THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Roy Bahat Headshot
Scott Mucci Headshot

Game Consoles Are Dead. Long Live Game Consoles.

Posted: Updated:
Print

As the video games industry gathers for its annual pow-wow at E3 this week, there is a real worry. Is the history of the games industry, dominated for the last 25 years by games played on a television, over? Will everyone play on Facebook or on mobile phones, and will a "big" game experience become a relic? Will the game industry be upended, as music, television, and so many other media industries have been?

Games on a television drop you in, emotionally: wide screens, booming sound, and leaning back in a living room where you have fewer distractions than on your computer at work at lunchtime, or on your phone on a bus ride.

But new game consoles, like locusts, arrive in cycles that can take years. With the exception of Nintendo's Wii-U, we haven't heard a peep about the next generation of consoles. For now, the game platforms are developing new software and extensions to their existing platforms - Microsoft showed a technology called SmartGlass (which enables a link between your Xbox 360 and a mobile device or tablet), and Sony showed CrossPlay (which does something similar across the PlayStation 3 and their mobile gaming device, Vita).

This has been the longest console cycle in 25 years, and it looks like we'll need to wait one more year to see the next-generation products. Is this because, as some have predicted, we are actually in the last console cycle? For the game business, is history over? I don't think so.

It's just that the "console" of the future might not look like the console of today -- a box plugged in to your TV.

Could the next PlayStation actually be integrated into a Sony television? Might Apple extend the App Store to a television set, with iPad- or iPhone-style games appearing on a TV as a low-cost "console" alternative?

Samsung, who I visited last month in Korea, is already working to integrate games directly into its televisions, as are many other television set makers. With even Roku adding Angry Birds to their set-top box for streaming television and movie content, it seems that there will soon be many ways to experiment with playing games on your television. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo will need to innovate to stay competitive.

And they will, because the economics of the game industry still do center on television games. Seventy-five percent of all gaming revenue in the U.S. still flows through a television screen. A gamer on a TV is worth 20 to 50 times what a gamer on Facebook or iOS is worth. And more hours are spent gaming in front of a TV than in front of any other device.

Television games will have to get less expensive to make and to buy, and game creators will need more flexibility to price their games as they see fit (as they have on iOS, Android, and Facebook today). This will enable game creators to take more risks. We'll see less of the endless "sequelitis" that's become so common in films and in games. (Much as we are all anticipating the next Call of Duty, Splinter Cell, and Tomb Raider, and loved the new Mass Effect.)

There is demand for new choices. We surveyed 60,000 gamers and found one in three were interested in buying a new console from Valve (the creators of the popular Steam online gaming service), which at this stage is nothing but a rumor - as many as were interested in the Wii-U.

So, just like the simple radio has lasted nearly a century as a way to listen to news and music, the future of games could be much the same - games on a TV are just great, so people will keep making them.

It's been almost 9 years since the last round of consoles was first announced, and they're beginning to show their age. It's been long enough for some to predict the death of the television gaming systems all together. Anyone who says that is wrong.

The gaming console as we know it might die, but television gaming won't. In this serious world of fun and games, that's all that matters.

Roy Bahat is President of IGN Entertainment, a video games media company. Scott Mucci is IGN's head of research.

From Our Partners