EA CEO: Consoles Now Only 40% of Games Industry

By James Brightman

The current console generation is already longer than previous ones, and other than the Wii U, no new consoles have been announced. And some would argue that Wii U is not really ‘next-gen’ since it’s basically on par with PS3 graphically. Does this mean Nintendo is launching too late? Speaking to IndustryGamers, EA CEO John Riccitiello said it essentially no longer matters and that consoles aren’t even the dominant force in gaming today.

He began, “I would argue that one of the least interesting things about the games industry was that every 5 years you’d see a new console or platform from everybody at about the same time with about the same or similar upgrades or services. You’d sort of harvest it and then it’d cycle back. We got used to it. It’s what seemed normal. But it’s not a particularly smart way to run an industry… bulges in technology investment followed by harvest.  And let’s be realistic. Consoles used to be 80% of the industry as recently as 2000. Consoles today are 40% of the game industry, so what do we really have?”

“We have a new hardware platform and we’re putting out software every 90 days. Our fastest growing platform is the iPad right now and that didn’t exist 18 months ago. So the idea that we’re categorising the industry as being [cyclical]… Nintendo is off cycle with what? I mean, the point of reference is gone. And so Nintendo is bringing out a new platform that brings together some of what we’re learning from new media and new platforms like the iPad and then integrating that with a console. It’s the perfect time for that in the industry,” he added.

Riccitiello continued by noting the diminishing returns that increased horsepower has for many consumers. The CEO likes raw power and graphics as much as the next guy (and EA’s retail products continue to push on that front), but after a certain point, the power upgrades become inconsequential. 

“I think there’s going to be an interesting debate when you get to processing power beyond what you can push up with a 1080p or a 720p [system]. Most people squint between 1080p and 720p, because what’s the difference, seriously? I would argue that there’s more to be provided in terms of value for the consumer in micro-transactions and social experiences and driving those better in cross-platform gameplay between a console and a PC and a handheld device and a social network than there is supercharging graphics,” Riccitiello remarked.

“So I think that the pattern against which Nintendo is no longer resonating is over anyway. The idea that we’re going to see the need for step function growth in graphic performance as the pace setting aspect of the sector is no longer the most important thing. But I think it’s important. You’ve seen the Battlefield demos. Look how much better they have to look. Look at Need for Speed. There was a point in time where we were talking about the uncanny valley – we’re on the other side of realism now. And after a certain point it’s like – I do not need to see my LA news announcer’s oversized pores when I’m watching the news. There’s a point where it just gets to be [too much]. I always liked the power, but I don’t know if it’s the story anymore.”

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