Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


When there's no more room in Hell, the consoles will walk the Earth.
March 13, 2012 6:30 PM   Subscribe

The Best 26-Minute Argument that Game Consoles Are Dying*

At GDC 2012 last week, Ben Cousins of ngmoco, tablet and cellphone game company, argued that game consoles are dying*.

*for appropriate values of "dying".
posted by d1rge (83 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
if "console" refers to locked boxes where you'll play what we want you to dammit, i can't wait
posted by LogicalDash at 6:41 PM on March 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Would that be the same ngmoco that hasn't released anything significant in 2 years, evangelized the "freemium" model, got bought out last fall, is currently missing performance milestones (for missing revenue targets) and just had another round of layoffs this month? I see why this guy has time to discuss why the console industry model is broken.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:56 PM on March 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


Since I don't really want to watch a 26 minute video, can anyone provide a nutshell of his argument? Or point me to a transcript?
posted by modernnomad at 7:06 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


He made a pretty convincing point. I can't even play devil's advocate and come up with any counterpoints.

The big part is the "for appropriate values of dying." There will still be consoles, but they'll have about the same market share compared to mobile devices as arcades had in the early 2000s compared to consoles.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:08 PM on March 13, 2012


He made a pretty convincing point. I can't even play devil's advocate and come up with any counterpoints.

While I hate to talk without data ready at hand, I'll take a guess: the demographics of "people who would pay money to play games" and "people who like to watch moving images" did not significantly change with the fall of arcades and the rise of consoles, or the fall of cinemas and the rise of television. The same people changed their behaviour. With the predicted fall of consoles and rise of handhelds, that is accompanied by a massive redefinition of the gamer demographic. The same people aren't changing their behaviour, they're becoming a niche market that can be catered to exclusively by PC, and their relative importance replaced by a much bigger demographic of people who will be interested in handhelds. The middle-ground that consoles sought to occupy between handhelds and PCs is mostly eaten away.

You still come to same endpoint (consoles crushed), but it's not as a result of technological and business decisions changing audience behaviour as was the case with arcades and cinemas, but rather from making the format more accessible to a much bigger audience and then the business and technology chasing that bigger audience.
posted by kithrater at 7:21 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


At first I was annoyed that I couldn't even view the slides or the video or whatever on the very same device that this guy is claiming is going to kill consoles (I suppose that is his argument, that iPads are going to kill consoles).

But whatever, consoles may not be a box that hooks up to a tv and let's you play games that come on DVDs or cartridges for much longer, but there will always be a device that enables you to play games on your tv. There will always be tvs because I can't get my whole family around my iPad.

Then again I am just guessing what his argument is because I can't even view it on this awesome killer device.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:23 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


As another example: the motorcycle industry "died" in the mid 1980s. Not because people stopped buying motorcycles, but because it contracted about 10% due to the baby boomer demographic aging out of the target market (men in their teens and 20s). A 10% contraction of an industry doesn't sound like much, but it's enough to put many companies out of business who have less than 10% profit margins - if your not growing, your dieing. Likewise, that's all it will take with consoles, and it appears the day is probably sooner than later from this presentation. Anyone who wants to become a professional game developer pay heed: technology and demographics don't stay still very long. Demographically, the video game boom that started in the 1990s was driven by the children of the baby boomers, a large cohort. At some point they will move on to careers and families and the video game market will crash because the generation following them (born post-911) is smaller in size. Video games will still be made and sold but there will be a shakeout and contraction and the last thing you will want to be is in that industry when it happens.
posted by stbalbach at 7:26 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think there's any doubt about this. I'm not a gamer and have only the lightest emotional attachment to gaming, but I've lived through it from Space Invaders onwards and have a bunch of pals professionally involved in the scene. I picked up a PSP Vita recently and couldn't think of one reason anyone would want it - if they had a modern phone. I could think of lots of reasons why they wouldn't. (See also: camcorders, point-and-shoot cameras, MP3 players and the other gizmos called out as dying in the presentation.)

You just wouldn't want that stuff, most of the time, and the few times you'd need what the dedicated hardware gave you wouldn't be nearly enough to justify buying it. Instead, you have the general platform of the phone and the killer delivery mechanism of the app store. Just one thing. I like having just one thing.

There's a reason that phones (can we drop the 'smart' now? There's no other sort, is there?) and tablets are soaking up all the CPU and GPU improvements, which on first blush look stupidly over-specified today and doubly so at the next Moore's Law iteration. That's how you get the immersive experience. The mobile companies know what's happening, and they're not going to stop. One of the rules of computing is that if you can do it in hardware, you can do it in software, and these things are so very, very good at running software.

With a few honourable exceptions, the combination of phones and fast wireless-to-the-cloud is going to vapourise enormous swathes of not just gaming but consumer electronics, across the board. It's more than started already. In ten years' time, the single-function consumer gizmo will have gone the way of the tube radio. And the ability of the installed base of uber-communicating extremely capable sensor-studded programmable devices to swap real-time information among themselves and the big data pattern scryers in the cloud will create a whole 'nother and very interesting place to live, like you won't believe.

I think the cyberpunks got it wrong. We won't live in the net. The net will have plenty of its own life: we'll be its gizmos.
posted by Devonian at 7:32 PM on March 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm bothered that he sees cell phone gaming as this bold, new frontier.

His analogies (horse->car, mainframe->PC, arcade->console, cinema->TV) don't entirely translate to iOS replacing consoles. In all of the examples, the new technology offers a similar experience. The experience may be reduced (such as a television having a lower quality picture compared to film), but not enough that you feel like something significant was lost. The convenience of watching something at home, rather than with a bunch of annoying strangers, makes up for the grainier image.

