The Fall of Console Gaming?
Ethan Smith / Jun 14th, 2013 3 Comments
[adsense250itp]Console gaming versus PC gaming is an argument as old as they have both existed. Even before all the systems for this next console generation were announced, whispers have circulated amongst the industry and fans that consoles as we know them may be on their way out. The utterly lackluster showing for the entire console lineup has done nothing to counter this hypothesis and may in fact be the catalyst to bring it about.
The biggest problem for the console market at the moment is the Xbox One. Unless Microsoft makes a marketing miracle happen or they are visited by ghost of console past, present, and future and see the error of their ways, the Xbox One is going to be a huge problem for the future console market. The goodwill they have lost with their core consumers has been massive, and the response from gamers has been vitriolic and passionate. While many might just switch over to the PS4 or even Wii U, a significant section will likely turn their focus to PC gaming, which has a history of sharing games with Microsoft systems that Sony systems never receive.
If the Xbox One is not able to find significant success, this will lead to a lack of competition that will not help the console market either. Despite what the PC master race fanatics say, it would not be good for the gaming industry as a whole either. The industry survived SEGA going software-only, but that’s partly because somebody (Microsoft) took the opportunity to swoop into the opening in the market. However, with Nintendo’s Wii U sales stagnating as well, we might end up in a worst-case scenario situation where two of the three major systems are forced to go third party. While such a possibility remains only a distant idea right now, the very fact that people can seriously discuss such a happening is disheartening.
With the core gaming demographic older and more experience with the medium by this point, players are more likely to want to play around with mods. Skyrim remains one of the most talked about games of the last few years, and it has been able to maintain that relevancy due to a very expansive, diverse, and dedicated modding community, something that cannot appear on a console game.
As the advantages of PC gaming are becoming stronger, the advantages of consoles are going away. Salient among these has always been simple simplicity; a console is guaranteed to play any game with the appropriate box. Consumers do not have to check system requirements or know anything about how the actual machine works. It keeps getting easier and easier to get a gaming PC and costing less and less. The prime game buying population is older now and more likely to have grown up with computers and have a better understanding of how they work. With people trying to cut costs, the idea of just spending a couple hundred extra to turn a PC into a decent gaming machine looks like a tempting alternative to a dedicated gaming console.
Another of the main draws to the consoles is exclusives. Looking back over the entire history of consoles at the libraries of each system, a clear trend emerges of more and more games becoming multi-platform and exclusivity deals loosening to timed-release exclusivity deals. Developers and publishers have a clear incentive to seek multi-platform releases; system exclusives only benefit the company that makes the system. With system architecture becoming more standardized and PC-like in this generation, software companies have more incentive than ever to make PC versions of games.
More than ever, this latest console generation has needed to prove that home consoles are going to stay relevant to hardcore gamers. Microsoft itself does not seem to think gaming consoles are relevant anymore; the Xbox One seems designed primarily for everything besides gaming. Just as well, as few will likely use it for gaming since Sony promises that the PS4 will have none of the decried “features” of the Xbox One. While the PS4 might be shaping up to be a solid system, there is nothing game-changing or revolutionary about it to get excited about. The Wii U has underperformed and a significant chunk of the gaming population, industry professional or otherwise, consider it to not even be a next-gen system.
Handhelds will maintain a market presence for the foreseeable future regardless of the state of home consoles; tablet and smartphone gaming in general still lacks many of the conveniences and polish of the dedicated gaming handhelds. However, the home consoles appear to be on their last legs unless something turns around. The big three had an opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong at E3, and the reaction to Nintendo Direct and the Sony conference have been mostly positive. However, they have a lot of work to do, especially Microsoft, if they want the console pessimists to get excited about this console generation and the future of home consoles as a whole.
tags: microsoft , nintendo , opinion , pc , ps4 , sony , wii-u , xbox one