Editor’s Note: Since 2005, Blake Snow has covered video games and other male-interest topics for some of the biggest names in journalism. He lives in Utah with his family and is currently writing a book about finding offline balance in an online world.
Dedicated gaming sales, including traditional consoles, are in a four-year tailspin
Rise of casual and social gaming and waning consumer interest are affecting consoles
Despite this, Nintendo will release its new Wii U console later this month
If console gaming were a first-person shooter, it would be taking heavy fire right now. A red hue would envelop the viewable screen from all sides, an ominous sign of spilled blood.
Or worse, near-death.
Despite this, Nintendo will release its new Wii U console on November 18, ushering in the eighth and possibly last generation of traditional home consoles as we know them.
Consider this: Dedicated gaming sales — including living-room consoles and handhelds — are in the midst of a four-year tailspin. You might say that’s because of a bad economy, but then you’d have to explain why movie revenue and cable TV subscriptions have largely stayed the same.
Or why music sales, gutted by online streaming and piracy, have held up better than slumping sales of console games. Or why the popularity of social, mobile and PC games have skyrocketed to unthinkable heights.
The problem seems to be isolated to dedicated video games. Video game industry sales in the United States, including game discs, consoles and accessories, were down 24% in September when compared with the same period last year. Many experts believe these decreases in profits, the rise of casual and social gaming and waning consumer interest are affecting makers of the three big living-room consoles: Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii.
So is this it then? Is the death of dedicated gaming upon us? In a word, no.
“I bristle when people suggest as much,” says Adrian Crook, a game design consultant. “Consoles will grow again and will never go away.”
But today’s dedicated gaming business is arguably in its most tumultuous period since the 1983 gaming collapse. It’s nowhere near ruin yet, thanks to big franchises like “Call of Duty,” “Madden,” and a select few mainstream console games. But the console’s influence is waning, and there’s uncertainty about its future.
Here’s where the shots at console gaming are coming from, and how the industry might dodge and counter them.