Smart phone gaming is more than just a slightly reduced version of console/handheld gaming. How many iOS games are more complex than a Newgrounds flash game? Does anyone enjoy iOS games that have more than two "buttons"? This isn't a hardware issue, it's an inherent problem with touchscreen hardware. Android and Apple phones will remain touchscreen based on a relatively small screen. There's only so much real estate your fingers can take up before they obscure the visuals. The graphics may get better on these phones, but you can't improve the gameplay. How can mobile phone developers expect to match the experience of a controller?

He is right that convenience will trump complexity in the end. I expect console gaming to become more of a niche product as smart phones dominate the market. However, his ascertion that smart phone gaming will soon equal and better consoles is absurd. Consoles (or some equivalent hardware) will always offer something iOS and Android cannot.
posted by bittermensch at 7:34 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure consoles are dying since I just bought my first one since the NES. I tend to have that effect on industries. (Sorry, Betamax.)
posted by feckless at 7:34 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


His conclusion is largely correct and not really a surprise for anyone really paying attention to the game industry. I'm hesitant about some of his logic leading to it because graphs/charts/statistics are notoriously easy to fit any narration. And I don't know enough of the decline of arcades to comment on that except that he piqued my interest.

He seemed to avoid mentioning that dedicated gaming console companies (Sony & Microsoft) have been moving further and further towards making those consoles multi-use media center devices, thus negating the whole "dedicated gaming console" element that shall lead to their demise. I would be honestly shocked if the next generation of hardware didn't go even further in this direction (though no comments on how successful the tactic will be)
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 7:37 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Simple amicable solution - phones docked to a monitor becomes a console.
posted by porpoise at 7:38 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Got frustrated a couple of minutes in when he lumped the 360 and the Vita all into the category of 'console,' and then gave up about 8 minutes in, as he started to use market cap as some kind of proxy for "important."

What is the basic point he's trying to make? That lots of people are gaming on iOS and Android? Not exactly a radical point of view. That EA is hasn't adapted to that change? Ibid.
posted by Frayed Knot at 7:40 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a reason that phones (can we drop the 'smart' now? There's no other sort, is there?)

Maybe once the price of mobile data drops by a factor of 5-10.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:40 PM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


How can mobile phone developers expect to match the experience of a controller?

By adding controllers?

Sure, it adds bulk, but attachments that add bulk to make up for missing features (such as the parade of screen lights for gameboys that lacked decent backlighting) haven't done much to slow portable gaming in the past.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:40 PM on March 13, 2012


The graphics may get better on these phones, but you can't improve the gameplay. How can mobile phone developers expect to match the experience of a controller?

They don't have to. The biggest games on telephones outsell, by orders of magnitude, the biggest games on consoles. Already.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:41 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I keep wondering when the Apple TV will become a "console" then you get the awesome controllers (iPhone/iPod/iPad[imagine a mech game with a "glass" controller) and all the infrastructure that is the eco system of games/apps... I expected it with the 2nd gen apple tv that is just an ipod... but nope...
posted by mrgroweler at 7:41 PM on March 13, 2012


I expect console gaming to become more of a niche product as smart phones dominate the market.

Doesn't work. The economics of consoles only make sense as a mass market. The cost of developing highly complex hardware and software can only be recouped if you sell a gazillion. Supersonic commercial air travel was entirely predicated on it becoming a mass market: without that market, it didn't become a niche. It died, and not in any sort of carefully defined sense.

If you haven't yet flown at Mach 2, you won't. Ever. And your kids will only ever own a console that they bought from eBay as a retro collectible.
posted by Devonian at 7:44 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]



By adding controllers?

Sure, it adds bulk, but attachments that add bulk to make up for missing features (such as the parade of screen lights for gameboys that lacked decent backlighting) haven't done much to slow portable gaming in the past.


The reason smart phones are dominating Nintendo and Sony handhelds isn't because they lack complexity - it's because you can get a basic, 2 minute game that costs $1. People don't just want to carry around a bulky controller port because it's bulky, but also because they have no use for it. The best selling games on iOS are dead simple because that's where the market is.
posted by bittermensch at 7:47 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also further to my expectations of Apple TV becoming a console. Isn't it funny that Apple changed the rules seemingly for Unity?
Remember the late 90's when people paid for these predictions... anyone?
posted by mrgroweler at 7:47 PM on March 13, 2012


My prediction. Once we move to a mostly download model we will see cable operators get into the act. I see a TWC tv/Internet/games package. That is how you get economies of scale. TWC could be making millions selling Angry Birds on demand.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:56 PM on March 13, 2012


Doesn't work. The economics of consoles only make sense as a mass market. The cost of developing highly complex hardware and software can only be recouped if you sell a gazillion. Supersonic commercial air travel was entirely predicated on it becoming a mass market: without that market, it didn't become a niche. It died, and not in any sort of carefully defined sense.

I disagree somewhat. In absolute terms, I don't think the potential console market will shrink dramatically (though noting stbalbach's comments on minor changes in market size having big impacts). In relative terms, it will be crushed by the handheld market. Money and developers will flock to the handheld market, forcing PCs and consoles to fight over the scraps. Consoles will lose because they're not subsidised by corporate and non-gaming uses like PCs are, and will suffer the curse of many other single-use consumer electronic products.
posted by kithrater at 8:06 PM on March 13, 2012


Is it really the consoles dying or casual gaming being on a huge rise?

