The article was light weight, with the usual quote about the games industry in decline based on retail sales and of course a quote by Michael Pachter. It was interesting that they also interviewed Neil Young, who has been in the mobile space for half a decade now, but he certainly knows a heck of a lot about the console business.
Anyway, the article goes on to say: “Last year, consumers spent $17 billion on video games. That sounds like a lot, but it was nearly $1.5 billion lower than the previous year. One reason: there haven’t been any new game consoles out to excite buyers.”
When you hear something like this, its important to keep in mind this is a retail sales number. Overall, global video game sales may actually be up, but the transactions have moved online to games like World of Warcraft, online game services like Steam (whose creator is rumored to be making a console) and EA’s Origin, and of course that massive growth of Mobile and Social gaming. The challenging thing for reports is that traditional research entities like NPD have difficulty accounting for those sales. This is relevant because it’s EXACTLY why game consoles need to expand their online offerings.
A few other notes. For many gamers, the cloud is already here. For example, Steam has a service that enables save games “in the cloud.” That way, if you play a game at home, and then say, go on the road and want to pick up where you left off with your laptop, your progress is there.
Also, I found it interesting that the article completely ignored the meltdown and firesale of one of the major players in this space, OnLive. OnLive was a huge cloud gaming play, with hundreds of millions of investor backing, deals with multiple publishers and lots of PR. They collapsed in a firesale last week.
The piece goes on to interview a couple of “average” gamers about what they’d like to see in a new console, and the couple they interview have a hard time coming up with much. But the reality is there are a lot of things that computing power in new consoles could bring to the gamer experience, much of which was left unexplored by the article. An everyday gamer may not be able to forecast such things, but they’ll love it when they see it. Believe it or not, improved graphics will be noticeable, allowing not only more detail in a given scene, but more “actors” involved in the scene at that level detail. Also, computing power will allow better artificial intelligence, which leads to better story telling, immersion, combat and overall attachment to the experiences.
The only real question is, will new consoles make it easy for us to access that content over the wire, instead of via physical media. The ultimate answer is “Duh. Welcome to the Internet.”