The Best 26-Minute Argument that Game Consoles Are Dying

Illustration for article titled The Best 26-Minute Argument that Game Consoles Are Dying

Ben Cousins, who works for a company called ngmoco that makes video games mostly for cell phones and tablets, has a vested interest in telling you that PlayStations, Xboxes and Nintendo Whatevers are a few pistons away from horse-and-buggy obsolescence.

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It would be so easy to dismiss him, because game consoles are such impressive and entertaining machines.

Game consoles helped slay the arcades. Some stupid Apple machine is going to squash them?

Come on.

Before you dismiss Cousins as a mobile gaming shill or before you nominate him as a prophet, clear 26 minutes from your schedule. Use those 26 minutes to watch and listen to a presentation, embedded below, of Cousins' talk from last week's Game Developers Conference.

It was the most provocative talk I attended at GDC.

I loved it (points for praising Kotaku, Ben!).

Cousins is on to something. He's got enough evidence to support many of his assertions: Console companies are struggling. Game sales on consoles are slumping. Tablets and phones are swelling in power. People are playing video games away from their consoles like they haven't since the days when arcades were waiting to defeated by the Nintendo Entertainment System and PlayStation.

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Has Ben Cousins seen the future? He just might be showing it to you.

26 minutes. Give him that.

DISCUSSION

Consoles will never die, they'll simply have a smaller market share. There will always be a population of people who want to play games through their TV, using buttons, because that to them presents the best possible way to play, and no amount of smartphone appery will dissuade them. Perhaps the variety of console games will diminish, but there will always be a need for the medium and it certainly won't go the way of the Walkman, the book encyclopaedia, the horse and cart, the typewriter or the paper filing system as this intro suggests.

The difference with all those examples given is that the newer versions of these things (MP3 players, internet research, cars, word processors, computer filing) only prevent benefits compared to their predecessors. By that route he's suggesting (whether deliberately or subtly) that the comparison with games consoles and smartphone gaming is the same, whereas in reality the only advantages smartphone gaming offer are portability and ease of use for a wider market. In every other aspect - processor power, visual spectacle, interface, community - consoles continue to dominate.

Until we get to a point where smartphone gaming trumps console gaming in more or less every single aspect (as with the comparisons made at the start) there will always be a need for console gaming.