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Is Console Gaming Dying?

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crazyceo 14th December 2009, 08:45 Quote
I or the family own 2 Xbox 360's, Wii, PS2, 2 DSi's, SNES, 3 Gaming PC's. I only ever use the PC and the Wii but that's just because I've never had the thumb control good enough since the N64 introduced the motion joypad. I'm far more comfortable using the Keyboard and Mouse instead of any joypad but that's just my preference. As to the Wii, I've found Mario Kart to be an absolute fantastic update to the original and the Wii nailed it spot on. My brother-in-law bought and sold his Wii within a fortnight because he has thumbs and wasn't happy with the Wii "Kiddies image". After seeing Mario Kart for the first time recently, he went back out and bought another one.

As to CODMW2, didn't we have the guys from Steam or Activision claiming the take up of it through Steam was fantastic and and absolute winner here the other day?

I think it's naive to think we wont see the next generation of consoles anytime soon. Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony all have their next console on the drawing board and it WILL be another $400 box. When you see how all three big consoles have now become home entertainment systems and not just game consoles will be the telling developement from now on. I have a home server sitting here streaming to the Xbox 360's Music, Pics and Movies. All that will change in the future is that it will be all online and not in the garage.
Malfrex 14th December 2009, 09:07 Quote
Although I agree with the general direction of your article, I have to say that I disagree with the idea of a stand-alone console disappearing by the next generation is possible. Both in the majority of the US and Canada (where I live) consumer broadband is no where near the capacity to handle the bandwidth required to handle such a device. Much like the aforementioned Dreamcast, the technology of OnLive is currently ahead of its time. The Dreamcast allowed for 56k (then later, broadband) access to online gaming but as it was "new tech" at the time, very few were able to take advantage of it.
The way OnLive is planned to be operated from what I understand of their test markets, it will have issues much like DSL has: the further away from the main office you are located, the more flaky your connection is. As well, if Valve hasn't figured out how to successfully release an individual new big release on Steam without having login hiccups occur for the first few days, can you honestly imagine a service successfully streaming for multiple massive releases all in HD without having people drop below the dreaded 30fps mark?
The third, and in my opinion biggest issue, is the fact that people will have to subscribe in order to get access to games. People will no longer be able to have any form of ownership, or even the illusion of ownership if you happen to read the NDAs for most games released now. However, you don't have any files for the game yourself. On the publishers end this is good, as it eliminates piracy at its core - no files, nothing for people to pirate. On the flip side, if I decide in 10 years I want to go back and play that "old school 2160p" game, if they decide to not host it on their servers, it's gone. Forever. With digital services such as Steam and GoG, you have the files on your hard disk. As long as the license is in your account, you can back up the files where ever you want and if you decide to recover them at a later date, you can always do so.
Emulation and abandonware are great things, albeit a grey area of the law, and if I want to go back and play Mario Bros. (pre-super) on my Atari 2600 I can blow on the cartridge until I pass out then play a few rounds on my TV, with an adapter as the old-school connectors no longer exist.
They may be able to get people to pay insane amounts for virtual items but personally I can't wrap my head around the idea of games as a service - my longest commitment to an MMO was 3 months. I can truthfully say that I would probably play it again at some point in time if it weren't for the fact to "revive" my characters I would have to dish out $15 for a month. For that price I'd rather buy another miniature to paint and pull out the D&D books to do a one-off campaign with friends for a day.
leveller 14th December 2009, 09:10 Quote
Swings and roundabouts?

Playstation arrives, short term sales are massive, mid term sales are ok, long term sales slump. New console is born, and repeat.

Xbox arrives, short term sales are massive, mid term sales are ok, long term sales slump. New console is born, and repeat.

NES arrives, short term sales are massive, mid term sales ar eok, long term sales slump. New console is born, and repeat.

One thing is at the front of my mind at the moment and that is that GameStation and Game Stores Group cannot survive the onslaught of digital downloads. PC is primarily downloads now, PSP has followed suit, I would put money on the next gen of consoles being focused almost entirely that way as well. Maybe the future of computer game stores will be selling the peripherals like electronic guitars and drum kits, the latest gun attachment etc? In fact PC World is taking that area of the market already and good luck to them - afterall how many gaming seats can you fit in the average sized high street store?

The irony comes from remembering how the big computer game retail chains destroyed the independent high street stores and undercut the little guys prices, and how the big chains battled in the courts to keep selling second hand games, citing job losses and store closures ... well, they've done the games industry out of hundreds of millions of £/$ (possibly billions...?) over these years and now they will reap what they've sown like the dirty vultures they are, feeding off the developers/publishers funds and losing the devs/pubs all those extra sales. Yes, you can argue that every second hand sale was made to someone who didn't want to pay the full price, but you can also argue that the game prices are artificially raised to recoup expenses and profits due to lost sales from piracy and second hand sales.