We just saw insane numbers for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Skyrim and Mass Effect 3, and Steam and the consoles are selling incredibly well.
posted by Cloud King at 8:14 PM on March 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well, he qualifies dying as "being much less relevant", connects relevance to "market cap" and tries to argue consoles are much less relevant by demonstrating how their market cap has suffered since "the financial crisis of 2008". Then he demonstrates how the rise in mobile gaming occurred around the same time, and tries to argue that the two are connected. Whether he's right or not about the future of consoles, I find his current argument less than convincing.
posted by grog at 8:25 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


How can mobile phone developers expect to match the experience of a controller?

Just develop for a phone that has one.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:36 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


But whatever, consoles may not be a box that hooks up to a tv and let's you play games that come on DVDs or cartridges for much longer, but there will always be a device that enables you to play games on your tv. There will always be tvs because I can't get my whole family around my iPad.

That's the Apple TV, which lets you mirror your iPad onto your display.
posted by ignignokt at 8:36 PM on March 13, 2012


When was the last time a major new console came out? Are there even any in the pipeline to come out in the next couple of years?
posted by empath at 8:37 PM on March 13, 2012


The new Nintendo console is coming out this year, and the next Microsoft and Sony consoles are in development and should be released in 2013 or 2014
posted by Cloud King at 8:45 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still haven't transitioned from pc gaming to consoles and now you're telling me that consoles are dead? I'll never catch up now. Plus, if future of gaming is Angry Birds or Words With Friends then I give up entirely.
posted by octothorpe at 8:58 PM on March 13, 2012


I still haven't transitioned from pc gaming to consoles and now you're telling me that consoles are dead?

But don't worry! Under this paradigm, PC gaming returns to prominence as the home of the hardcore gamer when the consoles die!
posted by mightygodking at 9:01 PM on March 13, 2012


So, instead of big boxes we plug a controller and and a screen into, we'll instead plug controllers into a smaller box, perhaps with a built in screen. Doesn't seem like a such a big shift.
posted by cx at 9:01 PM on March 13, 2012


Usually high-tech companies leap-frog each other year-to-year, but, amazingly, right now each of the major console manufacturers is simultaneously in a lull, years after their last consoles. Of course they are dying--they have all filled their market, are obsolete, and will soon be replaced with the next product.

So it is a little too easy, at this moment in time, to say 'consoles are dying'.

Wait until all three major manufacturers have come out with their next generation. If they are anything like the last models (at least from Sony and Microsoft), they will have technology that makes them much much more advanced in gaming than almost any desktop, and many orders of magnitude better than what a smartphone or tablet can do. Microsoft, with Kinect, is more and more using its specialized computing power to recognize the person in the room and react to what they are doing. I assume their next box will be much better at this.

Also, they are pushing their console to be a general home entertainment device, integrated with their desktop OS, phone, and eventual tablet (at least when Windows 8 gets established). You can even use it as a cable box with several cable companies.

Smartphones have had remarkable growth. But I don't think there is a similar 'tripping point' where one grows and the other drops, that he mentions about PCs and arcade games. Phones and consoles are really different markets. Certainly hand-held game machines are now mostly obsolete, but consoles have a different level of capability and offer a very different experience.
posted by eye of newt at 9:20 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Microsoft, with Kinect, is more and more using its specialized computing power to recognize the person in the room and react to what they are doing

I thought I might like spending my retirement days (if I get them) with the newest version of "Halo" or whatever. But thinking about how it would work is just...scary. How long until we can enter the matrix, people?
posted by 3FLryan at 9:40 PM on March 13, 2012


The Xbox 360 and Ps3 both lost billions of dollars. What iOS or Android game dev has lost that much?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:40 PM on March 13, 2012


I admit to not having the desire to sit through 26 minutes (my bad). Does he address that there will always be a group of folks looking for a long-form video game experience that is not PC based? I'd hate to think I was the only one...

And yes, my PS3 is as much a gaming device as a media consuming console with Netflix & its ability to read media from a hard drive. Having a flexible device that fulfills these functions makes it pretty central to super-picky media consumption. ...I'd like to think that's worth *something.* I see the PS as being much more open to such things for cheaper than Apple will ever be, despite my preference for Macs for computing.
posted by smirkette at 9:47 PM on March 13, 2012


I am in the industry. I will give my two cents. System sales have tailed off, as they always do at the end of a console generation because the market is saturated. There are only a couple hundred million console gamers. Game sales are still going strong(ish) which, coming back from the recession is impressive. This is an entrenched industry, it has reached its natural market size (in the US and europe).

The biggest mistake of this piece is assuming that phone gamers are even part of this market. This is an entirely new consumer group. Yes it has some overlap, but as anyone who has tried to sell a complex iphone game knows, this group is not what we use to call gamers. They have no attention span, or willingness to pay for high quality or long duration experiences.

Basically its a new market. A rapidly growing new market.
Sure it is cannibalizing developer resources, the skill sets are the same, the games so much easier to make. Because of this it is raising the cost of producing game titles everywhere. But there will always be core market games.

And it looks like facebook and iphone game profit is already tapering off. Soon these new consumer groups will reach their real market size and see the same sort of limited market growth that more entrenched industries see.

Until the next big thing comes along.
posted by darkfred at 10:50 PM on March 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Does he address that there will always be a group of folks looking for a long-form video game experience that is not PC based? I'd hate to think I was the only one...

