I read an interesting article on IGN that states our current console era has lasted too long and it’s to Sony and Microsoft’s detriment. The core concept is that due to poor scaling of platforms, innovation has been stiffled and forced developers to look at other platforms.
The XBOX360 launched in 2005, the PS3 in 2006. You’re talking as old as World of Warcraft here. It’s been a few years now that both companies have been able to recoup their initial losses but at the same time, they have less computing power than a 200$ laptop you can get today.
In terms of available market, there are 62 million 360s (including those the have died) and 63 million PS3s. There are over 70 million iPhones sold so far this year and nearly everyone has a computer of some kind (over 1 billion at last count). We’re not even talking the same league here.
The advantages to mobile and PC are the distribution of software and integration with the internet. It’s easy to patch, easy to distribute, easy to sell. Consoles require a disk (remember when we thought cartridges were the best?). All devices can integrate with a home theatre system.
Developers that focus on consoles typically focus on recyclying their existing IPs. You rarely get any indie games on a disk, they are all on XBLA or the PS Store – again, digital distribution. Heck, they all have integration to NetFlix now (which is another story I will get into).
Are console games better? They certainly sell a lot of copies but in terms of profit I would say that mobile and PC gaming is much more profitable. An indie game like Legend of Grimrock would never have seen half the sales on a console. True FPS games are still dominated by PC players. The largest gaming prizes are still on the PC. If I want to play a 10 year old PC game, I can. Can’t say the same about console games.
So is it time for a new generation of consoles or simply an entirely new platform for content delivery? What really differentiates a PC from a console today anyway? I’m more apt to say that the next consoles will be delivery platforms and I’m sure we’re going to find out soon enough.