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Walking dead: is this really the last console generation?

Monday, 14 January 2013 13:48 GMT By Patrick Garratt

The chorus claiming the incoming console generation will be the last dedicated games machines won’t stop singing. The harmony’s starting to make a great deal of sense, says Patrick Garratt.

There’s no question: the gaming console concept you’ve been using for the past 30 years is under extreme pressure, and will almost certainly not exist beyond the coming generation.

The statement du jour in games journalism and trade circles is that console gaming is “dead”. We are about to see, apparently, the last dedicated machines released in PS4 and Xbox 720, and you’re soon going to be exclusively using iOS, Android and PC for games. There are some convincing arguments doing the rounds – probably the most notable being from Scattered Entertainment eccentric Ben Cousins – claiming the “old world” of pure-game boxes into which you insert discs is about to be crushed out of existence. Does Cousins have a point? And what does it really mean for “games”?

In the main, Ben is almost certainly right. Watch this. It’s nearly half an hour long, but if you haven’t already seen his GDC 2012 talk, you definitely should:

Cousins makes a good fist of explaining why consoles are soon to be dead (watch the presentation for what he means by “consoles” and “dead”) and since the start of this year we’ve seen we’ve seen a chorus of voices and developments which add weight to the argument.

In summary, the traditional console business is losing money for a variety of reasons and game-playing on mobile platforms is exploding. Tablet power is now comparable to current gen consoles and we’re seeing an inextricable shift towards catering for what Cousins dubs “mainstream console gamers” on touchscreens. As for the ultra-core “I’ll-never-play-anything-without-a-pad” market, we have “open” hardware initiatives like Steambox which are sure to draw an indelible question mark on the issue of whether or not companies should be producing expensive dedicated hardware when you can plug-and-play with a TV-PC, Ouya, or whatever other platform allows access to an enormous library of digitally delivered software.

There’s no question: the gaming console concept you’ve been using for the past 30 years is under extreme pressure, and will almost certainly not exist beyond the coming generation. The real kick in the nuts to the games box concept will probably be AppleTV, which is likely to be announced this year. An AppleTV, what with its processors and obvious loveliness, hooked up to an iPad, iPhone and the App Store with its increasing number of “light” core games, is going to be all the gaming many people need. Stick a Steambox on the side with its biometric controller and it isn’t difficult to see why the next PlayStation is probably the last.

Not everyone wholly agrees with the prognosis, obviously. More consoles were sold in the last generation than the previous one and 3DS is proving that IP is still key. People will buy a dedicated games machine – over the past generation they’ve bought hundreds of millions of them, in fact – if it’s the best place to play the best games. The truth, though, is that Xbox and PlayStation, in the coming generation, won’t “own” the market as they have done previously. They’ll just be a part of a much wider spread of choice. Logically, it’ll be the best libraries of content that ultimately succeed in high-end gaming, with Steam, the App Store and Google Play being the obvious front-runners. “Consoles” won’t vanish, in that people will still buy machines on which they play games, but the Xbox and PlayStation models we use at the moment, of the fortress-thick walled garden, will soon be over.

If you’re still struggling to get your head round this, equate it to the way Amazon sells books. Kindle doesn’t completely dominate e-reading (thanks, Kartik) because it’s some kind of super-reader that touches your nipples while you’re sucking up your mommy porn; it wins because Amazon has an insane library of content, pushes endless sales and discounts, and has refined the buying experience to a wallet-destroying art, just as Steam has. Don’t have your Kindle with you? No worries. It has an app for every platform imaginable so you’re never far from the content in which you’re becoming ever more invested. Kindle isn’t about hardware. It’s about breadth of content. Up to this point, hardware has been a key factor in allowing you to play games. As with books, physical considerations are about to be eliminated from gaming’s equation and replaced with services.

