people project their mobile games onto their TV sets.

At some point game consoles become redundant and somewhat unnecessary. So as the transition to mobile continues, I think we'll see lower and lower console sales. They just aren't as necessary as they used to be in days gone by.
The gaming world is diverse and multi-faceted. Until we can go all-out telepathic with our games, I agree with Jack that the console will have some place in the gaming market and in the home. But it really all boils down to economics: If console-based games can't deliver a decent ROI for manufacturers, they could wind up "like a hobby market," which often is a short step from history's dustbin. Complex console-based games take time to create and build, which makes it hard to compete against lean gaming shops.


First off, nice Xenoblade Chronicles avatar.  That's one of the best RPGs of the past few years on any console, so I'm pretty sure I know where your loyalty lies! :-)


You make a good point that indy developers keep gaming fresh and innovative, but keep in mind that Edmund McMillan made flash games before Super Meat Boy, and Super Meat Boy is also available on Windows and Macs, so there isn't a real necessity for a console for indy gaming to reach its market.  Also, it kind of supports Hawkins' point of gaming being more of a niche market, since I don't think either Fez or Super Meat Boy really reached the same level of gaming consciousness as something like Modern Warfare or a Mario title.  


As you point out, there is tighter and tighter integration between different entertainment streams, so that you can stream Netflix/Hulu/YouTube on your X360/Wii/Playstation, go online using native browsers, and download new games over WiFi.  The console is as central of a part to many living rooms as the TV.  On the other hand, it wasn't that long ago that you could have said that about the VCR.  Still I think that the gaming console has expanded beyond being a gaming console to the point that it has sufficient value for non-hard core gamers to justify ownership.  


One last thing.  People were saying that the Nintendo 3DS was a failure at launch and many claimed handheld gaming consoles were dead thanks to the arrival of smartphones.  Well, last month New Super Mario Bros. 2 sold about 300,000 units.  Keep in mind that is at $40 per unit, not the $1-5 dollars most mobile games sell for.  

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