Per usual, Wired‘s become bored, or they just don’t think people are looking at them enough, so they announce that something is dead. This time, it’s the game console.
So Wired wrote a three-page feature explaining that the console market was going to die as a result of mobile gaming, the increasing strength of tablets as game devices, the resurgence of PC gaming and the free-to-play model as a bridge too far for consoles to adapt to.
They went on to say that, indeed, the age of the consoles died already, right at the moment when Sony and Microsoft introduced their massive upgrades to their respective consoles’ software to turn them into all-encompassing entertainment hubs.
“The core model is eroding,” says David Reid of CCP Games (EVE Online, Dust 514).
This of course isn’t the first time that Wired has written a sensationalist obituary. Last year it was the web site, which Wired posted and promoted primarily on their very profitable web site.
Another supposed nail in the coffin: PC gaming has become cheaper than console gaming “when you factor in the growing disparity in game prices.” This makes a false equivalence by throwing free-to-play games into the mix rather than comparing triple-A titles across platforms.
What Wired is seeing, and interpreting in the most fatalistic, sensationalist manner possible, is the decentralization of gaming. What we’re seeing is not the death of the console, but the expansion of gaming. When gaming tech was at Doom levels, we were constantly looking for bigger and better. Better graphics. Smoother frame-rates.
But after Crysis, which in many ways forced gamers to question their willingness to spend their hard-earned dollars to upgrade for the next generation of graphics, we began to realize that glorified tech demos were no longer worth our time. It’s always nice to see the next game be prettier than the last, but as we’ve seen with The Unfinished Swan, prettier does not necessarily mean higher-tech.
What’s happening is the gaming market is flattening out. We live in an age where our phones are more advanced than Apollo 11, and our PCs and consoles could run NASA Mission Control during that flight. The era of cramming hastily-made triple-A sequels down our throats and calling it a day is over.
The console isn’t dead. It’s evolving. Just as PC games had to evolve when the power of consoles started to match them. Just as everyone evolved when free-to-play games showed they could be profitable. Just as everyone had to evolve when they realized there was a huge market for digital distribution. Just as both PC and console makers were forced into that evolution when the GameStops of the world hit their apex with the used games
And then there’s the business aspect: platform exclusivity. Legend of Zelda will never be played on a Microsoft console. Uncharted will never be played on a Nintendo console.
Nintendo consoles are different. The Wii did different things than the 360 or the PS3. And next cycle, someone else may be doing something different. Who knows where the Kinect goes next? Maybe nowhere, but we just don’t know.
Wired argues that the “it just works” explanation for consoles longer life is null and void because the iPad “just works.” Except the iPad has other limitations. Just as some gamers can’t or won’t play an FPS without a mouse and keyboard, so too will gamers refuse to do so without a controller.
There’s also the simple hardware question — no matter how well coded, iPad games will not (with current hardware, including 4th gen iPad) have the same sense of expansive reach as, say, most Bethesda games. To do so, it will have to reuse assets in more obvious ways than Skyrim.
While we’re rapidly reaching the ceiling on how important graphics are to us, we’ve got a long way to go before we hit the ceiling on how much game we want in our games. Fallout: New Vegas was great but Caesar’s Legion was clearly a truncated affair. The Bethesda worlds, the Bioware worlds — we’ve still got a long way to go before games feel genuinely well-populated, and not just for “game” standards. That still requires much more powerful technology than can realistically be fit into a tablet. Naturally, that’s a “for now” statement, but even this generation’s consoles didn’t stand still — the 360 Elite and its launch predecessor don’t even compare when you look under the hood.
Quite frankly, guys, tablets and mobile games can’t do this, yet, and won’t for this generation:
It’s no surprise that Wired is quick to declare something dead. And on a long enough timeline, I’m sure something will die out. Consoles and PCs just merge and that may be that. Or the power of tablets grows such that you’ll just be able to connect it to your TV and use a controller of your choice. But today is not that day. Tomorrow isn’t, either. It’s way down the line.
But the truth is everything is evolving — not just consoles. Will we be hitting a singularity where hardware is no longer a concern, or will we decentralize, where all of our devices are in effect gaming systems, and each system — be it PC, console or mobile — carves out their specialties?
Clearly I believe it’s the latter, at least in the short term. In the long term, anyone who claims to know where it’s going is either lying or the Time Cube guy. It’s all just noise.
Question: What’s the future of gaming to you?