Don't worry, you're not. I'm sticking firmly with consoles for gaming (nostalgia for classic CRPGs notwithstanding). There's no way I'm going to spend hours and hours playing games hunched over next to a huge, noisy, power-hungry PC when I can lounge comfortably in my living-room, Hedonismbot-style. And until they bring out something like Planescape: Torment, for the iPad, that's the way it will stay.
posted by Ritchie at 11:10 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


The biggest mistake of this piece is assuming that phone gamers are even part of this market. This is an entirely new consumer group.

I think he does address this. Remember the part where he talks about the two ways a market dies. One is like the horse vs. car, there are just fewer horses and more cars, absolute numbers. The other is relative numbers, like the mainframe vs. PC - mainframe sales in the 80s were higher than ever, but in comparison to PCs, mainframes had become an irrelevant niche market, whereas before PCs, mainframes were the only market. So I think he is suggesting consoles will no longer be the leading edge/growth of gaming, they are the new mainframe. Basically, for every console sold there are probably a thousand or more cheapo high power phones sold. Which market will game companies focus on in the future?
posted by stbalbach at 11:25 PM on March 13, 2012


I'm torn. Apple (and, to an increasing extent, Android) brings a lot of energy to this space, and for all I've complained about the $100 cost of entry to develop for iOS the price for the console market is much greater. But neither can iOS be called an "open" platform, and their editorial policy is, in its own way, just as obnoxious as Nintendo's. My fantasy is that someone might build a truly/mostly open platform like Arduino or Raspberry Pi into an inexpensive gaming device, but I know better than to hold my breath for it.

Threeway Handshake: The "orders of magnitude" comment. I'd quote it directly but, ironically, iPad Safari has a bug that prevents selecting text to copy if a text field is active.

"Outsell many orders of magnitude" is both inaccurate and misleading. 100x greater sales is two orders of magnitude, so it cannot be many. It's misleading because phone games cost a lot less than console games, and that inflates figures so that it cannot exactly be called a fair comparison.

But it is inescable that mobile gaming is a much more active space than console gaming, and for good reasons. There are two possible responses the console guys could adopt:

They could chase their niche of hardcore gamers. Short term good, long term, well, that's the strategy arcades chased.

Or they could try to broaden their base. Nintendo did that with great success on the DS and Wii, but even their vaunted properties may not save them.

I think Nintendo might have a chance if they were to radically open their platform, I mean beyond what Apple offers. For all of iOS' ease of use the platform has some damn headscratching limitations, like hiding the filesystem and depending on that terrible iTunes. A DS that could do much of what an iPad did but without those limits would be nearly my dream machine.

I don't think Nintendo could, or would, do something like that, though.
posted by JHarris at 12:02 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the Wiki:
Activision reported sales figures for Modern Warfare 3 in the US and UK being more than 6.5 million copies sold on launch day and grossed $400 million in the US and UK alone in its first 24 hours, making it the biggest entertainment launch of all time.[69] It is the third year in a row that the Call Of Duty series has broken the same record. 2010's Black Ops grossed $360 million on day one; in 2009, Modern Warfare 2 brought in $310 million.[70]

So if one big name product can routinely be the most monetarily endorsed entertainment ever [per 24 hours]...then I don't think the platform is dying.

And your iPad 3 is never going to have the processing power that your same generation console will have. My understanding of the state of the art is that current gen systems basically max out at rendering one HD quality perspective at a time, or devs are just getting lazy about programming local coop (if so, the bastards). And they don't have the spare capacity to do much terribly advanced enemy AI stuff.

So presumably next gen consoles are going to have buckets more processing power to render better/more video, smarter enemies, more of everything.

So the analogy isn't horses/cars, its more like personal printers/office copiers. That little inkjet on my desk is convenient and fast and the tech is newer, but it will never do the same job as the big beast down the hall.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:58 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


As long as Nintendo keeps developing killer versions of Super Mario and Zelda, I'll keep buying the hardware that's required to run their software.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 12:59 AM on March 14, 2012


Nintendo keeps developing killer versions of Super Mario and Zelda

::Please forgive me, but I can't resist::

So are the Zelda/Mario fanatics to which Nintendo panders like the social conservatives to which the Republicans are pandering, they're both using equipment that's a generation obsolete to re-fight the same battles over and over again?
posted by Chekhovian at 1:07 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


So presumably next gen consoles are going to have buckets more processing power to render better/more video, smarter enemies, more of everything.

AI have stayed mostly pretty dumb despite leaps and bounds in processing power, because there's always things higher on the totem pole that grab the lion's share of those new resources. (Traditionally, it's been graphics, though that seems to be changing)

I think you're right - AI (like everything else) is constantly having the bar raised, I just wouldn't put too many eggs the basket of AI being a dominant winner from the next round of hardware improvements.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:19 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


AI being a dominant winner from the next round of hardware improvements

So if its not graphics or AI, what's left? Rich physics laden destructible environments...actually that sounds pretty damn awesome.
posted by Chekhovian at 2:06 AM on March 14, 2012


I like my Xbox 360 but Skyrim was basically unplayable on it. The thing choked every time I cast a spell or went underwater. Very annoying.