What does this actually mean for games? It’s amazingly good news, thankfully, as it unlocks content and spreads it everywhere. More people are playing games than ever before, in more guises and on more platforms. The market’s been injected with creativity by F2P and touch, and the low-budget “art” offerings afforded by digital distribution have bloomed in number. And fret not: triple-A will never go away. If you buy it, they will make it and publishers will publish it. The way we all consume games may be changing, but there will always be games. It’s doubtful you’ll be playing them on an Xbox in ten years time, but there will always be games.

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49 Comments

  1. Ireland Michael

    No.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. FeaturePreacher

    Small soc platforms that have no ecosystem to tie them together and are dead on arrival. Small, softcore games will crash since that audience is extremely fickle and the games are easy to duplicate. Just look at what happened to the Wii and Nintendo. In 10 years, it’ll be nice to look back on how diluted a lot of bloggers were when they see the hardcore platforms of the PS5 and successor to the 720 as the only gaming platforms still around.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Ignatius_Cheese

    Wouldn’t surprise me.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. mkotechno

    In 10 years surely all the videogame world will be ruled by game streaming platforms, the hardware itself will be just a cheap wifi box with video out and a wireless pad, and a monthly fee.

    The second world countries with crappy conections and not money due to crisis will be an abandoned market.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. OlderGamer

    I don’t think so either. But the deffinition of what a console is has already changed. I expect that to continue. And I expect services to xross platform. Maybe to the point where the logo on the box doesn’t matter. You might be able to play LIVE or PSN a xross a varriety of devices down the road.

    But I think there will always be a means to deliver content, and that means will be called a console. Btw, for us old folks, Televisions used to be called consoles too. The big old ones that weighed a ton took up four feet of floor space, yet had a 19inch screen. Called a console when I was a kid.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Puggy

    Didn’t people say similar things about the PS3 and the Xbox 360?

    #6 2 years ago
  7. bitsnark

    “I don’t think so either. But the definition of what a console is has already changed. I expect that to continue.”

    Pretty much my point of view actually.

    ‘Playstation’ and ‘Xbox’ are well-respected brands which have been proved to reliably draw the green and as such, I don’t forsee them being forsaken any time soon.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Joe Musashi

    The relevance of the hardware will diminish. The significance of the service and ecosystem will continue to increase.

    Look at how you used to consume your other media (such as music, books, magazines, movies and TV) 10 years ago and how you consume it now.

    JM

    #8 2 years ago
  9. DaveDogg

    its all well and good to say that console gaming will be dead by x date or that tablet or mobile gaming or for that matter pc gaming under the guise of the “steam box” will outlive them because of this or that.
    But the underlying factor that makes a console what it is, is that the hardware is going to be constant for 5, 7 or maybe even 10 years and you are safe in the knowledge that you wont have to go out & buy a £250 graphics card in august when that game that you’ve been looking forward to for the last 8 months comes out or buy a new gaming tablet or laptop that costs maybe £900 or more

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Lahanas

    Why so much rush for consoles to die? Its like everyday someone comes out and says the same bs over and over. If consoles die, traditional gaming dies with them.

    I dont want to play shitty games on my phone, or free games of questionable quality on my PC and fucking Facebook. This is not gaming. I want real AAA games like Uncharted, Halo and Assassins Creed. I want Nintendo’s gems like Mario, Zelda, DK etc, and amazing PC games that take advantage of the hardware, like Battlefield 3.

    It feels like they are trying to FORCE all of us to start playing shit like angry birds.

    The market’s been injected with creativity by F2P and touch, you say? More like it’s been injected with tons of shovelware.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. OlderGamer

    To be fair Lahanas, there is a question of long term sustainabilty when talking about both traditional consoles and traditional gaming. Trip A games are very expensive and making a profit is harder then hell. Darksiders II had to sell 2 million copies (at full retail price) just to break even, I am not sure if it ever did.

