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The so called death of consoles

by Ken Kinnison on 10/29/12 12:56:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


I'm going to respond to this article- although I hate feeding page views of what feels like bait. For what it's worth the author may believe his assertions. I think nearly any 'death of' article is faulty unless we're talking about a company whose stock has dropped 95% in 10 days.
I digress (be prepared, I do that...)
Firstly, I'm biased. I love my 360, but I try to be platform agnostic(1)- it's a device to play games, the GAMES are what's important, it is what makes me a gamer. The ecosystem a platform provides is only so important as how well it delivers good gaming experiences.
Here's my quick and dirty list of pros and cons.

In support of the article-
A- The phone upgrade cycle by necessity is faster than the console upgrade cycle. 
B- The controller issue (which I will list as a con) is easily solved by streaming to a TV (or hdmi outs) and a bluetooth/usb controller.
C- there are plenty of free games, and cheap games.
D- Related to d- console games are often prohibitively expensive to produce.

Controller issue and screen space.
To an extent screen real estate limits multiplayer.

Phone multiplayer is usually very... very... limited. No coop or death match play (there are exceptions). 

The number of phone games approaching the detail of a modern console game can be counted on one hand. Graphics do matter kids, even mine craft can slow a machine down. There's also details like physics to consider.

Most of the free games and cheap games are cheap for a reason. They are two man shop games that are good for killing a moment. There will constantly be a need... people keep saying a segment but I sincerely believe even the more casual gamer want a 'blockbuster' experience now and then.

Lack of distinct content (IE most games are sub 50 megs and the largest are only a hundred megs or so at most.

Specific addressing the points-

A- This is true, and I don't think there's anything a console can do to address this without punishing users. The PC has always had the leg up on this though, and it doesn't make as much difference as you'd expect. This is the longest console cycle we've had in a few generations (ever?) meaning we're seeing the max of the hardware... they still look worlds better. I know the 'gameplay as king' hipsters are staring down their noses at me ;). Gameplay is king, but the king aught to look the part. I think the market has moved past the 'playing it is because it's pretty' phase... people just need to accept that most people who play CoD actually enjoy the damn game.(2)

B- While you could 'connect' I think this is still a major con for phones. The 'pop up button' tech that someone patented could address this issue, although the 'Chiclets style buttons that creates (AFAIK) would still not compare to a mouse/keyboard or controller. I don't think people will accept two experiences or a poor/non existent mobile experience. The screen and music functions of a phone both WORK when not docked, we just dock them for a fuller experience- I don't think the input would translate as well.

C- There's a reason some of these are cheap or free- they are produced by small teams with churn. This market is suspectively(tm) not sustainable, it also just doesn't produce the blockbuster experience.
I'll steal a comment from the wired site- just because doctor horrible was awesome didn't kill Hollywood  I even wonder if the mass amounts of games will drive people to the more curated consoles/pcs. While part of me finds that 'sad... the blockbuster polish will be a differentiator.

D- this is a major issue. I hold up Homefront. Homefront was a 'successful game from my pov. It sold something like 1.2 million copies. I'd give up parts of my anatomy for that.
The team was disassembled and split apart (laid off) because it didn't 'break even' at 2 mil. I'm not privvy to their decisions- I'm a co-founder of a podunk 2 person studio trying to wrap up our first phone game and all of this is my opinion. (4)
But the game was a million seller with a lot of promise. Tighten the ship and go for round two. Yeah 800k copies is not insignificant, but that was a pretty damn high target for a new franchise as is. There's an article on this site that also discusses this, so it's not like the industry isn't aware.

Future of consoles-

They will change... they will become a hybrid. Us 'back in the day NES players will lament we have to shift two menus to find our game tab. But I'm also going to enjoy the crap out of some coop games with my friends well into my 80's(3).

1- I hate platform wars, especially between the major console vendors and PC's. In a way this discussion is stupid since I don't think I'll be replacing my cell with my xbox either. Can we all just agree that platforms have advantages and there is no pure best? A mouse and keyboard is better for FPS's... I get that. But my xbox 'just works' without the hoops my pc does. The pc can look better 2-3 years into the cycle, although dev's do the lowest common denom-nom-nom-nominator so it doesn't matter. And ps3 and xbox just aren't different enough to matter imo. My phone will not likely match the grahics of a console for a loooong time (see 3).
Also per my Modus Operandi I am legally obligated to mention Pizza in my posts, it is tastey and good, but consider other things at gamedev related events such as jams. 

2- I like my eye candy, I notice there is a trend of those that eschew (word of the day!) such things. We've always had people who've had problems with the graphics push, but now we have many that purposely design for 8 bit styling (minecraft is the easy target). That's okay... I just don't 'get it'. I think it's more nostalgia to me of a simpler age. I think that underlying trend is still more of a side trip rather than a replacement, and that's perhaps what bugs me most about 'death of' articles... they take a trend and extrapolate it to... well death. I want to be clear and state that gameplay is king- but presentation does need to be solid. I don't think maxing out the video card with sh***y gameplay works anymore (if it ever did)- I just think some people should acknowledge that some of the 'big games' are successful for more than that, even if they personally don't like the gameplay.

3- There may be a break even point (and I think it's actually fairly close) where we just aren't going to do much more graphically. It's very hard to make realistic faces even with real materials, there just may be a point where we plateau. Since phones in a horsepower sense will approach consoles/pc's- they will reach this point not long after. At what point do we say 'I just need a iphone dock' and skip the big box pc's? I personally will probably maintain a rig long after 'normal people' stop but does your average joe really need a 6 core beast? No... they don't.

4- Yes this is out of order. I put that qualifier in to A- head off criticism that 'what do I know'. I'm of two minds about this- unless you are in the trenches you can't truly 'know'. However you can have a semi informed opinion via study. There are people that will accept what their view is as gospel even when compelling evidence exists- relevant in this case- there are many who will espouse that you CAN'T make a major game without hundreds of people and millions of dollars. Is this true? I don't believe it- and there is plenty of quality game experiences to counter it. On the flip side you aren't going to round up 10-20 of your closest internet friends and make a Halo level experience. YMMV.

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