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 mobile 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.

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.

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

26 minutes. Give him that.


    Why would I care what a footy player (albeit an awesome one) thinks about gaming?

    What the f does a drug addled AFL star know about casual vs hardcore gaming? ;-)

    So, he's been discharged from the asylum?

    Silly Australians... Not that Ben Cousins! :P

    He has a point but I think the slump with the current generation is because it is nearing the end of its very successful cycle. The next generation will be interesting indeed to see how they differentiate themselves when portable devices are increasing in power every day. It wont be long before a phone is capable of this current generations performance and you'll be able to plug it into your TV and use wireless devices. The current high end console experience is also becoming prohibitively expensive to develop for and this will result in fewer and fewer games being released that take advantage of this level of detail. It would make much more sense for Sony and MS to join forces on the hardware front and focus on Software. They also need to open themselves up to developers to allow them to get more content onto their services easier. Look at the App Store, Look at Steam, that's the future...

    I couldn't help but think the same, that the slump is because this generation is coming to an end...

    Also, game development has gotten more expensive as gaming has been moving closer and closer towards film... so the solution presents itself disguised as casual gaming (traditional tv programming vs youtube). Sony and Microsoft collaborating on an industry standard and competing in software only would be a very interesting thing to see...

    Building on what Sean says above, It's difficult to judge the future of console gaming when the data points are so limited; this generation has seen the longest lifespan yet, and the developmental costs of the PS3 have warned the developers of the price to be paid by the hardware makers if they make this mistake again.

    Yes sales are slumping: but this is in the context of one of the largest global economic slumps in the history of gaming, and with aging hardware. The 3DS and Vita were just released, and their hardware-defining games are still on the way. These factors all contribute to recent falls in sales and I would say their effect is far greater than changing consumer tastes.

    Not only are mobile devices (tablets, smartphones) exploding, but the uses and security for these are exploding too. Like PCs, the hardware in these must support all of these current functions, and more as they develop, plus a battery and be small enough to fit in a pocket. As such, the technology and depth of games on these devices are *always* going to be leagues behind what is possible on purpose built and optimised hardware.

    The success of the App store must be acknowledged, but is this from the demise of consoles, or is it from the growth of a previously disinterested customer base? How substitutable are consoles by mobile devices and other non-purpose built hardware? The answer will be different for every gamer, for me they are not very substitutable.

    It's human nature to try and joint the dots between apparently similar phenomenon; but in this case I don't feel the current game sales figures are adequately linked to threatened viability of dedicated hardware.

    i disagree with him

    i think there is a place for arcade, pc, console and mobile gaming - and by mobile gaming i dismiss the notion of DS/3DS/Vita etc... they do not fall into the console category, nor the mobile category.

    one could say the console was out to kill pc gaming... yet its very much alive

    the mobile market will capture the casual gaming scene - but for indepth gameplay and content, the games for mobile devices are not likely to compete with console or pc environments, they are fragmented experiences across various platforms, yet consistent on pc and consoles (generally speaking).

    i just cant see mobile devices killing off the console race, but i can see a reduction in sales much like the cinema/tv environment, as there would be a reduction in sales for pc/console (which im sure is blamed on piracy). some prefer pc, some prefer console, some prefer mobile... frankly, i was a pc man, now im a console man yet dabble in both pc and mobile - but i have no patience to play a indepth game on a mobile device, its not practical and the experience is limited and always will be.

    So many of these 'consoles are being replaced by iPhones' arguments rest heavily on the assumption that players are moving from one to the other. When I first played a DS it redefined mobile gaming for me. Finally I was playing a class of games that were actually built for mobile gaming rather than being portable, scaled down versions of console games. It was a pretty big deal for me because it meant (unlike my GameBoys) I played the DS at home more than on the go. I actually chose DS games over console games.
    Years later and I'm still playing consoles. Why? Because I don't have to commit to either and I enjoy both. And that's with DS games costing basically the same as console games. Factor in that mobile games are basically magazine prices and the two worlds barely touch at all.

    For me the whole thing boils down to the idea that mobile gaming is more like the MMORPG or FPS (when it was new) genres than an arcade or console. It's opened up a huge, new market, and it's earned it's place, but it's not going to make all other genres obsolete. I understand that as phones grow in power the ability to take traditional console genres over there comes into play, but what you've got to realise is that power is already there and it's not what is making money.
    The big money we're seeing right now is in Angry Birds not traditional console genres.

    On top of that I think there's a bit of a bubble in app style games right now that's throwing all measurement way off. People are on their first or maybe second smart phone. They load it up and they look at the cool new features and buy lots of apps because it's exciting and new. When smart phones become the norm (which I think we're right on the cusp of) the bubble will eventually pop. It won't be a massive event, and it won't kill the mobile game market (there's always going to be good money in games which can be brought on impulse with just a few clicks), but it should bring the numbers down to the point where people stop pointing to it as the future.
    I also think the bubble is greatly inflated by the fact that it's all so new. Touch screen mobile games seem to have limitless potential but a big part of that is that both players and developers are on new ground. There are no cliches yet because it's all so new and fresh. The thing is technology itself actually is quite limiting. In many ways it's like going back to the NES controller.
    The Atari was insane. It gave us the ability to do things we didn't think possible right in our own homes. Like mobile gaming apps it opened up a thousand new doors which made it look like there was limitless potential but eventually we found the boundries.
    The important part of the bubble bursting isn't that mobile games will die (they certainly won't) it's that the individual games will have to function more like traditional games and they'll need to do so in a very harsh environment. Relatively low production costs are great and all but they increase competition. They also have to compete with completely legit free games that can go blow for blow with them.

    All that said I'm not bashing them. Like I said, the DS redefined mobile gaming for me and it was brilliant. The world can only benefit from a wider variety of games and mobile games are perfect way to expand.
    I just don't think they're going to kill off traditional gaming and build a new world on the rubble.

      The DS is a handheld, and a console by definition - I'm pretty sure he's referring to mobile gaming with regards to iOS/Android.

    Very interesting slide show. With or without global recession, mobiles and touchscreen pads have changed things in a big way. Don't get me wrong - I adore my dual screen massive PC, but I know I'm in the minority these days. It is not going to stop PC gaming, but things are always changing. Consoles are the next logical thing to change. You can't stop the change either. Anyway, consoles are dead. Long live the consoles!

    If the future of gaming is crappy mobile games, then I will find a new hobby. Simple as that.

      Perhaps terms like 'gaming' and 'gamer' and referring to 'gaming' as a 'hobby' is part of the problem ;)

    I don't buy it, your not just selling a console, you’re selling an experience and personal one at that. Admittedly arcades had their charm but the true value of highly socialized gaming across the world with real depth and purpose cant be superseded that easily. At the end of day, we are the consumers, we have the wallets and we make the trends, this isn’t some invisible force that can be written off by supposed foresight.

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