    The market you are talking about is dramitcly changing. There will become less big budget trip a games to chose from. Because less pubs have the pockets to produce them. Also same problem leads to less inovation because the pubs aren’t willing to take chances. So we get sequels that deviate very little from proven formulas, ie oversaturation.

    Price was also a major motivation for such an extended generational cycle. The platform holders (and major pubs) wanted a long life cycle so that they can recoup investment costs. That too stiffles inovation from a tech side of things. Which of course effects the things that can and can’t be introduced into new games.

    Ultimatly the market follows the money. If more gamers buy angry birds then CoD… Then more casual focused games will be made. Again cost…alot of once trip a devs/talent are now making new games for alternate platforms that have less money and time investment requirments in order to bring your products to market.

    The good old days, as I am sure many see them, are over. That doesn’t mean consoles will die. But what they do, the content they offer, and really what they actualy will become will likly be different then what you/we might have envisioned. There will still be trip a games, prolly just less of them.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Cobra951

    Maybe. Let’s talk about it again at the end of the coming gen, in about 10 years. I’ve heard the death of consoles drummed into my head here enough to last me about that long.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. daytripper

    Can’t stand mobile gaming, I bought Vice City at Xmas and it was just a horrible gaming experience, Angry Birds is ok but from my experience the whole platform isn’t enjoyable gameplay wise, much prefer a controller. Good article Pat

    #13 2 years ago
  14. DarkElfa

    @1, I’m not sure I understand, are you saying they’re wrong or that you don’t want them to be right?

    #14 2 years ago
  15. stretch215

    I’m so tired of these articles. “Consoles are dying” bullshit. Transforming? Evolving? Yes and yes. Mobile is exploding because of its “bite-sized” nature, nothing more. In the end, I don’t really give a fuck. As long as I have access to great games, I’m happy.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Zohar

    People have been talking about the death of console gaming for years and it’s never come about. The way games are distributed and the types of games being made might change, but having a dedicated gaming machine in the living room/bedroom isn’t going to any time soon.

    These steambox type things are cool, but they have a LONG way to go to make a dent in the console market. Phil Harrison was talking about this the other day. Sony and MS have well-established development studios, product lines, distribution methods, logistical and retail partners, customer support… billions of dollars of infrastructure. GLHF to Valve and the Ouya people and all that, but it’s hard to think of them as being on the same level as Sony and MS any time soon.

    Comparing consoles to mobile gaming is a false comparison. The types of games made for phones/tablets are usually very different than what you get on a console and the people playing them are very different people. Obviously there’s a crossover. Even when mobile games try to emulate the console experience by turning a complex game into something you can play by touching a screen they usually end up being frustrating and difficult to control.

    This generation has gone on way too long. The result of that is people feeling burnt out on playing the same-old sequels and not really having anything exciting to talk about. In the meantime the mobile market exploded and people like to speculate that consoles are going to die because all that gaming money is going to get sucked into the mobile market. It’s just not gonna happen.

    At the tail end of a cycle devs like to hold back their new stuff for the next hardware. This summer after E3 we’ll know all about the new consoles, the hardware that will put them 10 years ahead of mobile hardware, and all the new franchises to get excited about.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Erthazus

    Traditional consoles will die, next/next gen is a streaming service like PSN or XBL, STEAM, Gaikai. Whatever.

    and that’s a good thing because consoles stop evolving games after 3 years because of hardware limitations.

    The future is good and I like it. My only problem is that I won’t own a disc.. but who owns a copy now on traditional consoles really…

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Fin

    Don’t think traditional consoles will die out completely, but the consuming mechanism will probably be added to (as the esteemed Mr Erthazus says above).
    Another thing I could see is the move to a business model more like phones – new model every 12-24 with slightly improved specs over the old one.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. mistermogul

    I agree with those that say consoles will become more ‘niche’ but I don’t think they will disappear completely.

