Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Are the New-Gen Consoles Stumbling?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 11, 2014

I wasn’t sure what to make of things when, right after the launch of a new generation of consoles, EA and Disney Interactive started laying off game developers and claiming that they were enhancing their “focus on mobile.” I mean, hello? In my experience, the first couple of years after a console’s launch is the time to really cash in. Historically, that’s seemed to be the case.

And then there’s this little piece on Tech Crunch:

The Console Market Is In Crisis

I dunno how much I believe this or really want to read into it. I do take exception to the claim that this is the first time consoles have been outclassed by PCs. I think that the last time that they were NOT outclassed by high-end PCs was the around the time the Playstation 1 was released, circa 1995. And in regards to the “long tail” not sustaining itself as well, the last generation of hardware was also the longest, by my understanding – was that factored in?

If we assume that it is correct – or make a different assumption, that people just aren’t buying games for the consoles in similar launch quantities, regardless of how many consoles are actually out there in people’s homes – then there’s a lot to think about. In truth, there have been suggestions for the last few years that the console market is drying out, but it was easy to dismiss these data points and rumors on the assumption that everything would be back to hardware once the next generation of hardware hit. But now…?

I think more than comparison to the PC, the big issue is the comparison to the last generation of hardware. Historically, each hardware generation offered immediate, striking improvements over its predecessor. But each massive leap in technology offered slightly less of an incremental improvement in the overall gameplay experience of the previous one. The jump to 3D helped maintain the progression a little longer, but the law of diminishing returns wasn’t repealed. With the last two generations (Xbox 360 / PS 3 / Wii, and Xbone / PS4 / Wii-U), there has been a greater emphasis on things like online connectivity (awesome, but again catching up to where the PC had been for years), and new control gimmicks. From a raw gaming perspective, the jump to more memory and more triangles per frame with even cooler shaders doesn’t really add that much more to the experience.

But having the biggest bucket in the world doesn’t gain you anything if developers can’t fill it. That’s the flip side, and why some major publishers may not be entering a new golden age of prosperity. The costs of developing software to truly take advantage of the power of these machines has faster than the market, keeping pace with the technology rather than the end-user experience. As also suggested by the article, my suspicion is that while developers are finding ways of getting more bang for the buck, they are reaching the conclusion that they can’t keep up. Maybe not “throwing in the towel” as the article suggests, but not raising budgets as they have in days past.

Of course, today is the big release of a game (Titanfall) that Microsoft seems to be pinning hopes on being a console-seller. Sometimes all it takes is the “killer app” to make all the difference. So… I’d be more worried if I was working at a big AAA game studio right now, but I’m not ready to count the consoles out just yet.

Filed Under: Biz, General, Mainstream Games - Comments: 10 Comments to Read

  • kevin0xf said,

    I’ve went back and forth several times between being primarily a console or PC gamer. I don’t see any reason to be a console gamer now. My PS3 was fine, and I will still buy a few games for it(the new Persona games at least). I don’t see any real benefit to shelling out for the PS4 or XBoxOne. 95% of the console games I want are getting a PC port, and if they don’t or do a bad port, there are more games than I can play anyway. From software has promised to do a better job with the Dark Souls II port(modders fixed most of the problems with DKI), and honestly the PS3 version of DKI has slowdown in several areas. I am playing Titanfall at maxed settings right now on my 4 year old PC with no noticable slowdowns(it uses the source engine, so that’s what I expected). With PC now, I get basically all of the games I want, and I get to choose when to upgrade.(I also don’t have to buy a subscription just to play online).

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – I skipped out on the PS3 entirely, but I am planning on finally going back and getting one for Persona 5. Unless I hear there will be a port to another platform…

  • Tesh said,

    I see little reason to update to a PS4. I barely rationalized the PS3, and to date it’s still mostly just a HD Netflix machine. I’d have bought it earlier if it didn’t drop the backwards compatibility after the first generation that was stupidly expensive. With the PS4 effectively demanding a whole new game library purchase on top of the marginally better machine… nope, it’s not something I really care for.

    Then again, I still play SNES games and PC games from that era. Newer, shinier, blingier don’t really do much for me.

  • Robert Boyd said,

    Wasn’t Disney Interactive mostly a mobile & social game developer these days anyway? Them firing a bunch of people is hardly a sign that console game is dying.

  • Greg Squire said,

    I agree the consoles are in trouble. They haven’t created a compelling enough platform for me and many others. If I’m going to shell out $400-$500 bucks then it better be worth it to me. But right now it’s not. Especially when I have a back log of hundreds of indie PC games I haven’t played yet. There’s nothing on the PS4 or XBone that is pulling me in. I have a son clamoring for the new consoles, but it’s only because he likes new things (he couldn’t name one game he wants to play on it). Maybe I’ll buy a used one in a year or two, if it becomes more compelling then.

  • Xian said,

    I would say give it a little while yet. The only console I got at launch was the PS2, and mostly played Smugglers Run, Summoner, and Gauntlet Dark Legacy for the first year – there just was not any titles that interested me until after it had been out for a while.

    I got the PS3 when we got our first HDTV. I figured, if I was going to have to get a blu-ray player, might has well get a PS3 that could play games too. I don’t regret the purchase at all. It has had some great games, The Last of Us being my favorite, and Ni No Kuni being the best JRPG I have played in some time. Uncharted 2 & 3, the Ratchet & Clank games, both Infamous games, and Red Dead Redemption were fun to play too.

    My son got a launch PS4, but as with the PS2, there really are no compelling titles out for it yet. That may change later this year, but for now I will hold off for a couple more years since I am primarily a PC gamer anyway.

  • Kyle Haight said,

    I have a PS3, a 360 and a gaming PC. I have yet to buy a next-gen console, because they haven’t yet put out a game I want to play on one. There are some candidates on the horizon — Arkham Knight being the leader — but nothing currently released.

    I probably won’t be in the market for a next-gen console until the 2014 holiday season at the earliest. And even then it kind of depends on the state of my PC gaming backlog, which still contains Skyrim so you can guess how deep it is.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    LOL – Yeah, my own backlog is truly epic in scope, and even *I* got to Skyrim…

  • Modran said,

    Yeah, my 2014 resolution is “Don’t buy games until your backlog is cut in half”. Allowed me to play Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and am I grateful I did. Liked it much more than Dishonored.

  • McTeddy said,

    I’m with Tesh. I just don’t see any reason to buy their new systems. It’s the same thing, with the same games, but it cost me more money.

    The only system I’m even a bit interested in this generation is the Wii-U. The games interest me… but there aren’t enough to justify the price tag.

    Besides, thanks to steam and humble bundle… it’s insanely cheap to be a PC gamer.