Ever since consoles beat out the personal computer as the dominant gaming platform by dint of sheer numbers, people have wondered what the fate of the PC will be. Now with the revolution in casual gaming and mobile platforms, are home consoles in the same commercial and cultural quandary? Wired takes a look:
Here it is: Videogame consoles are about to return to the shadowy Nerd-Lands.
Back in the ’80s, videogames were for children (and for adults who put sunshine and fresh air in the same category as radioactive fallout and mustard gas).
In the ’90s, the PlayStation made console gaming acceptable. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox madeit cool. And with the latest generation, consoles have become a staple of living rooms and rest homes across any number of nations.
Now, with tablets and smartphones invading homes, bags and pockets, all that’s about to end.
We’re not going to see the end of videogame consoles any more than we’ve seen the end of film cameras, phonographs and self-winding watches. But ask yourself: Who is obsessed with film, vinyl records and self-winding watches? Nerds, that’s who. Maybe not tech-nerds, but nerds in their own little realm of 3 a.m. eBay purchases and long-winded justifications thereof.
Beyond the question of arcane nerd-culture, however, this poses another problem for the financial prospects of the console gaming market entirely:
But there’s worse news for consoles: Nobody needs to write songs specifically for vinyl — you just press a few hundred and sell them to the “warmer and more natural” crowd. But modern console blockbusters like Skyrim require enough raw work from people of different backgrounds and skills that future generations will say aliens created them.
There’s only one reason games like that get made, and it’s the same reason I’m banned from six different riverboat casinos: money. $60 times a couple million copies pays for a lot of texture designers and velocity matrix engineers or whatever.
However, $60 also buys a lot of things that don’t cost $60. Including, for instance, 99-cent games. And while a $60 game may be more fun than a 99-cent game, to paraphrase Penny Arcade, it’s probably not 60 times as fun.
Look at it this way. You can pick up a large soda at a drive-through for 99 cents. Say you also have the option of buying a $60 soda. How large would that soda have to be for you to buy it? How delicious? I’ll tell you: That soda would have to actually be enthusiastic oral sex.
This may be overstated given the unpredictability of the gaming and tech industry in general—PC gaming has reinvented itself as a haven for indie developers, while modding communities, superior hardware, and unique distribution platforms like Steam have continued to draw gamers into the space. So will consoles similarly reinvent themselves, or go the way of records and comic books?