    Personally I’m not a big fan of playing on tablets/phones as the controls often suck for traditional games and I know a lot of console players feel the same. If they keep making consoles I will keep buying them.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Telepathic.Geometry

    I couldn’t agree with this article more. That Cousins dude makes a very compelling argument…

    And if you think about the PS3, the 360 and the PC, WHAT THE FUCK IS THE DIFFERENCE from a gaming point of view. They all play Borderlands 2. The game is more or less the same, in each case. If you really have to pick which one is best from a gamer-consumer pov, you’d have to take PC I guess. It’s the best looking, it’s the cheapest, and you can mod the shit out of it…

    I think that the only chance they have to keep their consoles alive is:

    a) by having the best controllers;
    b) having must-have exclusives;
    c) having unique hardware;
    d) having unique services.

    In all four categories, they fail.

    Take the PS3 – which I love, and have easily 60/70 games for. What can it do that the PC can’t?

    The dual shock? Sorry, but it’s not the best dual analogue controller out there, Ninty have that.

    Exclusives? God of War, Metal Gear, Infamous, LittleBigPlanet, Uncharted? Not enough.

    Unique hardware? No way. And I don’t say that knowing anything about hardware. I just look at games on PC, 360 and PS3 and I see fuck all difference. I’m sure there is one, and Digital Foundry have you covered, but for a gamer like me, the difference is insignificant.

    Services? Well, I like my trophies, but 360 has achievements, Steam does too.

    **MY POINT** From a gamer’s point of view, my point of view, why do I need a PS4 machine? Wouldn’t a PS4 service on the Steambox, or a regular PC, or the XBOX 720 do me just as well? Obviously I can see why Sony need a PS4 – to make money – but as a consumer, that could only hurt me, not help me in any way.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Erthazus

    KEyboard and mouse + controlles will never disappear because these things are universal control methods for most of the gamers.

    But i’m not really sure if consoles will be even niche. Everything is going digital. I’m not sure that after 20 years some gamer or family will want to keep a gigantic box under their TV/Monitor

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Telepathic.Geometry

    @Erth: Yeah, but let’s say Ninty become a pure game dev, and their games are exclusive to Steam, but they still sell a wii remote and a GC controller for their games… You could argue that consoles are still alive and kicking, couldn’t you? They have hardware out there after all…

    And also, in Japan, I’m sure that you’ll be able to buy a gamecube still in 10 or 20 years time. It’ll never completely disappear.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. Mike

    I don’t agree with the overriding argument or the reasoning because of the very fact that, as the author says himself, “More consoles were sold in the last generation than the previous one and 3DS is proving that IP is still key. People will buy a dedicated games machine – over the past generation they’ve bought hundreds of millions of them, in fact – if it’s the best place to play the best games. ”

    And even though though they won’t “own” the market as before, their share will still be huge enough to a) and most importantly make a profit and b) satiate customer demand.

    What iPad, Android etc. will do is push the type of games that PS and MS will have to offer. That should be the focus of every “future of gamez” debate – “where are the games going? “What does the increased competition mean for PS & MS in terms of content? Not, “How is this content going to be delivered?” It will be delivered by a branded machine sitting under your television – same as it always has.

    The best way to brand any consumer is to have something with your logo under the thing they look at the most – their televisions. That will never change. Not in my lifetime.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Telepathic.Geometry

    “And even though though they won’t “own” the market as before, their share will still be huge enough to a) and most importantly make a profit…”

    Have Sony and MS made a profit? I thought they’d made a loss… Nintendo made a loss too last year for the first time in 125 years of doing business. I don’t honestly know what the figures are on it, so maybe I should just shut my mouth, but I’ve heard a lot of analysts talking about the big three being in big shit financially.

    I sense a Rob Fahey article incoming…

    #24 2 years ago
  25. DaveDogg

    @24 the Nintendo loss is the first one since they became a public company(1963) but in fact made big losses several times before that but never had to publicise them.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. OlderGamer

    TG +1, +3 actualy.

