Is the Console Industry Dying?

I’m going to be refreshingly up front with my answer today. No, in no universe is the console market dying. You hear that the console market is dying from two sources: 1 – From PC elitists who can’t fathom that the console market even exists no less that it will keep going; and 2 – Incredibly short-sighted video game “analysts”, who are currently obsessed with mobile gaming as the end of all gaming. I wanted to talk about this today, because I really didn’t want to talk about the Wii U and these two groups anger me beyond all reason. Firstly, if you have ever been on a message board for any period of time, you have probably encountered the PC elitist. These people often, rightly, proclaim that the best version of a particular game is on the PC, and then go on to sputter nonsense about consoles holding back development and being useless tools for the masses. These are basically a bunch of hardcore gamers that have their heads shoved so far up their own asses that they can’t see anything outside of their own immediate circle. The gaming analysts are, in ways, worse, because professional sites give them credence. However, they almost always rely on pure data figures and refuse to take context into account, leading to some baffling statements being made. Today I’m going to try to pick up some of the key arguments as to why consoles are dying and try to convince you, internet, that the mere idea at this point is ridiculous.

Nintend-who?

Disclaimer – PC elitists are what I’m targeting in this first section. If you game on a PC, but don’t attack consoles like they’re raping your parents, then this attack is not directed at you.

1 – PCs are better gaming devices

This is the big one and there is a lot to say about it. To start with, I don’t think anyone would argue that a PC has the capacity to play a particular game better than any console. The sheer amount of customization of PCs leads to a huge amount of variation, meaning that Call of Duty can look super pretty. Then there’s mods, which are usually minor and useless, but for games with a modding community like The Elder Scrolls, you can get some truly amazing things. However, that is as far as it goes. The PC can potentially play any game better than a console, so shouldn’t it be superior? The answer is no for some pretty substantial reasons. The biggest problem is the lack of games. PCs have a good selection of games, but nowhere near the amount of high level games made for the consoles. Add in the fact that each of the big three console developers have a stable of first and second party games that will never see a PC ever, and there’s a problem. Then there’s the expansion of multiplatform games, meaning that there are fewer and fewer PC exclusives out there. Sure the PC can play them better, but how much does that really matter? Customization acts against the PC as well. You can build a gaming rig, relatively cheaply if you know what you’re doing, but very few people do. And there are comparatively fewer people who care enough to continuously upgrade a machine, and without the upgrades, the PC soon loses its edge over consoles. The next bit gets its own little paragraph because it is so important.

The most important thing for any product or service is cost and ease. If something is better but more expensive, or harder to do, then it isn’t necessarily better.

Consoles can be purchased cheaply, are incredibly user friendly, and do not need to be replaced for, on average, five years, and then a single purchase is all that is needed. I can’t argue that people can do some incredible things with PCs and when you know what to do and how to do it, PCs do seem way better, but that isn’t the position that the majority of the populace finds themselves in. This is where the “only for the masses” barb comes from. It’s true to an extent, but it seems to forget what the word masses means. We aren’t talking about some unwashed, poorly educated thieves and beggars, we’re talking about the vast majority of people who don’t have the time or energy to bother with PCs, but still want to enjoy video games. This is what’s key, and why PCs are not better gaming devices. There is a big difference with being potentially technically better and simply being better.

First of all, watch Zero Punctuation. Secondly, this is a pretty accurate portrayal of a PC elitist mindset.

1.1 Emulation

This fits under PCs are better so I’m listing it as a subsection. Remember when I said that the PC didn’t have many games? Well, most PC gamers would balk at the assertion and say that they have more games than all consoles because of emulation. All of the classics from Mega Man to Chrono Trigger can be obtained easily, as can many new games. Hell, you can download a PS2-quality game and HD upgrade it yourself and pass all of those HD remakes off to the chumps. Since PC gamers, in reality, have access to so many more games, shouldn’t they be better?

I’m sorry, Snake, but you’re just better on the PC.

The answer is no because this whole line of argument is the most incredibly stupid thing I’ve ever heard. So all gamers should leave the consoles and move to PCs because they’re better, and as part of that, let’s pirate all of our games, and make sure that developers get royally screwed? That’s such a great idea. Piracy is a huge problem in PC gaming nowadays because of this exact thought process. The problem is that most people who know enough about PCs to make them into godly gaming platforms, know enough about PCs to get all of their games for free. This is wonderful for the minority of gamers who do it, but it is incredibly shortsighted. How exactly are developers supposed to make all of the games you love, when they aren’t getting money? Sure, developers could switch to free model, but they would still need money and that would come from microtransactions, or ad support, and games would still have to be scaled back significantly. I don’t think anyone wants that.

