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Daily Reaction: Will Consoles Remain as the Driving Force Next-Gen?

October 19, 2012 Written by Sebastian Moss

With the next generation of consoles fast approaching, Sebasstian Moss and Dan Oravassaari from Daily Reaction discuss whether they will continue to be the main driving force behind the games industry.

Seb: Social gaming is big, despite Zynga’s woes, and mobile gaming is huge, despite the individual horror stories of many a small dev. But consoles are still the main source of revenue for most large publishers, and the majority of games take their inspiration from what is happening in the console market.

The console’s influence has decreased, however, so the question is, will it continue to fall next gen? Well, first you need to look at why the influence has decreased. Sure, you’ve seen a huge rise in other platforms like mobile and Facebook, as well as a resurgence in PC gaming via Steam and even Kickstarter, but another reason is simply that this gen has gone on for too long.

With the next gen, as long as Sony and Microsoft don’t completely mess up their offerings, there will be an influx of new gamers and – importantly – new revenue. Publishers are ramping up to bring new IPs and new blockbusters to the next generation of consoles, investing millions into large scale titles that will have a profound effect on the industry.

Dan: As this generation has had the longest gap between cycles, there has been a number of surprising revelations that have sprung up to satiate new gamers, as well as those looking for something new. The question that will come up as the next cycle repeats itself next-gen, will gamers that have moved their attention to mobile platforms come back to the console side? Obviously, a great number of gamers will not completely abandon the console, but I do not think that they will be as invested in the market as they have been in previous generations. This doesn’t mean that big titles will see much of a decrease in sales, but that gamers will be less likely to support smaller titles, as they can get other experiences at a much cheaper cost by visiting the mobile market.

What this means is that next-gen the division between AAA titles and smaller titles will only grow bigger than it already has. Mid-tier titles will not cease to exist, but they will be amongst the more risky ventures, and will only continue to be geared towards the more sure bets…i.e. shooters. Luckily for consoles in general, they will remain, for the moment, the easiest and simplest method to play the biggest titles that will be released.

Rambling Seb: I disagree that mid-tier titles will survive, I think that games like Starhawk show that the market can’t support it, but that’s another Daily Reaction for another day. But while we both agree that the next gen will be a mostly console-focused one, after that things become rather unclear. With digital distribution and cloud gaming likely taking over from consoles, a lot depends on how the cloud ecosystem will be handled.

Take Gaikai for example, if in 10 years, it has 60 million subscribers all playing games through it, how often will Sony upgrade their hardware? Will they take a console approach and bring out a significant change every 7-8 years, or will they constantly add small upgrades here and there? From a business perspective, they’ll want to keep updates to a minimum because they don’t want to spend too much on tech. But from a competition perspective, you can bet Microsoft will be spending big bucks to try and force Sony to use up their cash reserves.

So it really depends on which of those happen, because that will mean that publishers will either be able to stick with a console like development – optimizing a specific hardware for a few years – or become more PC-focused, constantly working on the latest hardware.

I know I’d far prefer to have the biggest and best tech at any given moment, but I’m sure publishers would love to save costs by working on static tech.

Dan: Well in regards to how things will go after next-gen, it will be difficult to say what direction things will go, until cloud gaming makes its final push. Yet, as the tech needed for cloud gaming will not be able to infuse itself into the market at a rate that will allow mass public consumption in time to be a viable competitor for the PS4/720, it will not be a major issue.

Although, once the cloud system is implemented, it will be the stepping stone for future generations to come. This will be the deciding factor for whatever comes next, much like how Xbox Live has taken a grip on the market this generation, and kept a significant portion of the gamer population on that ecosystem. This will be Sony’s last chance to remain relevant, as gamers will be more and more attached to specific services, and less likely to switch between or go multi-platform due to the inevitable fees associated with them.

Consoles will eventually cease to exist, and this will not only mean the death of console gaming, but will become the time where PC gaming will no longer be tied to that platform either. So in a sense, once console gaming dies, so will PC gaming. Leaving players with an almost single system platform like they have been asking, but instead will be more of a Netflix vs. Hulu styled fight.

What do you think will be publisher’s main focus in the future. Will consoles remain relevant in 10 years? How about 50? Share your thoughts in the comments below, send naked pics to our email, and instantly regret following Seb and Dan on Twitter.