    #26 2 years ago
  27. _LarZen_

    Everyone that has been a gamer for 10-20 years see that the way Things are going the consoles that we know today will be replaced rather sooner then later.

    PC as platform is stronger then ever and that is what is going to replace consoles as we know it With modular computers buildt to look and behave like consoles. But With the freedom that pc users have.

    It’s a good thing that all these plattform will one day die, if we have only 1 true gaming plattform as pc is. We will have Developers making better games and not using Money and time on porting games to so many plattforms.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. Fin

    “Sorry, but it’s not the best dual analogue controller out there, Ninty have that.”

    Wtf are you smokin’ bro. All Nintendo’s dual-analog controllers lose their precision after about a year of use.

    @27

    No, the PC will never replace consoles.
    The average consumer wants something they can put a game into, and it’ll work. Don’t want to have to spend a few hundred quid every 2-3 years upgrading, don’t want to have to worry about licences or specs.

    Take your PC master race bullshit somewhere else thanks!

    #28 2 years ago
  29. OlderGamer

    @Fin WiiU GamePad. Can’t speak to its longevity, but it is pretty awesome right now. Also, I haven’t had any trouble with Nintendos analog sticks. Well the N64 one did get a little lose I guess.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. Fin

    @29

    Ah ok – thought he meant Gamecube, it lost all of its precision (huge dead zones) after a few years (less with something like Smash Bros). Yeah, too early to tell of the longevity of Wii U!

    #30 2 years ago
  31. SplatteredHouse

    “PS4 and Xbox 720″
    They will NOT be called that. I strongly doubt that they will be at least! Given the way MS has been folding brands into one another lately, to more and less success, I think they’ll brand their next console a Microsoft something. I keep thinking Vision has a good all-encompassing ring to it, and it’s easy to get.

    PlayStation…4? What! – name one 4 anything that lives up to expectation in media. They’re almost all into diminishing returns territory by that point. Maybe they will be those names, who knows, but I just seen that one too many times lol. As you were ;)

    #31 2 years ago
  32. Diingo

    The next era of digital entertainment will revolve around the “One Box To Rule Them All”. A box that which allows us to access EVERYTHING we possibly want. What was once 20-30 different electronic markets are now fusing together to form one ultimate device….. the cell phone in our pocket.

    #32 2 years ago
  33. Telepathic.Geometry

    @Fin: I live in Japan now, so I can’t smoke weed as a general rule.

    And for the record, my gamecube controller has never degraded, even though I played the absolute shit out of. By comparison, my dual shock controller’s left analogue is always moving up a little bit, which made managing the maps in far Cry 3 a nightmare. And before that, the fundamental design of it means that by comparison to a GC controller it is a little imprecise. I think that’s something to do with a patent held by Ninty…

    #33 2 years ago
  34. Telepathic.Geometry

    While we’re at it, I also think that the Wii remote is more precise than PS Move. I know in my head that the Move MUST be better just because of the way it scans in data. It must be more accurate, so I guess it must just be the way the games process that data…

    I was so enthusiastic about Move too, and was quickly forced to abandon it.

    #34 2 years ago
  35. Phoenixblight

    @34

    The move is just a mouse pointer where the wiimote uses gyroscope and infrared sensors. It would be far more accurate.

    #35 2 years ago
  36. Telepathic.Geometry

    You sure? I’m pretty sure the Move has all that shit inside too…

    #36 2 years ago
  37. Phoenixblight

    @36

    http://kotaku.com/5490574/how-the-playstation-move-is-not-a-wii-remote

    http://www.engadget.com/2010/09/19/playstation-move-gets-broken-down-so-easy-an-end-user-could/

    It does have gyro but then the games I have played with it just seems to be a pointer which fails with the developers not utilizing the controller but even the stuff the first party doesn’t either.

