Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading a lot of articles about “experts” claiming that gaming consoles are dying. Articles like “PC Games Will Outsell Consoles by 2014” & “After the Next Generation, Game Consoles Will Disappear” seem to be everywhere I turn. As a gamer who owns several of the major gaming platforms (360, Wii, PC & Android) I find this doomsaying quite amusing. Especially when you consider that it was just a few years ago people were crying that PC gaming was dead.
So why the sudden reversal of opinion? Well, setting aside accusations of elitism & favoritism that exist within the various platforms’ fanbase, I think several recent trends have contributed to this view. The rise of digital distribution plays the biggest role, in my opinion. Sites like Steam & Good Old Games allows gamers to purchase a wide variety of games directly to their computers. Not only is this more convenient, but these games are sometimes cheaper & allows access to older games that are no longer available in retail stores. Because of this, there has also been an increase in the modding & indie game community. Digital media makes it easier for fans & smaller developers to develop & distribute their products.
Another important component is the rise in causal gaming. As much as some gamers may scoff at the idea, there’s no denying that the rise casual & social games have impacted the gaming industry as a whole. According to the Casual Games Association website, more than 200 million people worldwide play casual games. Of course not all of these are solely “casual gamers.” Many mainstream gamers play casual games on Facebook or their handheld devices. Regardless of whether we like it or not, a lot of companies have adopted the idea of “microtransactions,” making their games free to play but allowing gamers to choose to purchase exclusive, extra content.
However, I don’t join the doomsayers in their predictions, & not just because I’m a “filthy console pleb” as one writer jokingly referred to it. And here’s why:
- The industry follows trends. PC games were a big deal back during the Doom & Quake era, then faded away somewhat during the last console cycle, & are now back in full-force. There’s no reason to believe that PC games sells will continue to grow exponentially. Even consoles come & go.
- Online multiplayer is no longer exclusive to PC’s.
- Gaming with a console is cheaper, easier & more accessible. My PC, which I bought solely for the reason of playing games with, cost more than even the PS3 did when it first came out. And it’s not even a top of the line model! Generally, consoles are more accessible for the average person because they cost less & are easier to use. There’s no fiddling with compatibility settings, adjusting graphic settings to make it run smoother or upgrading a dozen different pieces to stay up to date. You just put the disc in & go.
- Many people don’t have high-speed internet. This is a big issue for me, because up until last year I was one of these people. A lot of people simply don’t have access to high-speed internet to benefit from online gaming. According to the most recent article I could find on the subject, 100 million Americans choose not to subscribe to high-speed. That’s around 30% of the population. Furthermore, 6%, or 19 million, don’t even have access to it. I can’t say how this translates to the gaming population, but that’s a large chunk of people who don’t have access to digital distribution.
So what do I predict will happen in gaming’s future? Well, for starters, I think fewer games will be exclusive to one console. It just makes more economic sense to have your game available to as many people as possible. Most games are available on at least two systems. Also, if digital distribution is going to overtake retail, like publishers seem to want, digital games are going to have to become cheaper. Why should I download a game when I can buy a physical copy of it for the same price & have the option of selling it back later? Despite what people at Electronic Arts say (Seriously, why do they let EA people say anything to the press anymore? I’ve come to the conclusion everyone at EA are either tools or trolls.) cutting the price on games encourages people to buy them. Why do you think Steam does better than Origin? Besides, Economics 101 tells us that when a product becomes cheaper to produce, it should become cheaper to purchase. And because digital games don’t have any manufacturing costs, they should therefore be cheaper. I also think we’ll continue to see a rise in handheld & portable gaming. Although I stick with the free games available on the Android Market, there’s no denying that the growing technology in mobile phones & tablets has made creating full-fledged games a reality. Even the more casual games appeal to people because they’re so convenient.
I don’t foresee consoles dying out anytime soon. If anything, I think the different systems will become more integrated in our daily lives. Both the 360 & PS3 already claim to be more of an entertainment system than a pure gaming system. The technological world is ever-changing.