Then again, it's truly wishful nerdthink to argue consoles are going to die off. Gentleman, I present to you the legion of asshats who will purchase anything with phrases "Call of Duty," "Battlefield," or "Gears." Those guys aren't going to plunk down the serious cash required for a gaming PC rig. Not gonna happen.
posted by bardic at 2:11 AM on March 14, 2012


The "death" of game consoles' industry doesn't scare me half as much as the death of MY consoles, the best thing the market could do for me was keep repairing their old systems for decades (Nintendo supported the Famicom for at least 20 years, if I'm not mistaken). If only I could be sure that my hardware would remain in working condition for as long as I have the means to enjoy it I'd be more than pleased. As things stand, the biggest obstacle to my playing videogames right now is lack of enough free time and occasionally the odd system/monitor going belly up and forcing me to find a second hand replacement.
The whole industry could die today and I know I wouldn't be impacted by the absence of newer games to play, given the vast amount of titles I've missed so far and the ones I haven't but didn't dedicate enough time to.
posted by Bangaioh at 3:49 AM on March 14, 2012


Don't worry, you're not. I'm sticking firmly with consoles for gaming (nostalgia for classic CRPGs notwithstanding). There's no way I'm going to spend hours and hours playing games hunched over next to a huge, noisy, power-hungry PC when I can lounge comfortably in my living-room, Hedonismbot-style. And until they bring out something like Planescape: Torment, for the iPad, that's the way it will stay.

I think that "there's always going to be a place for long-form video gaming on the couch" and "there's always going to be a place for boxes with processors and hard drives" aren't the same statement, though. We're seeing cloud saves, now. We're seeing early experiments like the OnLive Microconsole - which uses an ARM processor to power an Internet-connected window to a server doing the graphics processing elsewhere. At the moment, connecting a dumb controller to a phone is a hassle, as is connecting a phone to a screen, and phones don't have the processing grunt for console-quality games. I'd imagine that all of those statements are subject to change - if not in the next console generation, then certainly by the following one.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:36 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The part of me that is a media academic is beating my head against a wall of the very kind of technological determinism I spend so much time shooting down in classes, or I would be banging my head against that wall if I didn't already have a giant headache from already having beaten my head against that wall all day.

I'm going to go have another glass of wine and listen to my radio which was apparently similarly 'died' following the introduction of TV.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:37 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that "there's always going to be a place for long-form video gaming on the couch" and "there's always going to be a place for boxes with processors and hard drives" aren't the same statement, though.

True. I guess I'm trying to say that there will always be a demand for long-form gaming whilst sitting upside-down in an armchair, but it might very well be that that demand isn't served by the market. In which case the best I can do is stockpile games and hope the Xbox doesn't red-ring.
posted by Ritchie at 5:51 AM on March 14, 2012


I'm a little out of the loop with this stuff, but don't gaming controllers speak Bluetooth these days?
posted by mikelieman at 6:13 AM on March 14, 2012


The motorcycle analogy (people grow up and have family, swap bike for car) doesn't really work btw - I'm not sure that people who grew up playing console games are going to not buy their own children some form of console games for some reason.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:26 AM on March 14, 2012


At 14:05, he says "streets ahead!" I'm so excited about a new Community tomorrow that this completely owned my brain for a good two minutes.
posted by lauranesson at 6:56 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm a little out of the loop with this stuff, but don't gaming controllers speak Bluetooth these days?


Most do - although "speaks BlueTooth" covers a multitude of sins. Xbox doesn't - and that doesn't solve the problem at the other end, of having a decent-sized screen to watch it on. "Media lapdocks" are a cludgy, more-boxes response to this ... but WiDi, for example, would be a more likely approach in the future, once there's a standard and the miniaturization/heat etc issues are sorted out.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:05 AM on March 14, 2012


I'm a little out of the loop with this stuff, but don't gaming controllers speak Bluetooth these days?

The Wii remote communicates over bluetooth. I don't know how standard its encoding is (or even if there is a communications standard for controllers), but I've seen videos of the ASUS Transformer tablet accepting the Wii "classic controller" as an input for various games. I think the Transformer has TV out as well so, while it's not a phone, there is already at least one Android device that can effectively double as a console.

Along the same lines, Sony have an Android tablet that's pitched as being ideal for gaming and can access a marketplace that sells Playstation 1 titles. I'd be amazed if it couldn't do the same trick of listening to a bluetooth controller and outputting to a TV.
posted by metaBugs at 10:34 AM on March 14, 2012


I'm going to go have another glass of wine and listen to my radio which was apparently similarly 'died' following the introduction of TV.

It's almost as if you didn't even watch the first two minutes of the talk, which were explicitly about what "dying" means. Because yes, radio is dead according to his definition of it.
posted by TypographicalError at 11:10 AM on March 14, 2012


We're seeing cloud saves, now. We're seeing early experiments like the OnLive Microconsole - which uses an ARM processor to power an Internet-connected window to a server doing the graphics processing elsewhere.

However, this means that you depend on the goodwill of a company to keep supporting these games and files. I have a steam account, but I also keep in mind that even big companies can go belly up and that most companies stop supporting older games quite soon. I can still play old Sierra games and I would like to retain that option for any games I buy.
posted by ersatz at 11:12 AM on March 14, 2012


Hell, it's worse than Steam; with them, if you had enough warning that Valve was going belly-up, you could download full installs of all your games ahead of the crash. As long as the company then followed through on its promise to maintain authentication servers in the event of the closure of the store, you'd be able to keep playing your games indefinitely (although you'd also want to back up your steamapps folder five or six times). If Onlive or a similar service goes, your games are just toast.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:21 AM on March 14, 2012


I think the conclusions are right, but not how he argues it. It's a good point that these are consoles towards the end of their cycle, and can't be expected to have explosive sales. Also, he brings up the 3DS' disappointing launch and price cut, neglecting to mention that it sold much better after the price cut. But, still.

So if one big name product can routinely be the most monetarily endorsed entertainment ever [per 24 hours]...then I don't think the platform is dying.