Swings and roundabouts.

Nice writeup Ben, very thought provoking.
SteveU 14th December 2009, 09:33 Quote
It's a tough one to call.

All I know is that for me, keepingmy PC up to date to play the latest games is a b*ll*ch*. I've only just now gotten it to mid-high Crysis playing level.

I'd much rather buy the latest game for my Xbox 360 where I can just 'pick-up-and-play' and not have to worry about detail settings which is what I think the vast majority of gamers are looking for.

Steve
law99 14th December 2009, 09:36 Quote
Laptop adoption isn't going to help PC gaming. Unless it's a PC game with numbers after it. Sims Pirates 3.1.45 or Football Manager 2010. Or Flash based.

I don't think PC gaming is going to disappear. I don't think console gaming will either. Still, most people will prefer a console. No minimum requirements or bloated OS requiring a fresh install. PCs just aren't ready for casual gamers in my opinion.
memeroot 14th December 2009, 09:59 Quote
I think there will be at least 1 more itteration within the console market, no company walks away from a market of this size.
MadGinga 14th December 2009, 10:34 Quote
You make some good points in your article Ben. My view is that, we'll see a convergence between "Consoles" and "PCs".

As we (the average Joe) gets more and more tech sitting under our TVs, consoles, PVRs, set-top boxes, etc. I see a move by companies such as Microsoft and Sony towards providing an all-encompassing solution. The current generation of consoles are almost there, as they provide market places for downloading films, TV series, etc, and now Sky are broadcasting via the Xbox360, they've almost become full HTPCs!
From the other end, there is an increased interest in HTPCs, with people wanting to access all their downloaded media, access YouTube, and other online video services, all on their big-screen TV.

I see the next generation of "consoles" more as Media Centres with a gaming ability, rather than a gaming machine that can also store and play digital media.

Well that's my ha-penny's worth...

MadG
technogiant 14th December 2009, 10:39 Quote
Aren't things already moving towards the "Onlive" model with browser based games which are growing rapidly in popularity with casual gamers.
feedayeen 14th December 2009, 10:44 Quote
On-Live, really? We are just now getting to the point where you can substitute passive office applications for 'cloud computing' alternatives. IF they where to implement it, say good bye to your friends on the other side of the Atlantic, fiber optic cables can only handle so much bandwidth.
Paradigm Shifter 14th December 2009, 11:08 Quote
An interesting look.

While OnLive might be the future for console gaming, it is utterly impractical until we have extremely fast, uncapped, unthrottled, symmetric, protocol-neutral internet connections.

And I doubt those'll happen any time soon.

I can just imagine a console gamers' reaction to their ISP capping their connection after an hour or so of gaming... rage quit, blame the console. Or see the exorbitant bill for a capped connection that was gone over. And somehow I doubt 2Mbps (the UK Govt. target for broadband in 2012) internet will be able to cope with the amount of data required.
memeroot 14th December 2009, 11:09 Quote
@feedayeen
the high bandwidth component is simply the transfer of data on the fiberoptic to your house from the localy placed datacentre. the transfer of data to our friends over the atlantic is simply the same information that is currently sent.
memeroot 14th December 2009, 11:13 Quote
@Paradigm Shifter
why
extremely fast - we have these already
uncapped - we have these already
unthrottled - we have these already
symmetric - why - I'm not sending video back
protocol-neutral - why - I'm communicating with a known target.

oh - and why does every one need it - I suspect a reasonalby sized town would make such a service financially viable - sod the rest of the people.
Dreamcometru 14th December 2009, 11:34 Quote
I generally agree with the acrticle, especially the part about games becoming unoriginal attempts at a cash cow, i had a 360 and a ps3 and funnily enough when money became tight they were the first to go. Some games on the 360 are great but most i felt a bit dissapointed with, take resident evil 5 for example. I waited over a year for this game when i heard rumours of its release i thought that if it was good as part 4 then it would be wicked but it came i completeled it and it felt like a short rehash of res 4 with a different story. was it just me or was ther nothing new there? Also Gears of War 2 a good game but exactly the same as before. Every need for speed after underground has been dissapointing for me. It has made me not want to spend money on console games anymore because i feel like i know what to expect, console games have there niche's where they excel such as fighting games and maybe driving games but these have been redone rehashed remade so many times that everyones already seen it all before, maybe im getting old. Can you imagine what number would be behind need for speed games now if they all had numbers after the title? I think the most fun and original title that has come out recently must be left 4 dead. How many times have people thought if there was a pile of guns and millions of zombies i'd know exactly what to do...anyway Recently ive been having a lot more fun on my pc games, Dragon Age, DoW 2, Red alert 3, Modern Warfare 2 and Borderlands, Dead Space
thEcat 14th December 2009, 11:36 Quote
Interesting item, thanks. Some passing thoughts:

OnLive:
Ignoring the connectivity issue the problem I see is maintaining a quality service during the critical release period of a blockbuster while remaining economically viable during the much longer periods between releases. Server side available bandwidth is not so much of a problem as this may be increased or decreased at relatively short notice, the problem is the cost/scalability of the servers themselves. There is little special about a Steam download server or even a dedicated game server, it is a simple matter to add a hired box or two as required. I'd guess the massive rendering capabilities of an OnLive server is not something you're going to find on the shelf of your local ISP hardware vendor.

