A simple call to arms for the console companies to listen to. With mobile threatening to unravel things, now is the time for some innovation.
The console business is in a perpetual state of stagnancy: Stifled, maybe, by the extra two years tacked on to a generation “gamers” had already tired of; or by the paralyzing way in which the industry operates. Paying $60 is wildly inefficient and may end up killing off the console as a gaming mechanism, but that topic is something the industry refuses to tackle even with some bitter acknowledgement. It’s not simply the games either that end up unprofitable; the consoles, too, for a time, are sold at a loss until the manufacturer hopes to make profits on licensing fees. In short, it doesn’t work.
New machines were the best way to avert a crisis of conscious. After years of sameness, the likes of Nintendo and Sony roll out hardware sporting fancy gadgets and gizmos as a means of one-upping each other. Essentially, the bitter rivalry between the Big Three console makers drove innovation and consumer buying habits. But that may soon be changing.
The growing presence of mobile gaming throws that neat equation into disarray. For so long, the console companies depended on one another to bring the bulk of technological or economical advances, and slowly each would adapt to what proved to be popular. Nintendo and Sony followed Microsoft into online gaming; Microsoft and Sony emulated Nintendo’s success with motion control; and Nintendo and Microsoft matched Sony in requiring a higher definition of graphics. It’s cyclical; a corporate game of follow the leader.
For mobile, wherein games are cheap, easy-to-produce and accessible, the consoles cannot begin to compete. Console titles cost in the millions to develop, over the course of years, and are often complicated or inaccessible to those less familiar with the concept. As the games industry descends into an era led by smaller games, the risk will come to outweigh the potential gains of a profitable console game. Every publisher won’t aim to create the next Call of Duty; instead, Rovio’s Angry Birds becomes the model to follow: Small games with little development time that can spawn multiple franchises.
Rovio has had tremendous profits from its bird-against-pig war simulator. Tie-ins from Star Wars and the film Rio convey that the series is ripe with marketability, and tiny evolutions in game play give off the impression that Rovio has many plans for the future. The studio went the Mario route: to space, and a kart racing game. But the promotion hardly stops with Hollywood. Other famous mobile studios have noticed as well. As gaming matures into a cultural staple, these are prime opportunities the console makers can’t afford to miss out on.
Self-publishing may be one answer to the problem. Microsoft was originally hesitant to the idea, but after the positive reception to Sony’s use of it, the Xbox maker caved. It gives a valuable opportunity for a company to promote their own brand, as well as corporate brands that want to attract a gaming audience. Studios open to the option split profits evenly with Microsoft and Sony. No added cost for any company involved, and it guarantees a game goes profitable.
The way consoles operate now is self-defeatist. It’s not sustainable, and the market might be swallowed by the mobile revolution. If the console manufacturers want to break open, they’ll have to move past these practices and find smarter ways to generate income. Self-publishing is merely one way of achieving this; apps, original programming, and monthly subscriptions show an eagerness to expand. But innovation requires bigger thinking.
The PlayStation’s slogan is “See the Future”. The future is now.
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