Global Game Industry News Blog

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Rise and Continued Top Position of Consoles

I'm currently in the thick of dissertation writing, so my blog posting has dropped considerably. It happens when you're already writing a significant amount of text into a word processing application. Even checking my RSS reader seems to give me anxiety.

I actually just went over a section of Chapter 1 of the dissertation looking at the rise of the console and why despite so many people saying it should/will/ought go the way of the dodo, it doesn't. Then these two nifty little blog posts happen. It's always nice to read stuff that goes right along with what I'm already writing.

Game Set Watch - Why Consoles Are Here To Stay, Yay
Now sure, Edery works for Microsoft, but these are his own personal views, and he hits the nail on the head when looking at some of the issues currently dogging the console: "In terms of user interface and functionality, the Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 are all far more complicated than their predecessors. In many ways, that complexity is still better managed than it is on home computers... But we’re on the edge. My wife cannot navigate the 360 menu system nearly as easily as I can. Both the PS3 and Wii offer remarkably sloppy digital shopping experiences... We’re dramatically increasing the things you can do with a console, but advances in UI development and “assistant technology” are not keeping pace."

Of course, the interesting step is when/if the open Internet makes it properly to the living room, given the Flash game and browser-based MMO. But will it, and if so, on what devices? Seems like some of those might just be... consoles. But then people would be able to play games through the Internet, even subscription-based ones. So what - are we looking at a walling-off of browsers sophisticated enough to do that eventually? Or maybe I'm overthinking things here, you never know.

Game Tycoon - Console Demise? Don’t Hold Your Breath
Every so often, I hear someone say that the demise of the video game console is inevitable (and likely not far off). Their reasons vary: “closed platforms can’t survive”, “consoles are becoming too specialized”, etc. Having thought about it, I just can’t come to the same conclusion. Consoles aren’t going anywhere in the next ten+ years or so (beyond which I can’t claim to understand what the market will look like. There’s too much cultural and technological uncertainty.)

To be clear: I’m defining “console” as “a closed or semi-closed hardware platform dedicated primarily to interactive entertainment.” Does that necessarily mean “software and hardware designed, produced, and distributed by a single company?” No. There could be alliances on the software or hardware side of things, and those alliances could result in independent product variants that share a base level of compatibility. What matters is the presence of very stable standards that lead to a reliable, accessible, and affordable gaming experience. In other words, a guiding hand still matters.
Consoles, because they are closed, also offer a vastly superior environment in which to feature parental controls (for those consumers who care about filtering the content that their children consume.) And people still don’t have to worry if they have enough RAM or processing power to play the latest game; consoles remain the great equalizer, to the benefit of consumers and developers everywhere. Console-mandated certification processes also help produce games with fewer problems and inconsistencies (though certainly not bug-free games.) And last but not least, the ten foot experience has grown more important than ever; two signals of this are the advent of party games like Buzz and of space-consuming games like Dance Dance Revolution.

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