I've had a number of people email me over the past few days asking me if I think whether games consoles are dying. After all, the recession has made people count the pennies and big hitters such a s Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are having a tough time selling consoles. Are we moving away from structured gaming and towards more casual gaming?
There's no doubt that casual gaming has taken off in the past year or so. Not only do you have dozens of games on social sites such as Facebook, but for a few bucks you can load your iPhone or iPod touch up with enough games to keep you busy for hours. Do people really need a box in their living room hooked up to their TV to play games any more?
Let me put your minds at rest, games consoles aren't on the way out. Sure, Sony's gaming division took a battering, as has Microsoft's, and even Nintendo's flagship Wii is suffering. But hey, it's been a recession folks, and it's not like other sectors haven't been hit as hard, if not harder, than the gaming sector.
But there's another reason why console sales are cooling. The Xbox 360 console is more than four years old and has sold over 31 million units, Playstation 3 is three years old and has shifted over 27 million units, and the Wii is also three years old and has outsold both with more than 56 million sold. That's a lot of consoles already in the hands of gamers.
I'm gonna come right out and say it - the current lineup of consoles are getting long in the tooth. OK, they're not at the point where they need to be taken round the back of the barn and put out of their misery, but none of them can be called "cutting edge." As the price of the consoles have dropped, and the availability of cheap games which are past their prime has increased, these consoles are a good deal for consumers but not such a good deal for the makers.
Will we see new consoles for the holidays in 2010? Dunno. If we can we should expect to hear announcements during the first or second quarter. My guess is that the big names will try to squeeze another year or so out of the existing hardware, time which could soften the memory of the recession. By then people might be ready too spend $500 on consoles again.