Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
 
Bad generation

There are a handful of console games I really loved. But the majority of the games I played were always on the PC, and thus I was always annoyed by the ongoing "PC gaming is dying" discussion and the idea that at some point in time all gaming would happen on consoles. Well, it turned out differently. These days we have more game platforms than ever, there is some quite good gaming to be had on tablets and smart phones of different operating systems. And the new generation of consoles is looking as sickly as never before.

First through the gate of the eighth generation of consoles was the Wii U, and by all accounts it is not a success. It is selling significantly less well than the previous Wii, and in some markets the old Wii still outsold its successor Wii U *today*. EA came out saying the Wii U was "crap", said they wouldn't make Wii U games, then paddles back and said they'd make a few. So overall reception was mixed at best.

Then came the announcement of the PS4, which failed to convince people that this would be a must-buy. And now we got the announcement of the XBox One, which pretty much evokes the same echo. So up to now the next generation of consoles doesn't look very promising. This might very well turn out to be the least successful "generation" of consoles since a long time.

I believe that there are many reasons for that. One is that consoles have lost an advantage they had on price. It used to be that a PC that cost as much as a console was pretty much useless for gaming. But in the last years system requirements have gone up slower than system performance of the average PC, and today most games run perfectly well on a cheap PC. Another reason is that both PCs and mobile platforms have better multi-purpose controls. If I can, I browse the internet on my PC. If that isn't available, I'd choose my iPad. My PS3, although it comes with an internet browser, would clearly be my last choice for that activity. If due to limited funds you could only have one internet-connected device in your home, would you want that device to be a console?

And even if you would, why would you want a next generation console instead of one of the current generation? If you use your console to watch Netflix movies or DVDs, or surf the internet, you don't gain much from an upgrade. Only if you mainly want to play the latest games is a next generation console the way to go. And that is an expensive proposition. Between Steam sales on the PC and $0.99 games on tablets, the $60+ games on consoles look pricey today in comparison. You can nearly get a mini-console like the Ouya for that money.

I'm not saying that console gaming is dying. But I would say that it is further away from domination of the game market than ever. The future will be a lot more diverse, and the time Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft had as top dogs is over.

Comments:
Well said and I think companies have realized this already and in my opinion is the reason why the Playstation Plus have turned out to be a very very good offer, giving you lots of games and one new game per month.

If they keep playstation plus in the same level of quality and "generosity" on PS4 I think they will see big sales and probably I will buy it too. I also prefer pc for gaming, but consoles are more of a "family" type of gaming or gaming with friends..A friend coming to visit you and you want to play a game with him after you saw the champions cup final. It is much more easier and convenience to turn on the console and plug in a fifa soccer, than playing on your pc that probably you have on your bedroom..
 
I dunno, it's hard to judge. I'm not really very excited about any of the new consoles, but I wasn't about the last generation either.

I think I own fewer than a dozen physical xbox360 games, maybe another dozen or XBLA games. But I'd had easily more than a hundred ps2 games from the earlier generation. Some of that is Steam. Some of that is target audience shift by the designers away from the more thoughtful games I prefer like RPGs. Some of it is me slipping from the target audience as I get older.

Also, I have less time to play, with my job, but I also have a lot more disposable income to devote to buying games, so I'm not sure which way that would go. I'm really not sure whether there's been an objective loss of quality and fun in console games, or whether it's just less fun 'for me'.

Either way, no, I'm not at all excited. My main thought looking at the new consoles is to worry about how easy it'll be for developers to port games to PC, so I won't miss them.
 
At least Sony seem to be focussed on the high end gaming market. That may well be a shrinking niche but at least it is a niche.

Microsoft seems to be reducing the emphasis on gaming to push the Xbox as an all in one entertainment device. That is a very crowded market space with some very serious competition already in there Apple, Google, Samsung, Amazon, Netflix etc. I don't see how Microsoft are going to pull it off.

However I am also aware that my point of view as a long time dedicated gamer may cloud my judgement. There was an article in the Slate this morning hailing the new Xbox as an all in one dream device.
 
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/192709/Opinion_Xbox_One_is_a_desperate_prayer_to_stop_time.php

Pretty much this op.
 