    #37 2 years ago
  38. Telepathic.Geometry

    @Phoenix: I’m confused, according to those articles, the Move IS more capable than the wii remote from a hardware point of view, which is what I was saying…

    #38 2 years ago
  39. Phoenixblight

    @38

    Its not though that. Simply because the developers don’t support it as it is even the first parties just ignore all of it and just make it a pointer.

    #39 2 years ago
  40. Telepathic.Geometry

    Ah, so what you’re saying is the reason that it feels worse is that for some reason the devs just treat it like a pointer?

    #40 2 years ago
  41. Phoenixblight

    @40

    Bingo. Not a lot of creativity tossed with it and little to no support for it.

    #41 2 years ago
  42. Telepathic.Geometry

    Right, we’re finally on the same page. :) /high fives

    #42 2 years ago
  43. Phoenixblight

    I heard from a friend that it didn’t have gyroscope and other things and since I had played some games using it. It didn’t seem that it did so I went with that assumption. Glad that I researched it just came to laziness from the devs it seems.

    #43 2 years ago
  44. Dragon246

    Just on the tech basis, move is more precise than wiimote. Is wiimote capable of 1:1 gesture recognition. No. Move is. Play Wii Sports and then play Sport Champs and you will know what I am saying.
    Although both suck. I would rather play outside than dance around indoors like a monkey.

    #44 2 years ago
  45. Phoenixblight

    @44

    The Wii-mote plus seems to be more accurate when I had played Zelda.

    My opinion not gonna get a X console vs Y console.

    #45 2 years ago
  46. Dragon246

    @45
    Never tried wii mote plus. I only know the wiimote and move.
    Edit- Did tried it in zelda, but didn’t play far enough to remember.

    #46 2 years ago
  47. stalepie

    I suspect they’ll hang around, but the difference will be we’ll see multiplatform development made easier, less exclusives, more integration of software across different company’s platforms. I’d like to see a day, at least with non-triple-A stuff, where you can buy a game and then play it on a variety of different devices. Right now if you buy Angry Birds on iPhone you have to rebuy it again on Ipad, if you want it on PS3 you rebuy it again on PSN. etc.

    #47 2 years ago
  48. Phoenixblight

    @47

    Thats a pipe dream and will never happen because what you are doing through the other platforms like with buying angry birds on Apple and getting PS3 free you are not paying for Sony’s cut just because you got it on another platform unless the publisher/developer is generous enough to pay for it out of pocket which I don’t find that likely.

    It does seem weird that if you buy the same game for your IPhone that you don’t get access to it on IPad. It goes through the same store front does it not? That is weird I can buy a game on Steam on one computer and then go another computer and access that same account and get the games I own on that account. THats the way apple should have it.

    #48 2 years ago
  49. OlderGamer

    I disagree PB. I think we are moving towards a day when consoles are no longer loss leaders. Where investment isn’t made back with software liscencing. There is too much risk involved.

    http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-01-11-end-of-the-line-for-razors-and-razorblades

    And I think that changes the dynamic of the games biz model(it is one of the things I have been yapping about for a couple of years now).

    But I think 3rd party games becomes something that Platforms need more then they need platforms. We see a dabble of that now, when PS3 doesn’t get a game that xb360 has it is a bad thing. Same with WiiU. Look at the stink around Bayeneta 2. I think instead of punishing 3rd parties, platform holders could well be corting them. I think we are on the brink of that now.

    Plus, I think games, esp franchises morph into yearly services. Could be a subscription type biz model, allowing for a middle ground of sorts between traditional licensing models and exlcusive deals. Imagine, for example the uproar if Netflix pulled it service from either PS3 or XB360? Both platforms holders have stated that more people watch Netflix then play games(spend more hours doing).

    I think, esp high profile, 3rd party games will have a lot more weight over platform holders then they used to. Look at the way Nintendo pandered to acti to get CoD on their WiiU. I think the dynamic is shifting is all.

    #49 2 years ago

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