TL;DR: Cost vs availability/quality of service is prohibitive, don't hold breath.

Advanced console in the casual market:
A couple of generalisations on the casual market; games are cheap, few games bought, even fewer full price games bought. None of this bodes well for a business model based on recouping console costs via game sales / game surcharges, perhaps a 'Lite' version of a console would help but I feel sure following the current business mode would be financial suicide, reducing the complexity / abilities / cost of a next gen console would disenfranchise existing hard core gamers.

iPhone games:
Like a game console ease of use is a major selling point, bettering the console the phones are also fully integrated and portable. It's worth remembering the market exists because people have already bought the phone.
Paradigm Shifter 14th December 2009, 11:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by memeroot
@Paradigm Shifter
why
extremely fast - we have these already
uncapped - we have these already
unthrottled - we have these already
symmetric - why - I'm not sending video back
protocol-neutral - why - I'm communicating with a known target.

oh - and why does every one need it - I suspect a reasonalby sized town would make such a service financially viable - sod the rest of the people.

OK, why they're needed.

- Extremely fast: OK, we have this already. Virgin do a 50Mbps service. How many people have this? How many people in the UK have <1Mbps when they're paying for 8Mbps? I'm paying for 16Mbps, getting 3.2Mbps and I'm about 70ft. from the exchange. The reason? "Poor line quality"... something I can do nothing about. What's the average broadband connection in the UK? Far below these 'high-speed' connections.

-Uncapped: they do already exist, but many, many, many connections are capped - and at a ridiculously low level. Until the most basic connection is uncapped, it's not good enough. As with a bandwidth intensive service that OnLive will almost certainly be, you don't want to be smacking your head into a cap (whether it's explicitly stated or not - even 'uncapped' connections have 'fair use' policies which are a cap in all but name).

-Unthrottled: Virgin might offer a fast connection, but they are rigid about throttling if they feel you've used too much of it. What's the point in all that speed if after 1GB it gets kneecapped to 300KB/s?

-Symmetric: If OnLive was a non-interactive film, you wouldn't need to upload anything. However, as a gaming service, I would imagine it'll need to inform the server what you are doing; where you are in the game, what button you've pressed, etc etc, so that it can work accordingly. Otherwise, it'd be like playing a game without a controller. I wonder how easy Crysis would be to play without a keyboard or mouse? Ultimately, I said symmetric purely because that is the only way of making certain that upload speeds cannot be a limiting factor.

-Protocol-neutral: You aren't telling me that a service like that is going to have direct server-client connections for every individual, even for basic things like textures and models? No, they'd do what Blizzard did with World of Warcraft and use Peer-to-Peer to take load off the servers. That's why connections need to be protocol neutral.

...

I'll add a couple of other things while I'm on with it:

-Low ping: self explanatory to anyone who has ever played an online game.

-Low contention ratio: so that when dozens of people get home from work and all go on the net, speed doesn't nosedive.

...

As for your attitude to 'sod everyone who doesn't live in a large town'... even some large towns don't get higher-speed internet. For a service like OnLive to be viable, it need to be accessible to as many people as possible. There is no point bringing it to a country if only 25% of the population are going to be able to access it at best as you've already lost 75% of your potential market before you've even begun. Then bear in mind that within the cities that have access to it, probably less than 50% will actually be interested at all (that's a very generous guesstimate) and you see how it moves from being 'potentially monetarily viable' to 'bad business'.

If you don't provide a service to everyone, regardless of geographic location, it becomes a 'postcode lottery' - imagine two houses next to each other where one can get super-fast internet, and the other can't (it happens) or where, for example, the CEO of BT is the only person in his entire village to have broadband... or the classic postcode lottery example: that of anti-cancer drugs; live in one place they're available on the NHS, live in another, and they aren't.

