GDC 2012: The performance and convenience of mobile gaming is killing the console business says ngmoco's Ben Cousins
In GDC 2012 talk entitled 'When the consoles die, what happens next?', the ex-EA and Sony man painted a picture of the clash between what he called the Old World of Gaming and the New World of Gaming.
Comparing dedicated game consoles to the decline of sales for CD Walkman, horse-drawn carriages and main frame computers, he stressed that while consoles have a place in the market, they're much, much smaller part of the market.
Decline and fail
"In the US and UK, the retail games business peaked in 2009. European retailer GAME is in trouble," he said.
"THQ almost killed itself with a bet on kids games on console, while in Japan the market capitalisation of mobile platform companies such as GREE and DeNA is more than Japanese retail annual sales."
Similarly, while the top 5 games companies by market cap used to be Nintendo, Activision, EA Ubisoft and Konami. Now it's Nintendo, Activision, Zynga, GREE and Nexon. Three of those companies are focused on free-to-play online and mobile games.
Mobile killed the video game star
"Old world is large but shrinking fast," Cousin warned.
As a comparison, he looked back to the decline of arcade business in the 2000s; killed off by the rise of consoles from companies such as Sony and Microsoft.
"Big companies were able to grow the gaming business, and hardware and chips got cheap enough for people to have gaming experiences in the home, with performance parity, he said. "Convenience matters."
"I believe mobile is the reason for the state of console business now," Cousins said.
"Mobile gaming will cut a slice through the games business."
Mobiles the way
One element for this was he pointed to increasing performance of mobile chips.
"We're reaching graphically parity between mobile devices and consoles," he explained.
"We're creating a console gaming experience on the move and I believe that will pull people away from console gaming."
So even as arcades still have bigger screens and better controls, and while consoles will always been more powerful than mobile, the relative performance and convenience of mobile will be key.
"Cinema was killed by TV. It was totally crushed," Cousins argued , drawing on another industry comparison.
"US cinema attendance dropped to a sixth of its peak as TV became available."
"What's important though was the content companies did well, but the platform companies - cinemas - shut down. And that's what game makers need to do now."