Sure it’s cliched, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a big deal.

2 – Mobile Gaming is taking over

Oh those mobile phones, huh? All them kids be playing with their Angry Birds all the time. Ever since smartphones started really making headway, gaming analysts have been quick to jump on the new platform and make all sorts of assumptions. It’s from here that we got the idea that the free model is the future, or smaller, cheaper games are worth more than big ones. Most of these analysts are quick to compare the mobile market to the console market (Strangely the PC market is usually ignored here), and so anything that works on a phone must work on consoles. It’s these assumptions where everything falls apart. They are two very different markets. So when a study shows that this October had the worst software sales since 2006, some of these analysts look at the mobile phone numbers and make the immediate jump that mobile phones are taking over. The problem is that these people are so excited by the new variable (Mobile gaming) that they ignore simple context. This year a disproportionate amount of high profile games were delayed until after Christmas, and huge releases such as Resident Evil 6 couldn’t hold the entire market up on their own. Boom. It was lack of games; how simple was that?

But look at all the games. Surely Goku was enough to make this an award winning month.

The fact of the matter is that this has been happening for a very long time. I remember back around 2006 or so when every gaming analyst was saying that Facebook was the future of gaming because of Farmville’s success. Many developers chimed in and a huge slew of Facebook games were made. How did that work out? Does anyone talk about the future of gaming shifting to the Facebook model anymore? That isn’t to demean the popularity and success of the mobile gaming market, but just because it involves games doesn’t mean that it shares the same market. Consoles should be no more afraid of Angry Birds Star Wars than they should be of Monopoly.

This buried the console market, remember?

3 – There’s nothing left

I hear this from a decent amount. It’s the idea that each console generation has brought something hugely new, but there’s nowhere else to go after this generation, so consoles are just going to stagnate and die. First of all, what is the minimum thing they have to add for a new console cycle? It’s improved graphics. Ok, now let’s go through the generations quickly starting with the NES for ease (Screw you Atari).

NES – Starting point
SNES/Genesis – Improved graphics
N64/PS1 – 3D
PS2/Xbox/Gamecube – Improved graphics
PS3/Xbox 360 – Online viability

There’s a lot more to it than that of course. For example, the PS2 generation’s improved graphics allowed so much more to be done with gaming than was possible in the previous generation, and this generation has brought so much more to the table than any before it. The argument is that the current generation has hit a certain level, and there isn’t anywhere else to go. The simple fact of the matter is that one can’t make such an assumption when there is literally no information out concerning the next gen systems, other than Nintendo, which is staying behind again. However, even if the only new addition is improved graphics, that in itself can be huge. People just thing improved graphics mean pretty things, but it can be so much more. Improved draw distances, and lighting effects could define an entire generation. But there is not reason to speculate like this. For all we know, Sony and Microsoft could roll something out that will change everything. Maybe they won’t, but that isn’t an argument as to why consoles are dying.

There’s clearly no room for improvement.

Hmm, those are the three big points I thought of when making this. Many PC gamers feel that consoles are dying, but in reality should that opinion be validated. I feel that the PC industry is in a massive transitional period where the issue of privacy is coming to a head and developers are going to need to do something about it. PC gamers should be more worried about their own industry and its practices than the console industry. As for mobile gaming, I think all of that talk is simply poorly informed or overexcited analysts going to town with a new tool. Of course, maybe I’m full of shit, and the console market is dying. Maybe people will wise up and start building gaming rigs, while mobile gaming eats the rest of the industry. I don’t think that’s likely, but it isn’t impossible.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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2 thoughts on “Is the Console Industry Dying?

  1. Or instead of having console wars, people could just enjoy playing on every system, since they all are meant for the same thing: HAVING FUN. Thats my favorite part of not being a console fanboy, I think. It's apparently idealogical that one could just play on anything, and not buy it only for one system (Exclusives don't count), but I enjoy it the most, since that means my FF's are all pretty (PS3), my Assassin's Creed's can actually be played against friends (360), and my Mario's can….continue being Marios? Whatever, great article, and certainly something that should be read again. 11/10

  2. I agree. One of the best things that happened this generation of consoles was the tie between Sony and Microsoft, which led to an explosion in multiplatform games. Sure you are always going to need Nintendo's console, but it was nice to just have to pick one other one, instead of needing both.

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