1. He defines dying as: in market share decline and never to grow again; 2. relative decline is specifically raised and discussed, as when massive growth in the market causes incumbents whose business remains the steady to decrease in relative market share; 3. he specifically brings up Call of Duty's "high" sales and compares it to Angry Birds' 500 million downloads. I'd also add that game publishers have really refined their pre-order incentives in recent years in order to create these braggable opening-weekend spikes.

Perhaps anecdotal evidence isn't a better way to argue this thing, but it's all I got. I am what might be called a hardcore gamer, with many friends who are similar. So we all have more than one traditional console and now we all have iPhones and often iPads. No one plays PSPs or DSes any more and no one is considering buying the new portable consoles either. I budget for one console game a month and often can't find anything I think is worth the money. The prices on iOS games have just completely moved the goalposts. The games are so cheap you can buy ten of them and only play two and still save buckets of money compared to consoles.

I think things will get interesting once we see what the next gen of consoles actually looks like and yeah, I'd expect them to move even further toward general computing ("it only does everything"). But if Apple does make more of a play for the living room, we have to ask: which of Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft or Apple will have greater success convincing consumers to purchase their general purpose consumer electronics device?
posted by D at 11:35 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


So are the Zelda/Mario fanatics to which Nintendo panders like the social conservatives to which the Republicans are pandering, they're both using equipment that's a generation obsolete to re-fight the same battles over and over again?

If anything, I'd say the Zelda/Mario folks are more like the true blue Leftists, who only get a candidate they dig once or twice each generation, while the folks on the other side get whole fields of lock-step candidates and still act like they're the ones underrepresented.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:50 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


but I've seen videos of the ASUS Transformer tablet accepting the Wii "classic controller" as an input for various games

There are several iOS emulators on Cydia (depository for software for jailbroken iOS devices) that use the Wii Remote for a controller. It's among the best controllers you can use with the device. The fact that nothing on the App Store (well, that I know of) uses it as a controller implies that Apple has a policy against using it, or at least their built-in Bluetooth libraries won't connect with it. (Cydia software uses a package called BTstack to connect with the Wiimote.)
posted by JHarris at 11:53 AM on March 14, 2012


And until they bring out something like Planescape: Torment, for the iPad, that's the way it will stay.

Depending on how "like" PS:T you want your game to be, you may really want to check out Avadon for the iPad. It's a feature-length, party-based, turn-based RPG available on your tablet.

It doesn't have the narrative focus that PS:T has, but it really scratches the "I want to play D&D on my computer, but not be at my computer" itch for me.
posted by jammer at 12:03 PM on March 14, 2012


Just one thing. I like having just one thing.

People claim this, but all those folks with smartphones have a shit load of other non-essential luxury items, so I ain't buying it. People like *carrying* 1 thing. They like *having* lots.

Game consoles and portable devices will just merge. As noticed, people will still want to play complicated sports games on their TVs without hooking up a PC to it. Not to mention that the "consoles" like Playstation and Xbox are quickly positioning themselves as "media centers" for which gaming is included along with DVD/Blu-Ray, Web browser, etc.

In other words, consoles will probably become more like simplified computers ... or tablets.

They're all fucking "computers" and computer games aren't going away.

I budget for one console game a month and often can't find anything I think is worth the money.

On the other hand, the PS2 back catalog must have 1,000 or so worthy games I haven't tried yet. Oversaturation is a factor here too.

The same thing sorta happened with Atari/Intellivision/Coleco too. Just too many games without much noticeable technological advancement. People just stopped buying ... for a decade. (PCs were obviously a factor.)
posted by mrgrimm at 1:48 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The biggest games on telephones outsell, by orders of magnitude, the biggest games on consoles. Already.

Money wise or sales numbers? It's a lot easier to sell 100 $1 Fart apps than 100 $50 first-person shooters. And does that include all the mobile games sold on consoles?

How many games on phones have sold $1 billion? Angry Birds has distributed 500 million, but most of those are free. Even assuming 100 million sold that's only $100 million. (Of course, they also make money from ads in the free version.)

Oops, nope. Not 100 million. Try 12 million sold. That's not exactly pushing $1 billion in sales.

So waht are these "biggest games on telephones" that are outselling, by "orders of magnitude" (as if any number (even negative) isn't an order of magnitude) the biggest games on consoles? I call SHENANIGANS!

(I'm really surprised no one else called bullshit.)
posted by mrgrimm at 2:08 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


ack. somebody did, and i missed it. sorry.

In which case the best I can do is stockpile games and hope the Xbox doesn't red-ring.

For me, I think we're already reached the point where I don't have enough time in my life to finish the games that already exist that I want to play. Again, the saturation factor here is huge. Why do you think these sequels are the only things that sell.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:12 PM on March 14, 2012


Also, sales figures for phone games, like those of Steam games, can't easily be extrapolated to profits. I paid for copies of Tetris and Fruit Ninja at the Google store, yes, but the total cost of those games was twenty cents.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:30 PM on March 14, 2012


Oops, nope. Not 100 million. Try 12 million sold. That's not exactly pushing $1 billion in sales.

Whereas Mass Effect 3's 3.5M sales (lowest UK price was 32.49 quid) must have reached that (though expenses must be quite high too).

I find it hard to get worried about 'core' gaming when an army of 14000 people is funding Wasteland 2 (80% with a month to go). Now please excuse me, I'm off to give Fargo more of my money.
posted by ersatz at 4:08 PM on March 14, 2012


Whereas Mass Effect 3's 3.5M sales (lowest UK price was 32.49 quid) must have reached that (though expenses must be quite high too).

