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Chris James | 09:37 - 17 November 2013
Whilst I do genuinely believe that these are the last generation of consoles (as we know them anyway - the future of Xbox/Playstation surely has to be a service not yet another box) and I find it hard to find compelling reasons why they'll turnaround a declining market and ever polarising production, I don't think we're at the stage of any absolutes just yet.
What is clear is that we're still going through a period of massive change with several major pivot points all interacting (e.g. premium to free to play, home console/TV to mobile, physical retail vs digital distribution and the growth of Asian markets vs the west) so although there are trend lines emerging, it's a bit early to crown any outright winners. The incredible pace of mobile market evolution muddies the water further - at one and the same time it could be the best and worst of times to enter the market (the ever growing size and smarter marketing and monetisation models are ensuring it's unbelievably great for Supercell, King, et al, but the fierce competition and escalating costs of marketing and production mean it's not so much fun for those on the very long tail of the ecosystem).
To say that mobile can't catch up with the console world's tech, it's revenues (or its increasingly bloated hollywood style production budgets) seems slightly out of kilter with the trendlines. Mobile (and tablet) tech is hurtling along faster than ever and as Kristian Segerstrale highighted during the recent PG hosted Global Game Stars Track at GMIC, we've probably already seen the first billion dollar mobile game (take your pick from Clash of Clans, CandyCrush and Puzzles and Dragons) and costs are already north of $1M and rising very fast (albeit spent on service maintenance and evolution, ever smarter analytics and marketing rather than visual opulence).
Ultimately though, I think there's a problem in the framing of the issue if we're seeing it purely as mobile vs console or mobile 'catching up' with console.
Both platforms have their own strengths and weaknesses, consoles have plenty of graphical grunt to be sure, but they are aeons behind mobile in terms of connectivity and addressable market size.
There's a wider issue also about what 'games' are or should be - the 'film quality' cinematic experience that the console industry has been so ardently striving for is just one end of a very broad spectrum that appeals to a particular niche of the market, who's to judge COD or GTA is fundamentally a better 'game' than Candy Crush, Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds. Simplicity and accessibility hasn't previously equated with lower quality - e.g. Mario and Minecraft don't necessitate a PS4 processor and are relatively well thought for instance and the popularity of the latter suggests that the next wave of youthful players aren't perhaps as obsessed with visual opulence.
Naturally I'm going to fight the side of mobile (I won't be buying either console before Xmas if at all), but the games industry has always been a broad church and my main hope is that it remains to be so and continues to support creativity and provide us all with entertainment (and employment) for years to come.
Keith Andrew | 15:15 - 16 November 2013
That's the whole point Robert - there's no backwards compatibility, and that's not the answer. Platforms that evolve rather than take great leaps every 8 years - games running in the cloud rather than natively - is surely the answer. Not livng room consigned hardware that's dated 6 months after launch.
Robert Cummings | 14:24 - 16 November 2013
It is, of course, yet more evidence that the console model – hardware refreshes every 5-8 years – is utterly flawed."
Not quite, not until the mobile market changes along with mobile hw:
1. Consoles have film quality game experiences costing on average 50 million to produce. Players invest here by spending a lot of money on games expecting a cinematic experience that mobile will not be able to touch.
Certainly, they don't want their library of 50 dollar games obliterated every year. Backward compatibility becomes easier now console hardware is standardised, so next gen after this next gen will be compatible.
2. A Phone is usually backward compatible and apps are free or cost a dollar. This low price means (take it from a console and ex mobile developer) nobody is going to invest large amounts of cash into mobile phones until they reach console quality. I don't know if you've checked recently, but the 5S is almost xbox 360 quality. Just when it caught up, a new generation of consoles were launched, setting the bar too high to reach.
Devs had this very discussion about what you're talking about over 5 years ago and we came to the conclusion that console still matters... for now. We talk about this stuff all the time because that is our livelihood.
I believe that this generation is totally worth it. The next? it remains to be seen how things will evolve. Until new tech appears which solves batter and heat issues on a micro scale, mobiles won't ever catch consoles before their 8 ish year lifespan is up.
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