Whoa... didn't meant to write an essay. ;)
leexgx 14th December 2009, 12:18 Quote
i guess less then 5-10% can even get 24mb bb with BT and most of that be in London (there stupid ads saying we now offer 24mb, yes but in the small print it should say you need to live within 100m of the exchange) BT should be showing on there ads on avg it be 4mb speeds

i got 50mb with virgin, BT is Not an option around where i live as the best you can get is 1mb

@Paradigm Shifter
how far are you realy from the exchange (www.samknows.com click location after you have put your postcode an number in there)
technogiant 14th December 2009, 12:29 Quote
"Onlive" state that for their full resolution service you need about 5mb/s connection speed....I'm getting 8mb/s with free broadband from talktalk...and yes when you do a speed check I'm getting almot that 6 -7 mbs at most times.
also don't think upload speeds which are just reporting controller button presses are really going to be an issue.
memeroot 14th December 2009, 12:41 Quote
@Paradigm Shifter
extremely fast - yep again boo hoo for you... have you tried cable - perhaps then you'd get the advertised service.
uncapped - sounds a good reason to upgrade - and pay more - and the reason that the telephony/cable companies will be dying for this service as voip and torrent nick thier markets respectively.... and again boo hoo for those with sh*t service providers - or those living in a backwater like the Uk.
symmetric - yep the number of xxyxxzleft signals you need to send is equivilent to sending a hd video in terms of bandwidth you gaming god you
protocol-neutral - ok you've got me - I havent a clue what you mean by this... I dont see how to do this effectively without a defined set of protocols with which to communicate nor why you'd want to.... and yes I do think they have to have a direct connection to a server.

in addition
" -Low ping: self explanatory to anyone who has ever played an online game."
as they do now, across the world, without dedicated servers.

" -Low contention ratio: so that when dozens of people get home from work and all go on the net, speed doesn't nosedive."

as they do now, across the world etc....

"For a service like OnLive to be viable, it need to be accessible to as many people as possible."

does it really? or does it need to have enough people to cover the fixed costs as after that costs increase linearly as more people join.

"There is no point bringing it to a country if only 25% of the population are going to be able to access it at best as you've already lost 75% of your potential market before you've even begun."

someone should have told ninty that unless they've got 25% of the population then they should pack up and go home because they havent got the other 75%

"If you don't provide a service to everyone, regardless of geographic location, it becomes a 'postcode lottery'"

and?

"imagine two houses next to each other where one can get super-fast internet, and the other can't"

get the guns in the neighbour will invade to get your broad band...

"for example, the CEO of BT is the only person in his entire village to have broadband..."

life is tough in antarctica

"or the classic postcode lottery example: that of anti-cancer drugs; live in one place they're available on the NHS, live in another, and they aren't."

games aren't available on the NHS???? WE NEED A REVOLUTION!!!!!!!
memeroot 14th December 2009, 12:55 Quote
I dont live ine uk so perhaps I was unduly scorn ful regarding the issues in that backwater.

Its a shame that Onlive will be strapped for markets as shown below - and recovering their costs are so high with their requirements for off the shelf components, off the shelf games and existing infrastructure they're unable to leverage.

" For a country which prides itself on its forward-thinking and technological innovation, it's an embarrassing showing: doubly so when you see the top ten, which includes Japan's impressive 1Gb/s, Finland's 110Mb/s, and the 100Mb/s offered by Finland, Sweden, Korea, Iceland, France, and Denmark. The UK is even pipped to the post by the the Netherland's 60Mb/s, and the 50Mb/s available to residents of the United States and Spain."
Bursar 14th December 2009, 13:00 Quote
You're saying this like you expect OnLive to come to the UK. With the large bills they would face for setting up multiple datacentres here (infrastructure, bandwidth, staff, taxes), I can't see it happening for an extremely long time.

And if the service doesn't take off in the US as well as they're hoping it will, the whole thing will be dead before it has a chance to expand to other countries.
SoulRider 14th December 2009, 13:02 Quote
Microsoft announced after they released the XBOX, that it was part of a plan to get people back into PC gaming. Ultimately the XBOX is becoming a Media center PC with Gaming abilities. This is what will eventually happen. There will be a future one day where the only entertainment device in the house will be a PC, everything else, TV, Video, Music, Radio, Games, will all go through the one machine.

It's a future Microsoft envisioned, and seems to be getting closer all the time.
memeroot 14th December 2009, 13:09 Quote
@Bursar

Onlive server centers are localy based. As such the costs to service any localy based population center is about the same anywhere in the world.

Besides the timeframe this article is looking at is the next gen of consoles which is 2-3 years away.... I'd be willing to be Onlive (or similar) will be there by then (investment market permitting)
Denis_iii 14th December 2009, 13:16 Quote
great read, I see console and PC gaming dying out slowly being taken over from something like onlive and then shifting to browser based gaming
the browser is where its all leading I think, one centralised platform accesible from pc's/laptops/phones and even tv's these days....take alot of time and someone like onlive to push it forward
technogiant 14th December 2009, 13:49 Quote
Now there's an idea why don't Microsoft release a console that sort of dual boots either into the games console OS or a windows OS. Sort of a budget pc and games console in one.
kondichael 14th December 2009, 13:59 Quote
According to Activision/Blizzard then its not the Console gaming thats dying but PC gaming.
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