I saw something like 1.5-2 million in sales first week, but I'm not sure if that's global ... no, I'd bet that's US. But that's $80-100 million US. Not bad. I don't know how the sales cycle works or how real those numbers are or how much the real price is but ... another 4 million for UK? i see 3.5 million shipped.

Console games are dying as much as action movies are--actually less. Long term, sure, I can't figure why anyone doesn't plug a cheap PC into their TV and play games on that. Hybrids should eventually provide multiplatform support. Can't wait. I hear SNES games are hard, and the ROMs aren't quite accurate enough.

But really, what's the difference between PC and console games? Slim is out of town.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:24 PM on March 14, 2012


Another idea is that "video games" become specialized, and you get different machines for FPS (Quake, Call of Duty, etc.) games vs. RTS (Starcraft, Command/Conquer, or whatever it is the kids play now) games vs RPG/board games, etc.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:26 PM on March 14, 2012


Modern Warfare 3 recently grossed over one Billion dollars in a mere 16 days.

Angry birds sum total for ALL sales ever is pocket change compared to that. Is there something on phones that is selling orders of magnitude more than Angry Birds?
posted by -harlequin- at 8:04 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whereas Mass Effect 3's 3.5M sales (lowest UK price was 32.49 quid) must have reached that (though expenses must be quite high too).

3.5m multiplied by (let's say) $60 is $210 million - although that number is not very accurate for several reasons in terms of gauging how many individuals have actually paid to play the game, rather than how many copies EA have sold to retailers. Those 3.5 million are _shipped_, not sell-through. That is, it's product that has gone out to retailers, not product that has been purchased by consumers. On the other hand, shipping numbers don't include digital downloads, which tend not to be announced until later. EA is pushing Origin hard at the moment, and was selling a "deluxe digital" version of ME3 for $99.

One reason Call of Duty hits those very big sales numbers so quickly, and announces them so quickly, is that it is primarily played on consoles, and thus primarily about boxed copies - and also about selling premium-priced editions to fans in the first week of release. Whereas Skyrim's sales engine, for example, was tilted towards digital download.

Conversely, Angry Birds' 2011 revenue was about $100 million - but the cost of creating the game was about $140,000 (say, $500,000 including supplements and initial marketing). So, less turnover, but a much lower cost base, larger player base, higher margin. It's a different model.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:34 PM on March 14, 2012


The Xbox 360 and Ps3 both lost billions of dollars.

Front loading costs is the name of the game. Both are well into the black at this point. It's very easy to dismiss the console market, until you actually look at the numbers.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:37 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


(I'm really surprised no one else called bullshit.)

I sorta did with the "orders of magnitude" questioning, but that was pretty weak I admit. I generally accept what people say at face value, as I don't have all that much time to check people's facts here. I'll try to look a little more critically at the claims in the future.

The Xbox 360 and Ps3 both lost billions of dollars.

This one I noticed but forgot to call out. inpHilltr8r is correct, neither console lost money in the long run.
posted by JHarris at 4:22 AM on March 15, 2012


2 problems with his argument:

1. Arcades never had bigger screens or better controllers; the screens were the same size as a TV for the most part, and having a nice console joypad trumps using a half-knackered arcade joystick every time. He's only making this argument so he can say that people are migrating to phones despite their having tiny screens and despite touch controls being terrible for a lot of games (platformers, FPS etc.).

2. People migrated away from arcades because it was more convenient to play video games for hours at home, that's true. And it's true that having games on your phone to take with you wherever you go is also convenient. But if you're going to play a game that involves sinking tens (or even hundreds) of hours into, which is truly more convenient? I've got a bunch of games for my phone, but I've never played any of them for more than a half hour at a time. Compare that to sitting on my beanbag in front of the TV for hours playing Zelda or Mario, or pottering around in Minecraft and suddenly finding that it's 4 in the morning. Little half-hour timewasting mobile games aren't going to provide those experiences any time soon.

My ideal future would go beyond what he's suggesting; I'd love to have a device that can sit in my pocket and provide me with little mobile games on the go, but when I get home I can dock it with a monitor and keyboard and play PC games, or dock it with a TV and controller and play console games. Now that would kill consoles.
posted by Lucien Dark at 4:58 PM on March 15, 2012


I'm going to go have another glass of wine and listen to my radio which was apparently similarly 'died' following the introduction of TV.

It's almost as if you didn't even watch the first two minutes of the talk, which were explicitly about what "dying" means. Because yes, radio is dead according to his definition of it.
posted by TypographicalError at 11:10 AM on March 14 [+] [!]


Believe me or not, but I haven't really had 26 spare minutes this week, what between work, being unwell, and having some rather significant other things going on socially. But okay, watched enough to get to his definition of 'dying.' A couple of points:

1) If you don't want people to dismiss your claims out of hand for being prima facie overblown, don't use such loaded and emotional terms when you clearly mean some else, and which does not at all pertain to the actual claim that you are making.

2) If you are going to define well understood concepts in somewhat unique and unusual ways that give a false impression of what you actually mean, be prepared for people to dismiss your argument without giving it the attention it might actually deserve.

3) If you are going to use well worn cliches that are well known to act as a kind of attention grabbing headline, expect people to roll their eyes and not really bother with what you have too say, because fuck that noise. Treat your intended audience with a little bit of respect.

