Photo: David Becker / Getty Images
While rumours of the next generation Xbox continue to surface, and Sony fanboys and girls are eagerly anticipating the newly-announced PlayStation 4, we shouldn’t get too excited.Sure, we can rejoice now about the impending IllumiRoom and the PS4’s Dualshock controllers with touchpads; however, this may be the last time we get to celebrate.
It won’t be long before we see the death of the game console.
While we discussed Sony’s future with IGN PlayStation Executive Editor Greg Miller last week, he said that it’s most likely part of the final generation of consoles we’ll see.
“There’s a good chance that this next type of console is the final run for consoles in general,” Miller tells Business Insider. “And, when this ends, there will be a uniformed platform.”
We’re not saying game consoles will cease to exist. Instead, we’ll most likely see everything on a singular device. We’re heading toward convergence.
Think about it.
1. Video games aren’t played solely on game consoles anymore.
Photo: Android Market
Games are easier to access today on tablets, smartphones, computers, and in online social games played on Facebook.
As a result, Miller says the ubiquity of games in general is making a console game user more niche, something no gaming company wants to admit.
“We’re getting to this point where games are everywhere now. They sort of take us all away from ‘gamer’ as a term,” says Miller. “Everybody has something on their phone now that they play.”
“It makes video games more talkative than ever, but makes console games more niche. We’re becoming a smaller and smaller piece of the pie.”
2. More people are downloading cheaper and free video games to play on their handheld devices (tablets / phones), than purchasing expensive console games.
Even though it’s now the best-selling video game of all time in the U.S., Forbes reported retail sales in the gaming industry were down 22 per cent in 2012 (or more than $3 billion) compared to the year before.
Compared to tablet games, the number of video game sales pales in comparison.
Of course, some of those downloads aren’t free, but the price of a game app is significantly more affordable than a $50-$60 console game, averaging anywhere from $0.99-$2.99. So with one billion downloads, if even half of those are paid, that’s a cool $500 million toward Rovio, the maker of the popular mobile franchise. And, that’s not even counting its spinoffs.
WIRED magazine made note of this in November when it predicted the death of the console:
“The pressure to evolve even further has become immense now that the quality gap between cheap-or-free games and full-price ones is narrowing … Your smartphone is quickly getting to the point where its hardware could display good-looking games in 1080p on your television, and it won’t be long before your phone and TV can sync up without cables.”
One of the main problems with consoles sticking around is that they’re not appealing to general audiences. BI’s Steve Kovach noted at Sony’s launch announcement for the PS4, how the company isn’t reaching out beyond its core audience of hardcore gamers to those who play mobile games like Angry Birds.
Another, bigger problem for gaming systems is that soon the number of tablets on the market will surpass consoles.
3. More people are purchasing tablets
Photo: Verizon / Facebook
Last year, BI Intelligence estimated 122 million tablets were shipped. This year, we expect that number to hit close to 200 million. A recent report from BI Intelligence puts tablet sales at 450 million by 2016.Since the Xbox 360’s debut in 2005, Microsoft reported selling more than 76 million consoles worldwide. The company has also sold 24 million of its Kinect sensors.
Meanwhile, Sony has sold 70 million Playstation 3 platforms as of last November.
What would come after the game console?
The consoles won’t go anywhere. As Miller noted, there most likely just won’t be any new ones.
What he and others suggest we’ll see is a convergence with everything possibly coming together on an Internet TV.
Gaming consoles have already begun making the change.
There’s a reason Xbox has transformed from solely a gaming unit into what Miller has referred to as an entertainment hub — a one-stop shop where you can retrieve your games, movies, and television. You can access your social network from your video game consoles and connect to the Web.
And, we’ve already gotten a sneak peek at the future of television.
As seen at CES 2013, gesture-control televisions with capabilities similar to the Xbox Kinect will soon be available for purchase. It will only be a matter of time before Smart TV technology is intertwined with game models available on mobile.
There’s already a device that will make beaming games from a mobile device to a television possible. Who would need a gaming console when your tablet or phone can act as a substitute?
Sure, people will still use the consoles, and video games will still be produced. However, the way games are being delivered has changed. And, in a very big way, small mobile devices have already made any future gaming consoles we’ll see this year archaic.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.