I think it is a question of demographics, and there is clearly a huge market we are not associated with. Take a look at the list of the top 10 selling games of 2012:

1. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U)
2. Madden NFL 13 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Vita, Wii U)
3. Halo 4 (Xbox 360)
4. Assassin's Creed 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U)
5. Just Dance 4 (Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, PS3)
6. NBA 2K13 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PSP, Wii U, PC)
7. Borderlands 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC)
9. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Wii, Xbox 360, NDS, PS3, 3DS, Vita, PC)
10. FIFA 13 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Vita, 3DS, Wii U, PSP)

I only played one of these games, Borderlands 2 (and I believe it is the same for you, correct?). There are clearly a lot of people buying a lot of games that you and I have no interest in.

And then there is the question of price. Every console game is $60. I can't remember the last time I paid that much for a game, everything I buy is on sale (usually at a huge discount). A lucrative market clearly exists, even if we aren't a part of it.
 
The problem I see is that for some reason no one wants to support "previous generation" games. I like the games I have now! If you don't want me to play the current games I have for Xbox just so I buy a new console, then I won't buy a new console.

That's actually why I have an Xbox - I used to be a strictly PlayStation gamer and when the PS3 first came out with no support for PS2 games I got a 360. I already have a media system, don't need a new one.
 
Even though I've played more of those top games on the list Samus posted (Black Ops 2, Halo 4, AC3 and MW3), it's still correct that the market for Xbox is very large, much larger than the sort of crowd that is attracted to PC gaming. People I know who will buy an Xbox One wthout a second thought include co workers who maybe buy one CoD game for the husband, a lego game for the kid and an exercise game for the wife and that's it for them all year; the Xbox is used mainly for their movie rentals. So there's a very large demographic for the machine that is never, ever represented in gamer sites because they aren't gamers in the conventional sense....but they're definitely good Xbox customers.
 
@Tori it is my understanding that Microsoft usually loses money on the console but makes it's profit from its cut of game sales. Unless they are fundamentally changing the business model they aren't going to make any profit out of that family who buys three games a year.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
To me Sony is doing okay with the PS4. It's too early to tell for sure, but they at least focused on the games. Microsoft seemed to talk about everything but games in their conference. They will probably be showing off the games at E3 though. So far I give the edge to Sony because they don't have all the used game, online-only controversy. I think PS4 will sell better at launch than Xbox One, but Microsoft could catch up if they get some must-have exclusives.
 
"EA came out saying the Wii U was 'crap'"

NO.

Just no.

Some random engineer that happens to work for EA spouted that off on his twitter account. At no time was he speaking for EA.

We really need to stop attributing the public comments of people to the companies they work for (unless they are officially speaking for the company). While giving everything to the company you work for is considered a "good work ethic", we need to remember that we DO have lives outside our job, and that we SHOULD have the right to talk about what we're interested in outside of work.

Tobold, you were facing the prospect of shutting down the blog when Google was gung-ho about removing pseudonyms, so you know exactly what the issues are with attributing your personal opinions to your job. It pains me to see you fall into the same trap here.
 
Never got into console gaming. Tried it once (ps2) and it was ok but the PC has always been far superior for me simply because MMOs are more suited to it. For that reason I don't intend on ever trying out another console system ever.
 
I guess the Call of Duty / Halo / Madden etc. devotees will ensure that these consoles sell, but I wonder if there won't be a significant downturn from this generation's numbers. I've been gaming since 8-bit, and I've never seen a generation that offers so little of a technological jump over the previous. Maybe E3 will surprise me, but so far I don't see anything that would make me thing "I want to spend $500+ on this because it is that much better than this perfectly good X360/PS3"

 
I mostly agree but other points are:

IMO, the main reason to buy consoles was to avoid Windows video drivers. The consoles biggest weakness, a stable and locked-down platform is also its biggest strength. Developers can target/test a single configuration. If you want to play someone with fair/equal equipment to yours without them playing with hacks/exploits, then you greatly prefer a console.

As for PC innovation, I would point out that Direct X came out in 1995 and DX9 was 2002 and DX11 was 2009.

I would also point out that company that make XBox makes Windows. While they want to sell lots of Windows, IMO if adding a feature in Windows 8/9/10 makes it easier to compete with Android and iOS but hurts PC game performance gamers might not like the triage.

Remember Carmack's 2011
"It is interesting that on the PC side, we have systems that are 10 times more powerful than the consoles. But it's frustrating in that a lot of the PC systems that are many times more powerful still have trouble holding the same 60 frames-per-second rate because of API overhead, API clocking issues, and things like that. We're working with Intel and Nvidia on all these issues, but it is kind of frustrating when I know that the hardware is vastly more powerful but because we don't have quite as tight control over it, a lot of power goes to waste."

My guess is the makers of the top gaming platforms of 2017 will be Samsung and Apple.
 
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