4) Depending on sources, even given this somewhat self-serving definition, radio is not clearly dying. For instance this, while from an industry source, suggests that the last couple of years have seen increased revenue from advertising in the U.S. I don't have time to chase up other figures, and I'm not exactly uncritical of these ones given their source, but the more general sense of arguments concerning certain industry sectors 'dying', or rather being 'killed' by newer sectors, is reductive, analytically unsophisticated, and the kind of argument my undergrads would likely risk receiving a failing mark if they were to make it.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 3:13 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


And maybe I missed this part too because I only watched the first two minutes and now I have to go make dinner, but if you're a games designer and mobiles/tablets etc take over from dedicated consoles, you'll still be designing games for particular platforms, only those platforms will be Android and iOS or whatever else emerges, rather than Playstation, Nintendo, or Xbox.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 3:17 AM on March 16, 2012


It's probably OK just to watch the whole thing when you get the chance, rather than liveblogging watching it...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:17 AM on March 16, 2012


My ideal future would go beyond what he's suggesting; I'd love to have a device that can sit in my pocket and provide me with little mobile games on the go, but when I get home I can dock it with a monitor and keyboard and play PC games, or dock it with a TV and controller and play console games. Now that would kill consoles.

We're there already. It's mostly for Android, though. You probably need developers to make Real Games for Android platforms and release them at Gamestop.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:33 AM on March 16, 2012


We're there already. It's mostly for Android, though.

I was thinking of a similar thing when I was writing :-) Namely the Android/Ubuntu dual boot phone prototype. I'm in two minds about having a phone as a desktop replacement; one one hand I like being able to tinker with and upgrade my PC as and when I need it, but on the other hand if (or when) phones get as powerful as high-end PCs it might just be a case of binning your phone every couple of years and getting a new one in order to upgrade your system. The future might very well be awesome.
posted by Lucien Dark at 5:05 PM on March 16, 2012


Ubuntu-for-Android isn't dual-boot. It's a new distro that includes both Ubuntu and Android. They both run on the same Linux kernel and use the same Dalvik JVM.

As for upgrades--since we are already discussing dockable systems, it shouldn't be long before there's a phone with a Thunderbolt port on it, and you can plug your new video card in there.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:19 PM on March 16, 2012


Well running order squabble fest, I was responding to a particular point that someone raised. But to elaborate: the argument that the casual/mobile/whatever you want to call it market for games is potentially much larger than the hard core market is so pedestrian for those of us that follow these things (and I imagine that many of the attendees at GDC are aware of this) that we're left scratching our heads and wondering why it had to be expressed in the terms it was. Frankly, the framing represents both an overblown sense of importance, and likely some desperation if what people said earlier on about the relative progress of the company this guy is from holds.

And I'm still wondering why you thought I was trying to 'liveblog' it, I made my engagement and my situation fairly clear.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:53 AM on March 17, 2012


And I'm still wondering why you thought I was trying to 'liveblog' it, I made my engagement and my situation fairly clear.

Well. My immediate response is "because it was a funny thing to say", but that is probably not going to be a sufficient response, so I fear I am going to have to do the second-worst thing ever and explain a joke. I apologise in advance.

First, let's remember Schopenahuer's comic trigger (building on Hutcheson) - identified as the perceived incongruity between a concept and a percept.

Let us also remember that reading the f***ing article (colloquially, RTFA) remains at least a hypothetical turnstile ticket for commenting on an FPP on MetaFilter - to the point that, whereas certainly people comment without having done so, it is unusual for somebody actually to advertise that they have not done so.

So, that was interesting - that when you were called on having not actually followed the link, your response was:

Believe me or not, but I haven't really had 26 spare minutes this week, what between work, being unwell, and having some rather significant other things going on socially.

It's relatively rare for someone, when accused of not having R-ed the FA (or in this case W-ed the F Presentation) to admit that they hadn't, and then strongly imply that it was unreasonable for someone to expect them to have done so before commenting - that it was actually pretty gauche ("believe it or not...") for someone to expect that, given their busy schedule. It's unusual for people to lampshade not having followed that community expectation of following the link. That's incongruity the first.

Then, faced with someone saying that you appeared not to have watched the presentation - and, for emphasis, pointing out that you appear not to have reached the two-minute mark (which encompasses a series of slides on what is meant by "die" in this context), your response is actually to watch the first two minutes, and then to come back into the thread saying that you have now watched the first two minutes - that is, that you have still not Red the FA, or rather have only Red about 7.6% of it.

So, the comedy here is that you are not just violating the community's expectation for contributions of value on MetaFilter, but prefacing your statements with advertisements of the fact that you are doing so. Which is kind of unusual.

That inspired the comic conceit that you would end up being cajoled into watching the presentation in 13 2-minute bursts. Which would thus resemble somebody liveblogging a presentation that was going on in real time - the percept - despite the concept - that this presentation exists as a complete object observable in its entirety for the cost of (at this point) 24 minutes. Thus, the comic trigger.

Man, comedy is hard.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:56 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fair enough. In my defence I've had a stonking head cold for the past few days, and yes I did dismiss the arguments the FPP was making without actually reading/listening to it, but the reasons why were kind of the point of my comment you took exception to. I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree at this point.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:16 PM on March 17, 2012


To be clear, I didn't take exception to any of your comments - I was commenting not on any statement you had made, but rather your apparent dedication to flouting one of the fundamental tenets of MetaFilter discussion: at least pretending to have read the OP's link, or as an absolute minimum not stating definitively that you haven't. That, and the way you went about doing it, was just sort of funny. However, we are drifting offtopic.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:09 PM on March 17, 2012


« Older The bad economy has forced some women into arrange...  |  The nation is awash with a new... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments