Home Console Gaming May Suffer Death By A Thousand Cuts, Rather Than A Major Revolution

Posted: May 12, 2013 in Gadgets, Gaming, GT
Tags: , , , ,

The Ouya is making its way out to backers even now
(though my shipping notification still hasn’t arrived.
Grrr.) and judging by early impressions, it’s no silver
bullet to take down behemoths like Sony and
Microsoft. The $99, Android powered console still
isn’t fully formed exactly, but it’s doubtful that between now and June 25 it’ll take on giant-killer
proportions. Likewise the recently-announced
BlueStacks Android gaming console, which features a
subscription-based pricing model, probably won’t
alone topple the giants. But combined, these and a slew of other devices
including the GameStick, smart TVs from
manufacturers, Steam Boxes, and even Google and
Apple hardware are eating away at what was once a
fairly exclusive field. It seems a lot of people are
waiting for a watershed moment to signal a significant shift away from traditional console gaming to a new
paradigm, but increasingly, it looks likely that what
we’ll see instead is an erosion that more closely
resembles glacial shift, but on a less geological time
scale. There’s evidence to suggest that console gaming is
already losing significant ground, like quarterly results
from Nintendo that show a dramatic decline in
consumer interest in the recently-launched Wii U
console. And while Sony saw its first full-year profit in
half a decade, most of the good news was on the smartphone side, and PlayStation sales fell for the
year. Microsoft is still doing fairly well with the Xbox
360, but growth of key accessories like the Kinect
have slowed with time. Slower Kinect sales are a good bellwether for the
industry’s overall health, if only because it and
devices like it are where console makers are turning
to try to inject some fresh life into a market that had
recently started to look fairly stale. To some extent,
Kinect, Move and other gimmicks like the screen of the 3DS are an answer to incursions by mobile
gaming and other alternatives. Just like point-and-
shoot cameras needed differentiating features like
long zooms to prove themselves relative to
smartphone cameras, video games needed
something new to reel in new buyers. The new crop of challengers to the console gaming
market, including Ouya and the new BlueStacks
GamePop console, risks getting discounted by critics
as just another round of devices like the GP2X Wiz or
the Gizmondo, which had limited appeal and then
faded into the background of video games history as little more than a minor footnote. But that’s taking too
short-term and dismissive a view on what’s currently
happening in the video game space. It’s true that, as
ardent console gamers continually remind me, there
will always be a demand for that type of content. Increasingly, however, there’s a growing contingent of
players that are fine saying, “if I can get it on my
phone, why do I need it anywhere else?” and that’s a
market that’s ripe for a living room transition like the
ones being attempted by Ouya and BlueStack. It’s
easy to discount these ahead of their full consumer launch, and I don’t expect them to have an immediate
impact on console sales, but they are signs of a sure
shift, and one that won’t go away, even if doesn’t
provide the sort of bomb shock disruption that we’re
so fond of identifying and championing.

  1. sint4x says:

    I’m not entirely sure it will be the death of consoles, as the Ouya is essentially a console itself. I think the screen size and touchscreen interface of mobile gaming will hold it back for awhile. It would be interesting to see if there is a blend in the future, like how Xbox launched it’s Smartglass app, but then didn’t do much with it. Perhaps we’ll see more mobile integration with the next gen consoles?

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